Fifteen art works by legendary painter M.F. Husain, including a canvas work he gifted to Italian film director Roberto Rossellini and his Indian wife, have fetched a whopping Rs. 11.69 crore at a Sotheby’s auction here.
The highlight of the South Asian Art sale was undoubtedly Cinq Sens (Five Senses) by Husain, who celebrated his 95th birthday on September 16.
The large canvas, which was painted in Italy in 1958 at the home of Rossellini and his wife Sonali Sen Roy Dasgupta, sold for Rs. 3.6 crore.
Husain spent extended periods of time in Italy with the Rossellinis during the late 1950s and gifted this painting to the couple, from whom it was acquired by the current owner.
In addition to Cinq Sens, a number of other Husain paintings fetched high prices including That Obscure Object of Desire, Diptych, which secured $482,500 and an untitled work, which sold for $362,500.
Further highlights included two contemporary paintings that sold for many times pre-sale expectations — Bhupen Khakhar’s Muslims Around a Mosque II, 2001 which fetched $650,500 to set a new record for the artist at auction (estimated $150-250,000) and Munna Apa’s Garden by Arpita Singh which sold for $506,500 — also a new artist record (estimated $100-150,000).
An additional highlight was the world record price for An Illustration from a Gita Govinda series: Radha proceeds to her Tryst with Krishna from 1780 which fetched $290,500 (estimated $150-250,000).
Other artists whose works featured in the auction included F.N. Souza, Ram Kumar, Manjit Bawa, Jamini Roy and Subodh Gupta.
Zara Porter Hill, international head of Indian art at Sotheby’s, said, “The vibrancy of the Indian art market returned to Sotheby’s in this sale. Paintings from the 18th century to the latest contemporary art achieved exceptional prices with a number of artist records being set.
“The result far exceeded the low estimate and was a validation of our strategy. This focuses on carefully curated and strategically estimated high quality sales, and these have produced this year’s consistently strong sell through rates. Competitive international bidding resulted in more than half the sold lots achieving prices in excess of the high estimate.”