Design a site like this with
Get started

The Most Costly Paintings Every Indian Artist Should Know (Part 2/2)

You’ll be intrigued if you dig deeper to find the most costly painting by the Indian Artist. Not because it is worth crores, but knowing its actual value or rather the perception of it in the global art market. So, where does the most expensive Indian painting stand in the global art market?

If you have awaited part 2 of this blog post, I have an interesting or rather important question for you at the end of this post! I would love to know your thoughts on it. But, before that let me justify the purpose of this post for which you are here. Let’s have a look at the most expensive paintings from Indian artists.

5. Raja Ravi Varma – Radha in Moon Light

Medium: Oil on canvas (57.5″ x 41.5″)

Sold: 2016 by Pundole’s auction house

Price: Rs. 23 Crore

You might say I am being biased, but, honestly, you can’t go without adding another work of Raja Ravi Varma in this list. He was a pathbreaker of his time, the only one to visually bring life to the Puranic stories like never before!

Radha in the moon-light by Raja Ravi Varma. Image Source:

Before painting this artwork, he had made a similar painting of a lady in the moonlight. Shungrasoobyer Avergal had fallen in love with the gem but couldn’t possess it as it was dispatched to Mysore. On request, Ravi Varma painted ‘Radha in Moonlight’ on a similar concept but with a specific love theme of Radha and Krishna. Radha, awaits her lover in anticipation of lovemaking under the beautiful setting of the silvery night sky and dazzling moon. Familiar with her Krishna’s Godlike nature, she has got the platter of flowers, the pooja thali, and sweets too.

Kiran Nadar at her home with Radha in the Moonlight. Image Source: ET

Today, this stunning work of art sits proudly on an easel at Art Connoisseur Kiran Nadar’s home. She beat the conservative upper estimate of Rs. 12 Crore and bought the painting for Rs. 23 Crore from Pundole’s auction house! Now, that I call real love for Art!

4. Vasudeo Gaitonde – Untitled, 1979

Medium: Oil on canvas, 60″ x 40″

Sold: 2013 by Christies

Price: Rs. 23.7 Crore

Do you know what makes this painting so special for Christie’s and India too? Well, it was their debut auction in India, which created a world record for the country! It is surprising how despite an economic slowdown, this work was sold for a whopping 23.7 crore rupees, double its pre-sale estimates! No doubt, art is becoming increasingly attractive for the wealthy in India.

International Director, Asian Art, Hugo Weihe, left, auctioning the painting of Vasudeo S. Gaitonde during Christie’s debut auction in India, Mumbai, 2013. Image Source: IndiaToday
Untitled, 1979, painting by Vasudeo S. Gaitonde

This stunning abstract landscape is one of the earliest paintings done by Gaitonde after graduating from J. J. School of Arts. It was in a treasured collection of Mumbai-based gallerists, Late Kekoo and Khorshed Gandhy.

“Gai’s (V. S. Gaitonde) works have that spark as well as the control, but they also live a life of their own which reaches out and involves the spectator.”

– R. Craven Jr. (Private collector)

The artist was known to work with determination and confidence. R. Craven Jr. an important private collector said, “The mark of a true artist is control, the ability to state concisely that which he wishes, but in doing so, not lose the spark of life which brought about the work’s creation. Gai’s (V. S. Gaitonde) works have that spark as well as the control, but they also live a life of their own which reaches out and involves the spectator”.

Wait, till you see one of the ingenious works by V. S. Gaitonde!

3. Tyeb Mehta – Kali, 1997

Medium: Oil on canvas, 67″ x 54″

Sold: 2018 by Saffronart

Price: Rs. 26.4 Crores

Another artist whose work graces this list of costly paintings twice! Tyeb Mehta’s monumental ‘Kali’ is one of the few paintings he made on this subject – the victory of good over evil. His source of inspiration comes from the actual images of Goddess from their regional and cultural reincarnation and his understanding of the metaphor.

Kali by Tyeb Mehta. Image Source: news18

In the book, ‘Tyeb Mehta: Triumph of Vision’ Yashodhara Dalmia says, “It might have been the vision of the goddess depicted as a mere black piece of marble without a head or eyes, with only a fiery tongue, garlanded in marigold, which he saw at the Kalighat temple in Calcutta that struck the initial chord in Tyeb, for he was impressed by the powerful abstract quality of the sculpture.”

“It might have been the vision of the goddess… which he saw at the Kalighat temple in Calcutta that struck the initial chord in Tyeb, for he was impressed by the powerful abstract quality of the sculpture.”

