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Indian wing of Sotheby’s going through a testing phase after a head start

2018 saw Sotheby’s, the world’s oldest auction house, foray into the Indian art market with an astounding debut of its maiden auction “Boundless: India” in Mumbai. The inaugural sale lead by then Managing Director of Sotheby’s India, Gaurav Bhatia featured 60 artworks, which included some of the most sophisticated works of art, photography and sculpture of artists from South Asia, as well as those inspired by South Asia. The auction witnessed a total sale of INR 554 million.

Sotheby’s India second edition of ‘Boundless: India’ in November 2019 witnessed a dramatic turn of events as the cover lot, V.S. Gaitonde 1974 work from the collection of society doyenne Sabira Merchant went unsold. In March 2020, Yamini Mehta, senior director for Indian Art, also left the auction house after a long innings.

At this juncture, it is safe to say that the `Boundless: India’ sale in Mumbai will not take place. The possibility of downsizing cannot be ruled out either at this stage. However, the press office of Sotheby’s has cleared the air about shutting the shop. “Sotheby’s has no intention of closing its office or operations in India. The decision to make changes to the calendar has been taken keeping the current climate of things in mind,” it said.

With Christies no longer holding live auctions on ground since its last auction in 2017, the India auction house scene remains a mix of local players namely Saffronart, Pundole’s and Asta Guru driving the Indian art market.

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