Young Indian artists close in on masters at Christie’s sale

August 21st, 2008 - 11:46 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 21 (IANS) The gap in prices and stature of works between leading Indian contemporary artists and modern masters is narrowing. A preview of 20 exclusive art works, held here Wednesday by global auction house Christie’s, showed that contemporary artist Subodh Gupta was at par with master modernist Tyeb Mehta in terms of prices, along with bulk of the contemporary artists on the sale list.

The preview collection was part of the cache of the 140 lots that global auction house Christie’s will bring under the hammer at its Sep 16 sale of South Asian modern and contemporary art in New York.

Gupta took the centre stage with two striking works in multimedia. “Steal 2″, an oil on canvas measuring 167.8cm X 228.5 cm was estimated at $800,000-$1 million. Mehta’s “Yellow Heads” executed in 1979 was tagged at $600,000-$800,000.

Another work by Gupta, “Mitre”, which was not on display in the preview lot, was expected to go under the hammer for $600,000-$800,000.

A combination of Gupta’s inimitable pop art and photo-realistic style, “Steal 2″ was mostly about the play of light on the gleaming surfaces of traditional steel kitchen utensils - a subject that has kept the artist engaged for several years now.

Leading the contemporary top list in terms of prices and quality were Pakistan-based Rashid Rana’s “Two Dimensions” estimated at $80,000 to $120,000 while Riyas Komu’s 2006 oil on canvas, “Designated March of a Petro Angel” or “Desert March” was estimated to rake in $60,000 to $80,000.

While Rana used miniature snapshots of Lahore’s urban landscapes to create a collage of photoprints on the 194.5 cm X 114.5 cm frame, Komu’s angel shocked and subdued viewers with its poignant expression of stupefied pain. Komu’s oil on canvas was the highlight of the 52nd Venice Biennale in 2007.

A textile painting by the winner of the prestigious Artis Mundi prize N.S. Harsha, who set a price record in Christie’s Hong Kong sale in 2007, was billed as one of the highlights of the preview.

Apart from Mehta, the highlights of the modern sections included “Ritual” by Maqbool Fida Husain estimated at $600,000 to $800,000 and “The Same Old Story”, a satirical comment by leading modernist Rameshwar Broota estimated at $150,000-$200,000.

An untitled 1992 canvas by Manjit Bawa was estimated to go out for $150,000-$200,000.

Two untitled works from the “Bird Mountain Series” by writer, political activist and painter Jagdish Swaminathan, who is known to draw inspiration from tribal art and Indian mythology were estimated at $300,000-$500,000.

The paintings by Swaminathan vied for attention with two classical works by veteran modern artist Ram Kumar painted in 1961, tagged at $500,000-$700,000.

Indian art, say officials at Christie’s, has come into its own in the global art market.

“It is all about quality now. The Indian market has matured, prices have stabilised and Indian artists are being recognised. The first half of this year set new price records for works of modern masters like F.N. Souza, S.H. Raza, M.F. Husain, all of whom crossed the $2.5 million mark,” Hugo Weihe, international director of Asian Art at Christie’s, told IANS.

“We are seeing more of international crossovers. More collectors are joining in from around the world. Looking at the scenario, I think the price difference between Indian and Chinese art will soon be bridged,” he said.

According to a rough estimate by the official, there is a difference of $8.5 million between Chinese and Indian art. While top selling Indian artists are priced in the range of $2.5 million, the cream of Chinese art sells for $10.5 million.

Weihe admitted that top selling contemporary artists like Gupta, Komu and the peer lot had been instrumental in putting Indian contemporary art in the global post-war painting map over the past one year. The Sep 16 sale is expected to garner $12 million.

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