Sotheby’s South Asian Art Auction Brings 5.5 Million Pounds

Sotheby’s London sale of South Asian Art brought an exceptional total of £5,465,550, well above the pre-sale expectations of £2,739,500-3,912,500 and a figure that is more than double the sum realised for the equivalent sale at Sotheby’s London last summer. The sale was 90% sold by value and 78% sold by lot. Furthermore, 81% of the lots that were sold in the sale achieved prices above their pre-sale high estimate.

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), Untitled (Figures in Sepia) sold for £109,250 (est: £20,000-30,000) Photo: Sotheby’s

The group of 12 paintings by Rabindranath Tagore – presented for sale by the Dartington Hall Trust, a charitable organisation based in South Devon in the UK – were the undoubted star of the show. The group, which had been the subject of considerable interest, both from India and around the world, brought a combined total of £1,599,000, considerably more than the £250,000 that had been expected. All 12 Tagore paintings soared above their estimates but the highest selling work of the group was Untitled (Portrait of A Woman), which sold for £313,250 against an estimate of £30,000-40,000 (lot 26). This price represents a new auction record for Tagore by a considerable margin; the previous auction record for a work by Tagore was for his Death Scene, which sold for £144,500 at Sotheby’s London in May 2008.

The other Tagore prices:

• Lot 20 – Untitled (Portrait of a Woman), which sold for £223,250 (est: £25,000-30,000)

• Lot 22 – Untitled (Figure with Green Background), which sold for £133,150 (est: £30,000-40,000)

• Lot 27 – Untitled (Figure in Yellow), which sold for £133,250 (est: £30,000-40,000)

• Lot 23 – Untitled (Four Figures), which sold for £109,250 (est: £25,000-30,000)

• Lot 29 – Untitled (Figures in Sepia), which sold for £109,250 (est: £20,000-30,000)

• Lot 21 – Untitled (Lady with a Fan), which sold for £103,250 (est: £20,000-30,000)

• Lot 29 – Untitled (Two Faces), which sold for £103,250 (est: £20,000-30,000)

• Lot 31 – Untitled (Landscape), which sold for £97,250 (est: £15,000-20,000)

• Lot 24 – Untitled (Portrait of a Man with Beard), which sold for £91,250 (est: £18,000-22,000)

• Lot 25 – Untitled (Portrait of a Man with Moustache), which sold for £91,250 (est: £25,000-35,000)

• Lot 30 – Untitled (Yellow Landscape), which sold for £91,250 (est: £15,000-20,000)

Talking about the success of the Tagore works today, Vaughan Lindsay, Chief Executive Officer of the Dartington Hall Trust, said: “We are delighted with the results of the sale. These funds will be used to support our ambitious 5-year plans for the Dartington estate, and the expansion of our charitable programmes in the arts, social justice and sustainability.”

Holly Brackenbury, Deputy Director in South Asian Art at Sotheby’s, added: “Rabindranath Tagore is a beloved and revered figure in India and around the world. We always knew the offering of such a group of works as those from Dartington Hall Trust would be met by a great deal of interest and excitement – and we were not wrong. The rarity and distinguished provenance of the 12 paintings, in addition to the fact that they had never appeared on the open market before, made their appearance at auction a very exiting opportunity. We are very pleased with today’s results and thrilled to have been able to help Dartington Hall Trust in raising money for their ambitious new programme of investment in the arts, social justice and sustainability – issues that were always very close to Tagore’s own heart.”

Other top-selling lots in the 88-lot sale of South Asian Art:

• Sayed Haider Raza’s Rajasthan, which achieved the strong price of £517,250, above the pre-sale expectations of £300,000-500,000. Like the Tagore group, this work came to the market with exemplary provenance, presented for sale by a private French collector who acquired the work directly from the artist in 1981.

• An impressive nude by Francis Newton Souza, which made £373,250 – more than four times the pre-sale high estimate of £80,000. The painting was exhibited at Souza’s first solo exhibition at Gallery One in 1955, where it was purchased by the collector who presented it for sale today.

• A striking Untitled work by Avinash Chandra, which had been in the same private collection since 1963. This sold for £133,250, against an estimate of £50,000-70,000, and this represents a new auction record for the artist.

• An extremely rare and monumental bronze sculpture by Somnath Hore, entitled The Khajani Player, which fetched £157,250, above the estimate of £130,000-150,000. This establishes a new auction record price for the Bengali artist.

• And an Untitled Self Portrait by the Sikh artist Manjit Bawa, which brought £193,250, almost double the pre-sale estimate of £70,000-100,000.

Commenting on the sale overall, Zara Porter-Hill, Director and Head of South Asian Art at Sotheby’s, stated: “We are delighted with today’s results, which demonstrate the continued confidence in the Indian market and the ever-growing appetite both in India and around the world for South Asian Art. We assembled a sale that we were very happy with – full of superb works with superb provenance – and collectors responded today, recognising the one-off opportunities that many of the works on offer represented. Bidding came from a healthy mix of private collectors and trade buyers and their interest produced a great number of very lively bidding battles today.”