20 October, 2020

The Myth Maker

Tyeb Mehta's triptych sells for an astronomical amount, but Alibaba's cave isn't open yet

Abhijit Bhatlekar
The Myth Maker
The hammer fell at Christie's in New York, fixing the price at US $317,500 for Tyeb Mehta's triptych Celebration, and art lovers everywhere opened their eyes a little wider—to take a closer look at this masterpiece, reproduced on the front page of The Times of India on September 24, 2002. The privilege had not been accorded to any other work of art in a very long time by the paper, but then no other work had a price tag of Rs 1.5 crore attached to it. Besides, the triptych was its property and it surely has the right to rejoice at making such a large and successful sale.

When Tyeb was commissioned to paint the triptych some years ago, he had no idea it would be offered at an auction, especially since it was going to be part of an important, well-endowed museum in India. He has been keen that his major works remain here. But it has so turned out that a great many of his paintings are part of important foreign collections.

Before Celebration, Tyeb had painted another triptych based on a festival in Shantiniketan. At the time, I was chairman of the...


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