M F Husain’s horses fetch Rs.1.45 crore at art auction

New Delhi : An untitled composition of galloping horses by the late M.F. Husain, painted in acrylic pigments on canvas, sold for Rs.1.45 crore at an auction here.

The painting, estimated at Rs.1.25 crore, was sourced from a private collector in Mumbai for the inaugural auction of Art Bull – a new art auction house in the capital.

Horses, which became a signature motif of the country’s most visible face in international art, reminded the artist of the Islamic crusades – which he found similar to the epic of Mahabharata.

Husain described his horses as creatures “with fronts (torsos) that were forceful and triumphant and backs that were as graceful as women”.

An oil painting by Ramkinkar Baij of a tribal family taking a break from their work on the fields went out for Rs.90 lakh, while an untitled bronze sculpture of a flying man by K.S. Radhakrishnan fetched Rs.13 lakh in brisk bidding by collectors and institutional buyers in the Park Hotel Saturday.

Several works, estimated between Rs.50,000 to Rs.1.70 lakh by younger artists, also found buyers.

The auction presented a combination of the old and the new in Indian contemporary art, covering a century.

The works included paintings by Abanindranath Tagore, Abani Sen, Akbar Padamsee, M.F. Husain, F.N. Souza, J. Sultan Ali, S.H. Raza, J. Swaminathan, Jamini Roy and several other heavyweights of contemporary Indian art.

“The trends show that modern masters still rule the auction market. I had earlier conceptualised the auction only for younger artists, but I had to include masters because they meant more buying business,” Siddhartha Tagore, owner of Art Bull, told IANS.

Tagore, who had been contemplating the auction since 2005, took time to put it together “because of the market meltdown”.

“People also told me not to do it…but I had to start it at some point of time.

“Hosting an auction is a tough job…India has a long way to go because an auction requires documentation of the works and careful planning,” he said.

Citing trends in the auction market, Kolkata-based auctioneer Vikram Bachhawat of Emami Chisel Art said “people were once again buying for fun”.

“Art is no longer an investment… but is a collector’s whim. It was like this in the beginning of the decade before the market went out of control,” Bachhawat, who attended the auction, told IANS.

Bachhawat said the markets were finally recovering after a period of lull. “The capital will see at least five big art auctions next year,” the auctioneer said.

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