AVANT-GARDE artist Amrita Sher-Gil’s oil on canvas The Story Teller has unseated Sayed Haider Raza’s Gestation as the most expensive work of Indian art sold at auction worldwide.
The 1937 artwork went for `618 million (£6m) in New Delhi last Saturday (16) at Saffronart’s Evening Sale: Modern Art. Featured in the auction were some 70 art pieces by eminent artists such as MF Husain, VS Gaitonde, Jamini Roy, and FN Souza.
Raza’s 1989 Gestation, also an oil-on-canvas painting, was sold in August for `517m (£5.02m) by Pundole’s auction house in Mumbai. At the time, it was the most expensive Indian artwork that was ever sold at auction.
“We are delighted to have set multiple artist records at our Evening Sale. Most significantly, the record price achieved by Amrita Sher-Gil’s The Story Teller is an important mile stone in the Indian art market and testament to the artist’s immense skill and enduring legacy as one of India’s art treasures,” said Dinesh Vazirani, CEO and co-founder of Saffronart.
The Story Teller, said to be among the 12 works Sher-Gil considered her most important works, is widely seen as an example of the artist’s most honest and expressive compositions. It was first exhibited at her successful solo exhibition at Faletti’s Hotel, Lahore, in November 1937.
Sher-Gil’s other well-known portraits of women include Three Girls, Women on the Charpai, Hill Women, and Young Girls. Born to an Indian father and Hungarian mother on January 30, 1913, in Budapest, Hungary, Sher-Gil came to be known as one of the greatest avant-garde women artists for her oeuvre.
From the early age of five, she immersed herself in drawing and painting with watercolours. Her early works consisted of vibrant illustrations of Hungarian fairy tales.
In 1921, her family moved to India and settled in the northern town of Shimla. Sher-Gil died at the young age of 28 in 1941, and in 1976, she was declared one of India’s nine ‘National Art Treasure’ artists by the Archaeo logical Survey of India.
Besides Sher-Gil, the auction smashed a few other records as well. Renowned painter and art educator KK Hebbar’s 1959 untitled work, sold for `26.4m (£256,593) – more than seven times its estimate – set a record for the highest price achieved by the artist globally.
Raza’s monumental work Earth fetched `192m (£1.86m), early expressionist Tyeb Mehta’s Red Figure sold for `90m (£874,731) and Souza’s Caribbean Palm for `45.6m (£443.155).