– Tyeb Mehta: Triumph of Vision

2. F. N. Souza – Birth, 1955

Medium: Oil on board, 48″ x 96″

Sold: 2015 by Christies

Price: 29 Crore

Did you know Christie’s auctioned this painting twice!? Yes, first in 2008 for $2.5 mn (approx. 11.3 Crore rupees at that time) which created a world record of most expensive Indian painting sold then. The private collector who bought it consigned it for auction again in 2015, selling it for massive $4.08 mn (approx 29 Crore rupees! Breaking its own record!). Well, that is almost 63% appreciation in the value of this artwork (Huge, isn’t it?!).

‘Birth’ painting by Francis Newton Souza, 1955. (Image Source: DNA)

F. N. Souza was Goa-based artist and one of the founding members of Progressive Artists’ Group (PAG), along with other eminent artists like M. F. Hussain, S. H. Raza to name a few. After Souza’s death, M. F. Hussain had paid a moving tribute saying, ‘Souza was my mentor. He is the most significant painter, almost a genius.’

“Souza was my mentor. He is the most significant painter, almost a genius.”

– M. F. Hussain

Painted in 1955, Souza exhibited it the same year of his groundbreaking solo exhibition at Gallery One, London. The subjects in the painting take us back in the time of Souza’s early practice. You see the pregnant nude outstretched, adorned with hairpins. Next to her is the priest who seems autobiographical and there is also a still life on the window ledge. Beyond the window, you see a townscape with tall steeples and corniced buildings. This epic art represents the pinnacle of the paintings Souza made in 1950s.

With this, your wait ends! Here comes the costliest painting that broke all the records in India.

  1. Vasudeo Gaitonde – Untitled, 1995

Medium: Oil on canvas

Sold: 2015 by Christies

Price: Rs. 29.3 Crore!

One of the finest works by V. S. Gaitonde, created a benchmark of the costliest painting sold so far in India.

Untitled, 1995, by V. S. Gaitonde

“Everything starts with silence. The silence of the brush, the silence of the canvas, the silence of the painting knife. The painter starts by absorbing all these silences… No one part of you is working there. Your entire being is.”

– V. S. Gaitonde (1924 -2001)

He was a proponent of Zen Buddhism and perceived painting as a spiritual undertaking, something not to be rushed. On average Gaitonde painted not more than five or six canvases a year. 

He did not believe in any dogma or belief or any loyalty. He was a person who would acknowledge any thought only if it appeals to him and seldom follows collective thinking. I was always curious why he never captioned his painting until I read this:

Emotions [are] intrinsically individual in their impact and revelation. And what I seek to portray, being true to myself, remains personal. [So] I can only hope for a certain understanding by others. That is the reason I don’t caption my paintings and why a single colour dominates my compositions.
– V.S. Gaitonde, 1991

Though, you see the paintings priced in crores, the Indian art market is still underrated compared to the global market. No doubt, international auction houses see the relatively underdeveloped art market in Asia’s third-largest economy as fertile ground for growth as part of international expansion.

Recently, the second edition of the Hurun India Art List was published. Rupert Hoogewerf, Hurun Global Chairman, said Indian art is highly undervalued. The most expensive paintings sold were of F. N. Souza and V. S. Gaitonde for meager $4 mn each. However, works of artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Pablo Picasso fetched massive $450 mn, and $179 mn respectively (Woah! Now, that’s something?!). The research also found that the Indian art auction market represents only 0.4% of the global market, whereas the US represents 35%, China 31%, and Britain 15% of USD 13.3 billion market pie!

This leaves us with a food-for-thought. Knowing India’s cultural heritage dating back to 4500 years (the oldest civilization!), imagine the unlimited possibilities and opportunities India can explore and exhibit to the world!

What do you think needs to be done to improve our share in the global art market? I would love to know your thoughts in the comments below.


Published by Harshada Vispute

Though a Post-graduate in Management and earlier worked for various industries, Harshada treasured her passion for painting by self-learning. She is also a good writer and has written books for the organization she worked. However, her deep-seated love for colours couldn’t let her stay inside the four walls of the corporate world. Determined to pursue her passion, she left for Dharamshala to learn Thangka painting, a rare Tibetan art form. Most of her other artworks find their backdrop in the scenic beauty of nature. Her love for art and writing, together with the zeal to inspire self-made artists like her, gave birth to

2 thoughts on “The Most Costly Paintings Every Indian Artist Should Know (Part 2/2)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: