5 Record Breaking Masterpieces of Indian Art

In the run-up to our leading annual auction in New Delhi, we look at five works of art that have touched new heights with their record prices at Saffronart auctions, and changed the market for Indian art.

Rs 19.19 crores ($ 2.9 million)
Akbar Padamsee, Greek Landscape, 1960

Padamsee Greek Landscape with frame

Padamsee’s Greek Landscape is an extraordinary work of monumental scale, offering a panoramic view of an imagined city. It was one of four large, especially striking grey paintings made in 1959-60. When the Grey Works were exhibited at the Jehangir Art Gallery in Mumbai in 1960, Padamsee received glowing reviews from leading art critics, fellow artists and collectors, firmly establishing him as one of India’s masters.

Greek Landscape, in particular, attracted the attention of many, including Padamsee’s contemporary and close friend, artist Krishen Khanna, who purchased it at the time for Rs 1,000. Greek Landscape was offered at auction for the first time last year at Saffronart’s Evening Sale in New Delhi. Estimated at Rs 7 – 9 crores, it doubled its upper estimate and sold for Rs 19.19 crores in September 2016.

Rs 16.84 crores ($ 2.59 million)
F N Souza, Man and Woman Laughing, 1957

Souza Man and Woman Laughing

Before F N Souza’s Birth set a world record, Souza’s Man and Woman Laughing held the world auction record for the artist at Rs 16.84 crores. This iconic masterpiece depicts a recurring theme in Souza’s work—unveiling the hypocrisy of the society he inhabited. It is a bold work of compelling scale, and one of 200 paintings made by Souza for his first major patron, the wealthy American collector Harold Kovner. It was initially estimated at Rs 15 – 20 crores, and sold for Rs 16.84 crores in September 2015.

$ 2.2 million (Rs 9.6 crores)
Arpita Singh, Wish Dream, 2000-01

Arpita Singh

Arpita Singh’s figurative canvases are inspired by narratives of the private and public lives of women, many of whom she has known personally. Wish Dream is the largest work created by the artist, and comprises sixteen canvases. Initially commissioned as a site specific project, the idea was born from a Tibetan play lent to the artist, where she came across the phrase “wish dream.” Connecting these words with the concerns that have shaped her work, Singh focusses on the subtle ways in which women wield power, particularly in relation to rituals and the generation of life.

Wish Dream was auctioned in Saffronart’s Winter Online Auction in December 2010. Estimated at $ 1.8 – 2.3 million, it sold for $ 2.2 million.

$ 1.4 million (Rs 5.7 crores)
Subodh Gupta, Untitled, 2006

Subodh Gupta_Summer 2008

Subodh Gupta has long been one of India’s leading contemporary artists, famed for elevating everyday stainless steel utensils into works of art. This realistically rendered oil on canvas, painted in 2006, was sold in June 2008 at more than five times its upper estimate for $ 1.4 million, against an estimate of $ 200,000 – 250,000.

Rs 5.75 crores ($ 942,623)
S H Raza, Haut de Cagnes, 1951

Haut de Cagnes

Made during what critic Rudy von Leyden considered S H Raza’s “classic” period, Haut de Cagnes depicts the 12th century hilltop village in southern France, which had long been a source of inspiration for artists such as Renoir, Derain and Modigliani. Executed in gouache, it was estimated at Rs 3 – 5 crores, and sold for Rs 5.75 crores. This painting was sold in February 2014, and holds the auction record for a Raza paperwork.

The Evening Sale on 21 September includes modern and contemporary art by leading artists, with significant works entering the auction market for the first time.

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