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Goddess Fetches Three Times Estimate as Indian-Art Demand Rises

Tyeb Mehta Painting
An untitled painting of a Hindu goddess sold for more than three times its estimate at an auction by Mumbai-based Saffronart. The picture was by Tyeb Mehta. Source: Saffronart via Bloomberg

A painting of a Hindu goddess sold for more than three times its estimate at a $4 million online auction by a Mumbai-based company as demand for Indian artworks is boosted by the country’s growing number of billionaires.

The green goddess picture fetched $1.3 million, beating a top estimate of $402,300. Rival collectors pushed 53 percent of the lots above high estimates, with 72 percent of the items finding buyers, the Saffronart auction house said on June 21.

Works by Brazilian, Russian, Indian and Chinese artists have risen in value as emerging-market wealth develops. India has ranked behind China as the briskest-growing major economy for much of the past decade, giving rise to a class of entrepreneurs and billionaires.

The untitled picture of the goddess Kali was by Tyeb Mehta, who died in 2009. Kali is shown against a dark-brown background, looking less menacing than in the usual blood-splattered images of her garlanded with the heads of demons she has killed.

G. Ravinder Reddy’s untitled gilded head fetched $262,055, while Jehangir Sabavala’s “The Bangle Sellers” sold for $201,250, Saffronart said in a statement. A work by Manjit Bawa, who died in 2008, titled “Nayika” fetched $248,780, while Syed Haider Raza’s “Carcassonne” sold for $218,500. Raza, 89, graduated from the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris.

The South Asian nation is home to 55 billionaires, according to Forbes magazine. Worldwide, there were a record number of billionaires in 2011, with 1,210 in total, compared with the previous high of 1,125 in 2008.

The sale follows a June 9 auction at Christie’s International in London of works by Mehta, Francis Newton Souza, India’s priciest modern artist, and Subodh Gupta among others, which raised $4.3 million pounds ($7 million).

The Christie’s auction included an untitled painting by Mehta that sold for 1.97 million pounds, a record for a work by the artist. Raza’s “Saurashtra” sold for 2.4 million pounds in June 2010 in a Christie’s auction, a record for a modern or contemporary Indian work of art.

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