Works of Indian masters go unsold at Sotheby's


Three key paintings by Indian masters Sayed Haider Raza, Maqbool Fida Husain and Francis Newton Souza were among 50-odd works that failed to find buyers at a sale by leading auction house Sotheby's in London.

Out of the 88 lots offered at the sale of Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art including Indian Miniature Paintings, 51 works went unsold last Friday. The sale realised a total of 546,800 pounds including buyer's premium.

The auction house had projected Raza's key 1971 work "La Forge" as the highlight of the sale besides Husain's "Islam" and Souza's "Woman with Mirror and Flowers".

"I can confirm that these (three) works did not sell. However, there was nonetheless strong pre-sale interest in the paintings and we anticipate that this will translate into post-sale offers for the works," Leyla Daybelge of Sotheby's told PTI.

The poor show at Sotheby's came a couple of days after Jehangir Sabavala's "Vespers" went under the hammer for 210,000 pounds (253,650 pounds with premium) - a world record for an Indian work at Bonhams.

At the Sotheby's sale, nonagenarian Raza's "La Forge" made its auction debut. It had a pre-sale estimate of 300,000-400,000 pounds.

According to the auction house, "La Forge" represents the pinnacle of Raza's career when, after some artistic experimentation, his work bore an innovative form of expression focused on the orchestration of colour. Sotheby's also hyped the work as containing Raza's defining features - mystical power of nature, elements and potency of colours, and symbols to represent the elements.
Interestingly, in March, another of Raza's iconic works, "Village with Church" failed to find any takers at a Sotheby's sale.

"Modern masters continue to dominate our sales, with international private collectors competing for early works by F N Souza, Ram Kumar and Sayed Haider Raza. We also witnessed an encouraging number of new clients this season - over a third of buyers were new to Sotheby's. Miniatures also performed well, demonstrating continued demand from long-standing collectors," says Holly Brackenbury, Sotheby's director and specialist in Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art.
Among the lots sold included Souza's "Goan Landscape" (68,450 pounds), Ramkumar's untitled work (55,250 pounds) and A Bala Subramaniam’s fibreglass and acrylic work "Gravity" (43,250 pounds).

A section of the sale was dedicated to Anglo-Indian Art, comprising Western depictions of the cultures and rituals of South Asia.

The section was led by one of the largest paintings by Horace Van Ruith to come to the market -- the monumental worshippers at the Trimbakeshwar Temple of Trimbak town in Maharashtra's Nasik district. The work which had a pre-sale estimate of 60,000-80,000 pounds also went unsold.

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