Tyeb Mehta continues to rock the international art market

After flooring the buyers at Christie’s auction, his work now fetches great price in online auction

Tyeb Mehta continues to rock the international art market. After the highest price his untitled work of a rickshaw puller fetched at Christie’s summer auction on 9 June, another untitled work by him fetched a high price in online auction.

His Untitled (Kali) was sold at the SaffronArt online auction on Thursday for $1,317,161, three times its high estimate. Measuring 30x24 inches, it is considerably smaller than the one sold at Christies, which measured 58¾x47 inches

This is one of the three Kali paintings by Mehta. It is interesting to note that despite its strong subject matter, as opposed to its rather beautiful counterpart at Christie’s, it still sold higher than any expectation.

An undisclosed bidder punted an unprecedented $1 million through a mobile phone, though he was not the winning bidder. In all, there were 23 bids on Mehta, whose reserve was $2,87,360 to $4,02,300. Earlier, at the Christie’s auction, Mehta’s Untitled (rickshaw puller) sold for $3,238,103. It was sold to an ‘international’ first-time buyer, indicating that Western collectors may finally be awakening to the gap in the prices of paintings by Indian masters, as opposed to their counterparts in China.

This was the highest ever paid for a Mehta painting and the second highest paid for an Indian artist. That record is still held by SH Raza’s Saurashtra, which sold in the same sale last year for $3,486,965.

A healthy 52 per cent of lots in the SaffronArt sale went over high estimate, showing that the appetite of rich collectors is still strong. There is a growing sentiment that important pieces of Indian art are becoming a valuable asset class in themselves. Their soaring prices at international auctions continue to solidify their legitimacy as viable investment propositions.

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