Saffronart’s press release follows:
The inaugural ART WEEK at Four Seasons by Saffronart concluded with the first ever live auction. The Mansion at Four Seasons Hotel Mumbai provided a beautiful and avant-garde setting for the live auction that witnessed animated bidding in the sale room and from phone and online bidders around the world. BMW India was the event partner with its luxury automobile on display at the porch of The Mansion. The pre-sale estimate was triple by the end of the auction with 100% of the lots selling successfully. ‘Francis Newton Souza: Works from the Collection of Keren Souza Kohn’, the first ever auction in India dedicated to the legendary artist, realized a total of Rs. 8.12 crores (US$ 1,268,813). The top lot of the sale was The Man from After (1968), at Rs. 78,00,000 (US$ 121,875), over three times the low estimate of Rs. 25,00,000 (US$ 39,065).
Head (Weeping Woman), a 1967 oil on board estimated at Rs. 10,00,000 – 15,00,000 (US$ 15,625 – 23,440) fetched Rs. 48,00,000 (US$ 75,000). This work represents Souza’s interpretation of Pablo Picasso’s well known series of works from 1937 featuring the weeping woman from his epic mural Guernica. Painted thirty years later, in 1967, this work is probably based on Picasso’s last and most elaborate interpretation of the theme, a portrait currently in the collection of the Tate Gallery, which Souza would likely have encountered when he lived in London. However, while Picasso’s Weeping Woman, based on Dora Maar his mistress and muse at the time, evokes universal suffering and human tragedy, Souza’s subject, with her skull-like visage, embodies the artist’s critical view of the powerful, and members of high society.
The auction catalogue predominantly featured works on paper by Souza, many of which saw their values skyrocketing to as much as ten times or more of their estimated values. Untitled (Study for a Gentleman of our Times), a 1955 work on paper sold for Rs. 10,80,000 (US$ 16,875), against an estimate of Rs. 70,000 – 90,000 (US$ 1,095 – 1,410).
Untitled (Head of a Saint), a 1967 collage with watercolor and gouache, also generated great interest, despite being the last lot of the sale. Estimated at a Rs. 1,50,000 – 2,00,000 (US$ 2,345 – 3,125), bidding had just opened when a paddle went up for Rs. 10,00,000 (US$ 15, 625). After several minutes of competitive bidding, the lot eventually hammered down for Rs. 30,00,000 (US$ 46, 875).
One of the earliest works in the auction was Untitled (Landscape in Goa), painted in 1945, which realized Rs. 26,40,000 (US$ 41,250). Painted when the artist still went by the name Newton, it is inspired by the quiet beauty of Souza’s verdant and idyllic birthplace, Goa.
The auction was a first for Saffronart, not only in terms of being a live room auction with phone and online bidding, but also as a single artist auction. The results underlined the continuing demand for modern Indian art.