Top 10: Indian artists



Friday is Top day! Every other Friday, Artprice publishes a theme-based auction ranking. This week: the top ten auction sales by Indian artists.

Top 10: Indian artists
Rank Artist Hammer Price Artwork Sale
1 Raqib SHAW $4,891,680 «Garden of earthly Delights III» (2003) 12/10/2007 (Sotheby’s LONDON)
2 Anish KAPOOR $3,428,820 Untitled (2003) 01/07/2008 (Sotheby’s LONDON)
3 Sayed Haider RAZA $3,047,520 “Saurashtra” (1983) 10/06/2010 (Christie’s LONDON)
4 Tyeb MEHTA $2,829,517 Untitled (Figure on Rickshaw) (1984) 09/06/2011 (Christie’s LONDON)
5 Anish KAPOOR $2,500,000 Untitled (1999) 14/11/2007 (Sotheby’s NEW YORK NY)
6 Tyeb MEHTA $2,450,000 Bulls (2005/07) 23/03/2011 (Christie’s NEW YORK NY)
7 Sayed Haider RAZA $2,194,940 “La terre” (1973) 30/06/2008 (Christie’s LONDON)
8 Francis Newton SOUZA $2,159,850 Birth (1955) 11/06/2008 (Christie’s LONDON)
9 Anish KAPOOR $2,100,000 Turning the world upside Down #4 (1998) 10/05/2011 (Sotheby’s NEW YORK NY)
10 Anish KAPOOR $2,000,000 Untitled (1999) 14/11/2006 (Sotheby’s NEW YORK NY)


India’s art market is still in its infancy but it provides a fertile breeding ground for some excellent artists. Over the last 20 years, the art world’s major players have been keeping a close eye on its massive potential for buyers. Christie’s is planning to open its 12th saleroom in Bombay in December 2013. Its focus will be on sales of Indian art. This new outpost is part of Christie’s strategy of developing and highlighting modern and contemporary Indian artists, a strategy that was launched in London in 1995 (with the first sale of contemporary Indian art in London). As a result, in 20 years the London market has become the commercial capital of Indian art, to such an extent that many of the top artists have made the city their home. So six of our top ten sales were made in London, compared to four in New York. The list is dominated by Raqib SHAW and Anish KAPOOR, both of whom now live in the British capital.

Expressing approval for art in monetary terms does not necessarily reward an artist’s whole career. For emerging names, it can predict an artist’s value. This is certainly the case with Raqib Shaw (b. 1974), who is not only the youngest artist in our ranking, but also tops the list. Yet his market is also the most immature, as he only made his debut in the salerooms in 2006. Raqib Shaw has lived in London since 1998 and the enthusiasm aroused in 2007 by the sale of a work for over $5.5 million (including buyer’s premium) is a sign of how he has benefited from this prestigious circuit. The support given by the White Cube gallery and the Garden of earthly Delights III exhibition at MoMA in 2006 provided a perfect pedigree to allow this major work to quadruple its high estimate of £600,000 (Garden of earthly Delights III, £2.4 million, Sotheby’s, London, 12 October 2007), a new record for contemporary Indian art. However, Raqib Shaw has failed to break the million-dollar barrier over the last six years. This is certainly due to the fact that only more minor works have come up for sale during this period, but also because the record hammer price was a secondary phenomenon caused by the rampant hyper-speculation experienced in 2007.

The euphoria of these sales led him to smash the record price held by Anish Kapoor (almost $1.4 million separates their respective records), despite the fact that Kapoor is 20 years older and has one of the most mature international careers around. It is hardly surprising that Kapoor has achieved four of the ten top sales prices for Indian art and that he has broken the million-dollar barrier 22 times. He is one of contemporary art’s sound investments, with his value soaring by more than 300% over the last ten years and his market not being confined to the extreme top end of the spectrum (more than a third of his works can be bought for less than $10,000 thanks to the market for multiples).
Other artists with mature markets are Francis Newton SOUZA, Sayed Haider RAZA and Tyeb MEHTA, all born in the 1920s and acclaimed both in India and the West. The next step is to bring these artists to the fore in Indian salerooms. The explosion of Indian art in the West since 2006 has fired the ambition of artists from New Delhi to Bombay and contributed to the opening of several salerooms, such as Osian, Triveda Fine Art (also a gallery) Bid & Hammer Auctioneers, Bangalore in New Delhi and Asta Guru in Bombay.