Tyeb Mehta is a prominent figure in the group of Indian artists known as Indian Modernists that includes names such as Mr. Raza, Francis Newton Souza and the recently deceased Maqbool Fida Husain. Their works consistently command the highest prices at the auction for Indian Art. An untitled painting by Tyeb Mehta recently set a new record for his work and fetched a price of $3.24 million at Christie’s auction in London. The painting in question shows a figure reclining on a hand pulled rickshaw. This price is quite close to the $3.5 million figure, which was the price paid for Syed Haider Raza’s “Saurashtra” about a year ago.
Another prominent work by Tyeb Mehta which is known as his diptych bulls had held the record earlier for the artist when it was sold for $2.8 million. Yamini Mehta, Christie’s head of Indian modern and contemporary art in London believes that the untitled oil painting depicting a figure reclining on a hand-pulled rickshaw and painted in blocks of grays, reds and saffron, one of the artist’s “most remarkable masterpieces”. This painting refers to the time the artist spent in Kolkata and neighboring Santiniketan. This untitled painting is part of a series on rickshaw pullers.
Hand-pulled rickshaw is a running theme in Mr. Mehta’s work and can still be seen in some areas of Kolkata. He paints the rickshaw pullers as a symbol of India’s marginalized city dwellers. The pre sales estimates done by Christie’s for the untitled painting was much more conservative at £800,000 – £1.20 million ($1.30 million – $1.95 million). The painting is simply signed and dated as “Tyeb ‘84”. It was originally bought by fellow painter Mr. Raza and later became part of New Delhi’s Vadehra Art Gallery’s collection. It was bought for a record price by a European buyer. Another painting done by Mr. Mehta in 1998 and which depicts Kali will be auctioned at Saffronart’s summer online auction of modern and contemporary Indian art starting Wednesday.