Most expensive work sold at any south Asian art auction
FN Souza’s epic painting, titled “Birth”, set a new record at international auction house Christie’s New York auction on Thursday when it sold for $4,085,000. This is a 63% increase over the same painting’s previous record of $2.5 million, achieved at Christie’s in 2008, when it was bought by Tina Ambani, wife of Anil Ambani. Thursday’s sale makes “Birth” the most expensive work sold at any south Asian art auction.
Souza painted the masterpiece in 1955, the same year of his seminal solo exhibition at Gallery One in London. This monumental painting represents the pinnacle of all the artist’s paintings of the 1950s. The painting comprises all the subjects to be found in Souza’s early practice; the pregnant outstretched nude with hairpins, the autobiographical man in priest’s tunic, a still life on the window ledge and beyond the window, a townscape with corniced buildings and tall steeples.
The estimates for the painting were between $2.2 million and $2.8 million.
Another Souza work, titled “Man and Woman Laughing”, fetched approximately $2.59 million in a recent Saffronart sale held in New Delhi on September 10 this year.
The previous record for the most expensive work by an Indian artist was held by V S Gaitonde whose luminous painting had sold for $3.79 million at Christie’s inaugural India auction in Mumbai in 2013.
Another oil-on-canvas by Souza, “Still Life with Bread and Fish” went under the hammer for $233,000 at Christie’s auction in New York, which posted total sales of $8,770,062 (including buyer’s premium).
At the same auction, SH Raza’s oil-on-canvas “Red Sun” sold for $365,000, Akbar Padamse’s Untitled (Cityscape) oil-on paper went for $239,000. Gaitonde’s Untitled watercolor and ink fetched $197,000.
Ram Kumar’s Untitled (Street Urchins) realised $197,000. Jehangir Sabavala’s oil on canvas “Fisher-folk Madh island” sold for $155,000 while Rameshwar Broota’s oil canvas “Havaldar” went for $149,000. Seven works by the late painter MF Husain also sold in the New York auction.
Contemporary artist Bharti Kher’s trademark bindi artwork she titled “Rugged Terrain” fetched $100,000.
Also, “Qalandar” by Sadequain one of Pakistan’s most celebrated artists was sold for $173,000. So also Abdur Rahman Chugtai’s ink and watercolour untitled work “Lady with Bird” realised a sale price of $50,000 in the auction.