"She is one of India’s national art treasures."
An auction on September 16 at The Oberoi, New Delhi, capped a remarkable month for Indian contemporary art.
An Amrita Sher-Gil painting titled The Story Teller, fetched a staggering Rs. 61.8 crore, etching its name in history as the most expensive Indian artwork to be auctioned.
The oil-on-canvas masterpiece set a new record, surpassing the previous one from a Pundole’s auction house when Sayed Haider Raza’s Gestation sold for Rs. 51.75 crore.
The auction by SaffronArt generated over Rs. 181 crore in total for the gallery, marking the creation of two other art records.
The auction house’s co-founder Minal Vazirani said: “The sale of this particular work is an important milestone in the market.
“However, equally important, is the work itself—it is an exceptional painting as a cornerstone in Sher-Gil’s work as such.
“She is one of India’s national art treasures, and this type of work is quite rare to come across for sale.”
For this work, Sher-Gil, the Hungarian-Indian artist born in 1913, received interest from local Indian collectors, as it falls under the ‘non-exportable Indian art treasure’ category.
Amrita Sher-Gil’s works have been auctioned 84 times, dating back to 1937.
Her oldest auction was recorded on MutualArt for the artwork Village Group, sold at Sotheby’s as early as 1992.
A more recent auction for the artwork Untitled was sold in 2023, said Artprice.com, a website on art market information and marketplace.
Independent art critic and curator Uma Nair said a collector community is emerging in Indian art, which is why records are being set at auction houses like Pundole’s and SaffronArt:
“This is a great testimony to the growing importance of the Indian contemporary art scene.
Amrita Sher-Gil’s painting sells for ?61.8 crore
Amrita Sher-Gil’s oil painting, titled ‘The Story Teller,’ has been sold for Rs 61.8 crore ($7.4 million) at a Saffronart auction, making it the most expensive Indian artwork ever sold at auction worldwide. This record-breaking… pic.twitter.com/zBo5HzshUh
— Gagandeep Singh (@Gagan4344) September 18, 2023
“We are seeing a lot of investments coming in from people who believe that art is an asset class, especially in the case of Indian masters, which appreciate in value.
“The new record heralds interest in India’s national treasures.
“The auction house has built a wide network of aficionados who seem too happy to be part of the record-setting scenario.”
Sayed Haider Raza’s collectors have come from the world over, including strong interest from Europe.
Other artworks at the auction included Earth (1986), another work by Raza that sold for Rs. 19.2 crore.
An early expressionist work by Tyeb Mehta titled Red Figure, circa 1950s, sold for Rs. 9 crore.
Akbar Padamsee’s Paysage (1961), an oil on board, sold for Rs. 4.08 crore, more than twice the lower estimate.
A. Ramachandran’s Autobiography of an Insect in the Lotus Pond (2000) sold for Rs. 4.44 crore, setting a world record for the highest price achieved by the artist globally.
The Amrita Sher-Gil artwork auction joins a prestigious list of Indian artists’ pieces, achieving record prices in the past decade.