"Many important artists have long been overlooked, and are waiting to be properly recognised for their contribution to art history. We need to continue to further the global conversation around Indian art, ensuring that their work is measured and considered against the work of international artists, not only in a South Asian context," elaborates Manjari Sihare-Sutin, Head of Sale, Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art, New York in an exclusive e-mail interaction with Art Scene India
|Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, Untitled|
Sotheby's upcoming annual auction on 16th March in New York, commemorates the 25th anniversary of Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art sales at Sotheby's. It will feature a selection of rare, never-before-seen works, with 95% of works emerging from private collections.
NM: How has last year been for Sotheby's in terms of modern and contemporary Indian art sales?
Led by two 1960s paintings by pioneer Indian abstractionists Nasreen Mohamedi and Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, the auction also features an important work by Indian National Treasure artist Raja Ravi Varma; a selection of sculptures led by modernist works by Amarnath Sehgal and Adi Davierwalla; a curated selection on Neo-Tantra. including works by Biren De, G. R. Santosh and more; and a diverse selection of works from the Bengal School of Art as well as Modern and Contemporary art from Pakistan.
We are feeling optimistic. We are adding new clients into our fold, coming from India, the US, China, and more. We are also witnessing new artist records set in each sale.
Look closely at the results of our recent sale in Mumbai, and you’ll see that the sell-through rate was strong (and even a little higher than in our inaugural sale in 2018), and we saw a real depth of bidding; almost 60% of lots sold for prices over their high estimates.
Our sales in the summer in London last year saw particularly pleasing results of over £7.5 million - the highest sale total achieved for a sale of Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art at Sotheby’s London in a decade. The auction was led by Bhupen Khakhar’s landmark Two Men in Benares (1982) which established a new record for the artist at £2.54 million / $3.2 million (£450,000-600,000), more than doubling the previous auction record. There’s continued vitality in the market, and a promising future.
NM: Given the economic conditions, what are your strategies to strengthen sales? And your future plans in India?
|Sayed Haider Raza, Prairie,|
The Indian diaspora comprises one of the largest and geographically diverse populations, because of this geographical spread, there is an inherent stability in the Indian market which metaphorically we liken to a four legged stool with one leg in India and others in North America, Europe and Asia. It means that the market is not beholden to the economies or politics of one particular region in order to thrive.
When we are building our auctions, we look to source fresh to the market works which will to appeal to a wide range of collectors at all price points. For instance, our next sale in New York features a spectacular array of works with storied provenances - most fresh to the market or unseen for at least a generation. 95% of the sale is sourced from private collections. This is an opportunity for collectors to discover hidden gems - artworks which have never exhibited anywhere before but are being unveiled by Sotheby’s for the first time. The array of works have been selected to appeal to collectors of every stripe, with each work carefully chosen from the diverse corpus of South Asian Art created in the Twentieth Century. Estimates range from just $500 to $1,000,000.
Sotheby’s holds three dedicated sales of South Asian Art across the world each year, and special one-off auctions for exceptional single-owner collections, such as The Guy and Helen Barbier Family Collection which we offered in London in June and online sales such as the one in September last year.
NM: Could you comment on the huge disparity in art prices of Indian and Western artists, what could be or needs to be done to narrow the gap?
| Raja Ravi Varma, Untitled (Swami Vishwamitra in Meditation)|
MSS: There is still so much potential for the Indian art market. It is a relatively new Market - just 25 years old. Many important artists have long been overlooked, and are waiting to be properly recognised for their contribution to art history. We need to continue to further the global conversation around Indian art, ensuring that their work is measured and considered against the work of international artists, not only in a South Asian context.
All images courtesy Sotheby's
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