Online buyer nets Christie's top lot for $2.8 million at India auction

Fri Dec 12, 2014 7:39am EST
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By Tony Tharakan

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - An online buyer from New York overcame spirited bidding to grab a painting by modern Indian artist Tyeb Mehta for $2.8 million at a Christie's auction in Mumbai, highlighting global interest in the finest works of Indian art.

Mehta's untitled 1999 painting, with the central figure of a falling bull, sold to the private bidder at the auction late on Thursday, beating pre-sale estimates of between $1.3 million and $1.9 million.

Bidding for the acrylic on canvas had started at 50 million rupees ($800,000). Mehta, who died in 2009, had been consistently inspired by the iconography of the bull.

An earlier work by Mehta, an oil on canvas titled "Girl In Love", was snapped up by an Asian buyer for nearly $700,000.

In all, 72 percent of the lots were sold at prices above their high pre-sale estimates. Eight of the 78 lots were unsold on a night that saw total sales of $12 million in a luxury Mumbai hotel sale room packed with 400 guests.

"We doubled the pre-sale estimate of $6 million, so indeed we are very happy," said Sonal Singh, head of the Christie's office in Mumbai, adding the auction showed "deep interest in Indian art and the depth of this market".

Collectors are increasingly drawn to rare modern works from the golden period of masters like Mehta and Vasudeo Gaitonde.

"We see very spectacular prices for them that reflect their desirability," Amin Jaffer, international director of Asian art at Christie's, told Reuters before the auction.   Continued...

Christie's World Art head William Robinson (C) gestures as he auctions a painting by Indian artist Tyeb Mehta at an hotel in Mumbai, during Christie's second auction in India, December 11, 2014.  REUTERS/Shailesh Andrade