London: A stunning image by one of India's foremost modern artists Jehangir Sabavala sold for a record £253,650 (approximately Rs 2,16,47,037) to lead a strong selection of works by major South Asian artists at the Bonhams annual summer sale of Modern and Contemporary South Asian art on Thursday.
A press release says the work had "been estimated to sell for £100,000-150,000, but after a saleroom tussle between two buyers in the room, was knocked down for £253,650 a world record for an Indian at Bonhams."
Earlier, Indian art maestro M F Husain's painting titled 'The Blue Lady' had earned £97,250 (approximately Rs 82,99,328). It was from the private UK collection of John Hay, having been presented to Hay's mother Elizabeth Partridge by her sister as a wedding present in India.
Illustrated on the cover of his monograph by Ranjit Hoskote, 'The Crucible of Painting: The Art of Jehangir Sabavala, Vespers I' is one of Sabavala's most important works, representing a key period of transition in the artist's oeuvre.
It was first exhibited at the Jehangir Art Gallery in Mumbai and then at his solo exhibition at the Commonwealth Institute, London.
"Sabavala had a lifelong fascination with monastic life, and the figures of the monk and the hermit are central to his work. Indeed, he often compared his long, solitary and disciplined hours of work in the studio with a monk's routine of study, prayer, retreat and meditation," says Hoskote, an independent curator who was responsible for the Indian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2011.
Mehreeen Rizvi, Head of Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art at Bonhams commenting after the sale, said: "We are delighted with this result for Sabavala. It is about time this artist achieved commercial success in the art market to mirror his artistic reputation."
Who is Jehangir Sabavala?
Jehangir Ardeshir Sabavala was born to an affluent Parsi family in Bombay (now Mumbai), India. His mother belonged to the aristocratic Cowasjee Jehangir family. He studied at Cathedral and John Connon School, Elphinstone College, and earned a diploma from Mumbai's Sir J. J. School of Art in 1944.
Thereafter he went to Europe and studied at the Heatherley School of Fine Art, London, (1945–47), and in Academie Andre Lhote, Paris (1948–51), the Académie Julian (1953–54), and finally at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in 1957.