Life & Style

#TheYearThatWas: Art diary 2021 was all about NFTs and auctions

New Delhi

From all the buzz around non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to record-breaking auctions in a world that’s still reeling under the pandemic, the visual arts industry witnessed quite a few eventful lows and highs, in the year 2021. Continuing its efforts to ace in a hybrid format, those from the world of art are now looking forward to survive in the new normal, and here we give you a glimpse of everything that made 2021, the year that it was.

Record makers, record breakers

VS Gaitonde’s Untitled (1961) became the highest selling for any work of Indian art in the auction worldwide. (Photo: Saffronart)
VS Gaitonde’s Untitled (1961) became the highest selling for any work of Indian art in the auction worldwide. (Photo: Saffronart)

Indian artist VS Gaitonde’s art is familiar to make world records. And this year too, a 1961 masterpiece by the late abstract artist achieved a world record when it got sold for 39.98 crore (USD 5.5 million) at an auction by Saffronart, this year. The Untitled oil-on-canvas, also marked the highest price ever achieved for a work of Indian art in the auction worldwide.

Soon after, late Indo-Hungarian artist Amrita Sher-Gil’s 1938 artwork titled In the Ladies’ Enclosure won the spot of the second-most expensive work of Indian art sold globally. This marked another world record in the year, by fetching 37.8 crore or (USD 5.14 million) at an auction. It’s also the most expensive artwork of Sher-Gil.

Third time is the charm

British-Indian artist Anish Kapoor has consistently topped the Hurun India Art List. 2021 is the third time he did it, again!
British-Indian artist Anish Kapoor has consistently topped the Hurun India Art List. 2021 is the third time he did it, again!

For third time, Hurun India Art List 2021 named UK-based Indian-origin artist Anish Kapoor as the leading one in its list. The sculptor having achieved 20.64 crore, by selling 65 artworks the previous year, secured his spot at the number one position. Following him was NCR-based veteran Indian modernist painter Krishen Khanna, whose works sold for a total for 9 crore, at the second spot in the list. And Delhi-based artist Rameshwar Broota bagged the third place, in the same list, with a little under 9 crore for his work.

Love is in the… bin

Banksy’s work titled Love Is In The Bin, sold for a record price at an auction in 2021. (Photo: Sotheby’s)
Banksy’s work titled Love Is In The Bin, sold for a record price at an auction in 2021. (Photo: Sotheby’s)

Mysterious British street artist Banksy never shies away from being in news. And this year, his work Love is in the Bin reappeared, three years after the painting was famously shredded in Sotheby’s London auction room. Having sold for a record $25.4 million, its original avatar was called Girl With Balloon, and left the viewers across the globe stunned when it was led to self-destruction with an intentionally placed shredder, during the auction, which stopped half way, and thus came the rebirth of this work!

For the love of Frida Kahlo

In 2021, a Frida Kalho painting broke the record for any Latin American work of art being sold for such a high price. (Photo: Sotheby’s)
In 2021, a Frida Kalho painting broke the record for any Latin American work of art being sold for such a high price. (Photo: Sotheby’s)

In 2021, late Mexican painter Frida Kahlo’s enigmatic self-portrait titled Diego y yo (which translates to Diego and I) sold for $34.9 million. It reappeared at an auction after 1990, breaking Kahlo’s own previous high of $8 million. The painting also set a world record for a work of Latin American art, as the artist took the crown from the last record holder, which was her husband, Diego Rivera. Interestingy, this painting features Diego as well.

NFTs score big

Beeple’s Everydays: The First 5000 Days was sold at $69 million at an auction in 2021, becoming the highest selling NFT ever.
Beeple’s Everydays: The First 5000 Days was sold at $69 million at an auction in 2021, becoming the highest selling NFT ever.

Any talk of 2021 is incomplete without a mention of NFT art. The year started with a bang, as the sale of artist Beeple’s Everydays: The First 5000 Days, raised $69 million becoming a watershed moment for digital artists across the world and even in India. This ‘first purely digital NFT-based work of art’ was sold at Christie’s and achieved a new world record for any work of digital art.

In India, in a first for any Indian actor, Vishal Malhotra sold an NFT for USD 5,500, and Indian celebs including actors Amitabh Bachchan, Sunny Leone, Salman Khan, Kamal Haasan, and fashion designer Raghavendra Rathore and cricketer Rishabh Pant have announced their NFTs. Young digital creators in India also started tapping into NFT art, and selling big. Take for instance, Big B’s coveted Madhushala NFT collection, comprising poems and autographed posters, which secured an approximate 7 crore deal when it went under the hammer in November.

Vandalism, an expression

The public statue of feminist philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft was vandalised using orange paint, in London this year.
The public statue of feminist philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft was vandalised using orange paint, in London this year.

Earlier this year, a public statue erected in London — in honour of 18th century feminist philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft — drew backlash and got defaced with orange graffiti paint, even after several attempts of saving the statue by covering it. Sculpted by British artist Maggi Hambling, it depicts an unclothed Wollstonecraft, touted as the mother of feminism.

Souls we lost

Art curator, critic and a popular name in India’s culture circuit, Alka Raghuvanshi passed away at the age of 60, in May this year. She left many mourning and remembering her panache for art and textiles. The Indian art world also lost artist Yogesh Rawal, 67, who succumbed to Covid-19 in a Gurugram hospital. Goan artist and a recipient of Padma Bhushan award Laxman Pai, 95, also passed away in March, leaving a void in Goan art.

Author tweets @siddhijainn

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