After rival Christie’s ended its live auctions in India after four annual events, auction house Sotheby’s is set to test the Indian market with its first sale in Mumbai on November 29. With a total of 60 pieces up for grabs, the auction house expects to make Rs 43-Rs 62.9 crore ($6-8.7 million) in its first attempt here. Christie’s had raked in $15.4 million in its first auction in Mumbai in 2013, doubling its pre-sale estimates.
Of particular interest among the 31 paintings, 12 posters and photographs, 11 sculptures and six pieces of furniture up for auction by Sotheby’s is a work by Amrita Sher-Gil ,The Little Girl in Blue, which has not been seen in public for around 80 years. Expected to fetch around $2 million, the painting is the artist’s third ever to be auctioned in India and the seventh offered anywhere in the world. The headline work leading the ‘Boundless: India’ auction is a work by Tyeb Mehta titled Durga Mahishasura.
Talking about the sale, Gaurav Bhatia, managing director, Sotheby’s India, says, “Interest and excitement surrounding the sale has been building up. We’ll hear more feedback after public exhibitions in Delhi and Mumbai in the coming days.”
Yamini Mehta, Sotheby’s international head of department, Indian, Himalayan and south-east Asian art/modern and contemporary south Asian art, had told us earlier about the sale in India: “We believe that India is a very important market. Our auction in Mumbai is part of our commitment to India, and we hope the market also responds.”
She added, “We are seeing that Indian buyers are now bidding and buying not only from Indian sales, but also from international sales. We hope this auction will be a turning point, and believe we will plant our flag here for a long time.” She added that the Indian market is unique in its own way, because it’s just not India itself, but the whole global India diaspora that drives this market, which sets it apart from, say, China or other Asian countries. “There is a modern, inherent stability in the market, which is actually a strength.”
About the artworks, she had said: “We will have works with a range starting anywhere from Rs 2 lakh to Rs 20 crore, making it an exciting auction, where there will be something for everybody.” She had added that a combination of both Indian art and Indian customers influenced their decision for a sale in India. “We think the rise in wealth and India’s status in the world just means that the time is right for Indian clients, customers, collectors and consumers to participate in our global auctions. We think that by having a much stronger presence within India also allows us to engage with our Indian collectors on a day-to-day level. And, what can be better than having an auction that brings the best of international art to India, and the best of Indian art to the world?”