Mumbai: Celebrated Indian modern artist Tyeb Mehta’s seminal work, Durga Mahisasura Mardini , will headline Sotheby’s first India sale in December. The announcement of the sale comes almost two years after the international auction house set up their office in Mumbai.
The artwork was commissioned directly from Mehta in 1993 and has remained in a private collection since. The auction of the work marks its first appearance in the art market. While Gaurav Bhatia, managing director, Sotheby’s India, refrained from divulging the estimated value of Durga Mahisasura Mardini , he hoped that it will beat the record set for a Tyeb Mehta painting, which stands at $3.6 million for Untitled (Woman On Rickshaw) at Christie’s annual sale in London last year. His earlier work, Mahishasura , became the first modern Indian painting to fetch more than $1 million in 2005.
India, especially Mumbai, has grown to be an important market for international auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christie’s. “In the last five years a number of Indian participants across our global sales at Sotheby’s has almost doubled,” said Mr. Bhatia. “Indians have spent an excess of $250mn in our [London and New York] auctions.”
According to a recent KPMG-FICCI report, the Indian art market dropped 6% after demonetisation and the launch of the Goods And Services Tax. Considering that, is it the right time for Sotheby’s to enter the market? Mr. Bhatia pointed out to two paintings: Bhupen Kakkar’s De-Luxe Tailors and Raja Ravi Varma’s untitled painting of Damayanti, which were both auctioned almost ₹10 crores at Sotheby’s auctions in London and New York after GST was implemented. He said, “Both these works were bought by Indians and it shows the buoyancy of the market and the fact that when rare works do come out, there is going to be a client base that is willing to grab it.”
Sotheby’s had made an attempt to enter the Indian market three decades ago. Mr. Bhatia observed that there has been an unprecedented maturity to the art market in India since. “It is driven by not just speculation and trend, but there is a stronger cultural base and the propensity to collect is far stronger now.”