Speculator(s) flip contemporary Indian art sold by galleries last year

Modern work continues to do best

LONDON. The latest Sotheby’s sale of contemporary and modern Indian art, held in London on 2 May, included at least 17 works made in 2006-07 (according to the catalogue) while another dozen were undated.

Many of these were among 30 pieces in the auction identified as “property of a European collector” and included some

of the top-selling contemporary lots of the day. Sotheby’s would not confirm that these were

consigned by the same collector but many had been exhibited

in international galleries as recently as last year including the cover lot, Bharti Kher’s bindi panel Missing, 2006, which sold for £106,100 against an estimate of £30,000-£40,000. This had been on show at the Jack Shainman Gallery in New York until 22 December 2007. Thukral & Tagra’s Stop Think Go, 2006, which sold for £102,500 (est £30,000-£40,000) was on display at Bose Pacia

in New York as recently as

June 2007.

According to sources in the trade, many of these works had been sold by the galleries to a French client who claimed to be a collector, new to the market. That they should appear at auction so quickly has dismayed the galleries.

Colourful pop art works by Bharti Kher, Atul Dodiya, Thukral & Tagra, Jitish Kallat, Shilpa Gupta, Rashid Rana and T.V. Santosh all sold well above estimate. Subodh Gupta’s untitled 2005 painting from his airport series made £264,500 ($513,130) against an estimate of £70,000-£100,000.

However, the highest prices at the sale were made by the moderns and progressives with F.N. Souza, Akbar Padamsee and M.F. Husain achieving the top prices.

Souza’s Red Road, 1962, a painting given by the artist to his wife, was the top lot. It sold for £580,000 ($1.1m) against an estimate of £250,000-£350,000.

Souza’s prolific output has meant that the market is close

to saturation with lesser works often hard to sell. True to form, seven works made around

£1m ($1.9m), while four more were unsold.

As expected, a group of works from the collection of India scholars William and Mildred Archer did well. This included two works on paper by Rabindranath Tagore, acquired from the artist at Santiniketan in 1932, which sold for £70,100 and £144,500 respectively, well beyond high estimates of £15,000 to £20,000.

Lucian Harris

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