Amrita Sher-Gil’s The Story Teller fetches record  ₹61.8 cr

Amrita Sher-Gil’s The Story Teller fetches record ₹61.8 cr

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  • September 18, 2023
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NEW DELHI : An auction on Saturday at The Oberoi, New Delhi, capped a remarkable month for Indian contemporary art.

An Amrita Sher-Gil painting titled The Story Teller, signed and dated 1937, fetched a staggering 61.8 crore, etching its name in history as the most expensive Indian artwork to be auctioned.

The oil-on-canvas masterpiece set a new record, surpassing the previous one from a Pundole’s auction house earlier this month when Sayed Haider Raza’s Gestation sold for 51.75 crore, including the buyer’s fee.

The auction by SaffronArt at The Oberoi, New Delhi, generated over 181 crore in total for the gallery, marking the creation of two other art records.

“The sale of this particular work is an important milestone in the market. However, equally important, is the work itself—it is an exceptional painting as a cornerstone in Sher-Gil’s work as such. She is one of India’s national art treasures, and this type of work is quite rare to come across for sale,” said Minal Vazirani, the auction house’s co-founder.

For this work, Sher-Gil, the Hungarian-Indian artist born in 1913, received interest from local Indian collectors, as it falls under the ‘non-exportable Indian art treasure’ category. Sher-Gil’s works have been auctioned 84 times, dating back to 1937. Her oldest auction was recorded on MutualArt for the artwork Village Group, sold at English auction house Sotheby’s as early as 1992. A more recent auction for the artwork “Untitled” was sold in 2023, said, a website on art market information and marketplace.

Independent art critic and curator Uma Nair said a strong collector community is emerging in Indian art, which is why records are being set at auction houses like Pundole’s and SaffronArt.

“This is a great testimony to the growing importance of the Indian contemporary art scene. We are seeing a lot of investments coming in from people who believe that art is an asset class, especially in the case of Indian masters, which appreciate in value. The new record heralds interest in India’s national treasures. The auction house has built a wide network of aficionados who seem too happy to be part of the record-setting scenario,” she said. Raza’s collectors have come from the world over, including strong interest from Europe.

Other artworks at the auction, which concluded late Saturday night, included Earth (1986), another work by Raza that sold for 19.2 crore. An early expressionist work by Tyeb Mehta titled Red Figure, circa 1950s, sold for 9 crore. Akbar Padamsee’s Paysage (1961), an oil on board, sold for 4.08 crore, more than twice the lower estimate. A. Ramachandran’s Autobiography of an Insect in the Lotus Pond (2000) sold for 4.44 crore, nearly four times its higher estimate, setting a world record for the highest price achieved by the artist globally.

Nair added that to have Sher-Gil in the blue-chip world of international domains is a feeling of great pride. Some more of the blue-chip pieces of the artist are likely with her son Vivan Sundaram’s family.

The Sher-Gil artwork auction joins a prestigious list of Indian artists’ pieces, achieving record prices in the past decade. In 2020, a Vasudeo S. Gaitonde painting was sold for 32 crore, while during the pandemic that same year, M.F. Husain’s Voices from 1958, an oil-on-canvas work, fetched 18.47 crore on AstaGuru’s platform, marking the highest-ever sale for the artist.

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Updated: 18 Sep 2023, 12:11 AM IST

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