The silence in the room was resounding as the auctioneer took a price bid of R12.5 crore for a 60x40-inch oil on canvas. This was almost double the amount it was initially expected to fetch. After the bid crossed R18 crore, a show of hands signalling higher bids became infrequent and the gasps from the audience more audible. With a bit of egging from the patient auctioneer within the next few minutes, the bid crawled to R19 crore. Now, the excitement in the otherwise sedate crowd was palpable.
Finally, after seven minutes of consternation, the Vasudev Gaitonde artwork was snapped up for R23.7 crore at international auction house Christies first-ever auction in India held in Mumbai. The Thursday evening saw Gaitondes untitled yellow, oil on canvas being picked up by a US private art collector. Tyeb Mehtas Mahishasura was a close second, fetching R19.7 crore.
Swaying silk saris, equally vivid dresses and five-inch-heels air-kissed each other, adding to the aura that the glistening diamonds and rubies radiated in the auction room. These colourful hues contrasted with the otherwise plaid colour palette of the walls at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, the venue of the auction. The event saw a smattering of art collectors and corporate bigwigs rubbing shoulders with each other. The amicable Harsh Goenka, chairman of RPG Enterprises, was seen in a fervent conversation with other guests. The impeccably-dressed Sangita Jindal, wife of JSW Steels Sajjan Jindal, and her daughter were also among some of the guests.
Art gallery owners, like Ashish Anand, the owner of Delhi Art Gallery, were seen concentrating seriously on the bidding. Wearing a beige suit that stood out in a sea of black ones, Anand was seen discussing the paintings in great detail. Parul Vadehra of Vadehra Art Gallery and Mukeeta Jhaveri, wife of Citi India chief executive officer Pramit Jhaveri, were some other guests who graced the grand event.
The London-based auction house sold lots for $15.4 million in total, surpassing the expectations by double. The auction in India comes close on the heels of Christies recent auction in Shanghai, where it sold jewellery, sculptures, watches and wine for $25 million.
Featuring notable artists like Gaitonde, Tyeb Mehta and paintings by the likes of Rabindranath Tagore, Abanindranath and Amrita Sher-Gil at the auction, the event started on a sanguine note. The first painting up for a bid was a Gaitonde untitled