Tyeb Mehta painting sold for record $1.6m

He improved upon his record to fetch the whopping amount for Mahishasura, which is the highest amount to be made by a contemporary Indian work of art

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NEW YORK: Tyeb Mehta has improved upon his record to fetch a whopping $1.584 million for his painting Mahishasura, which is the highest amount to be made by a contemporary Indian work of art.

The painting was sold at New York at an auction organised by international art auction house Christie's.

Bought by a private collector for $1.584 million, against a pre-sale estimate of $600,000 to $800,000, it hails an all-time high for the abacus of auction trends and the power and brilliance of Mehta.

"This is the first time a contemporary Indian painting has sold at auction for more than $1 million and the result quintuples the previous world auction record, which was set at Christie's New York in 2002 when Celebration, a painting by the same artist, fetched $317,500," said Christie's.

As a work of art, Mahishasura has been referred to as a work in karmic origami, which depicts the traditional Hindu tale of the warrior goddess Durga slaying the buffalo demon Mahisha. 

Mehta's interpretation recasts Mahisha in this painting as a sympathetic figure in a seductive embrace with Durga, symbolising his spiritual transformation after union with the divine. He has given the painting a striking look using red, black, white colours.

Mehta is part of the vanguard Progressive Artists Group that drew stylistic inspiration from the European masters while re-interpreting distinctly Indian themes in the post-Independence era of the country from 1948. Mehta is particularly inspired by Francis Bacon. 

Many critics feel Mehta is not a prolific artist due to his highly exacting and meticulous standards. Neither has he produced works aplenty like the patriarch MF Husain.

The artist, who was present during the auction, launched his monograph featuring Mahishasura on its cover at Christie's on Sunday.

"For Indian art, this is a watershed," Husain told IANS Thursday morning. Both the artists were together at the launch of Husain's Lost Continent exhibition in London two months ago.

Mehta, who lives in Mumbai, works on a few canvasses in a year. "They are for my children, I have stopped selling to anyone," he said.

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