Record-breaking Prices for Amrita Sher-Gil’s ‘The Story Teller’: India’s Most Expensive Painting

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A recent auction of a painting pegged the Indian contemporary art at a record-high position.

A recent auction of a painting has put Indian contemporary art in the spotlight. The painting titled The Story Teller, created by renowned 20th century Sikh-Hungarian artist Amrita Sher-Gil, was sold for a staggering ₹61.8 crore, making it the most expensive artwork from India ever auctioned. This price surpasses the previous record set by Sayed Haider Raza’s Gestation, which was sold for ₹51.75 crore just 10 days prior.

Story Teller sets a distinctive artistic language which merges both Pahari and Parisian influences.

Accolades for Amrita Sher-Gil

As the only successful woman artist in India, Amrita Sher-Gil’s painting topping the charts is a deserving achievement. The SaffronArt auction at The Oberoi in New Delhi, where the painting was sold, generated over ₹181 crore in total.

“The sale of this particular work is an important milestone in the market. However, equally important, is the work itself—it is an exceptional painting as a cornerstone in Sher-Gil’s work as such. She is one of India’s national art treasures, and this type of work is quite rare to come across for sale,” said an official from the auction house as quoted by Mint.

Auctioned Artworks

Sher-Gil’s oldest art piece, Village Group, was sold in 1992, while her latest untitled artwork was sold in 2023. The artist’s Village Group is regarded as one of her finest works, portraying a group of women.

A Distinctive Artistic Language

The Story Teller sets a distinctive artistic language that combines influences from both Pahari and Parisian art traditions. The painting showcases a group of women relaxing in an open space while focusing on their individual tasks.

Sher-Gil’s Empathy for Women Subjects

According to experts, Sher-Gil’s paintings stand out because they don’t marginalize women subjects. The artist empathetically relates to their conditions and portrays them with honesty and expression.

“The work is among her most honest and expressive figurative compositions, from a pivotal time in her brief oeuvre (body of work), and we are honored to have played a part in curating a new benchmark for Sher-Gil with this auction,” the official added.

A Pioneering Asian Artist

Amrita Sher-Gil, born in 1913 to a Sikh father and Hungarian mother, spent her early days in Europe before moving to India. She went on to become the first Asian artist to win a gold medal in painting at Paris’ elite Ecole des Beaux Arts.

Sher-Gil’s Confidence in Nudes

Sher-Gil’s work on nudes reflects her confidence and ease with her skillset. She often used her sister and herself as models for nude paintings.

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