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Know your art: Tyeb Mehta’s painting just sold for Rs 26.4 crore; here’s a ready reckoner on the artist and his art

This isn’t the first time that Tyeb Mehta’s paintings have fetched such a high price. With Kali (1989) being sold at a whopping Rs 26.4 crore, here are some of his other popular art works. 

Written by Jyotsna Basotia | New Delhi |
Updated: July 24, 2018 11:03:00 am
tyeb mehta, tyeb mehta paintings, tyeb mehta indian art, tyeb mehta artist, tyeb mehta paintings expensive, tyeb mehta kali, tyeb mehta mahishasura, tyeb mehta crore prices paintings, indian express, indian express news Tyeb Mehta: The artist, who painted only for the sake of painting and dreamt of making a movie. (Source: Express Archives)

It’s no surprise that Tyeb Mehta’s painting Kali (1989) recently fetched a whopping Rs 26.4 crore at Saffron Art’s recent ‘Milestone 200th Auction’. After all, Mehta is, perhaps, the first modernist who started the great Indian art boom — with his paintings being sold at over a million dollars. In 2002, Celebration (1995) was sold at a public auction for Rs 2.19 crore, and in 2005, Mahishasura (1997) raked in more than Rs 10.9 crore.

Blotched in dramatic blue, Kali shows Goddess Kali with a gouged mouth and represents the cosmic dilemma of the battle between good and evil. Mehta’s previous world record was held by leading auction house Christie’s when Woman on Rickshaw (1994) was sold at a price of Rs 22.99 crore in May 2017.

Tyeb Mehta’s Celebration was the first work by an Indian artist to cross Rs 1 crore at Christie’s auction. (Source: Express Archives)

Who is Tyeb Mehta?

Born on July 25, 1925, Mehta was raised in Kapadvanj, a town situated in the Kheda district of Gujarat. He spent most of his life in Mumbai, except for some brief stints in London, New York and Shantiniketan. The riots during Partition in 1947 left a major impact on him, traces of which can be seen in his art works.

Mehta was part of the Bombay Progressive Artists’ Group along with M F Husain, F N Souza and S H Raza. He also worked as a film editor in a cinema laboratory at Famous Studios and made the documentary, Koodal (1970) — a powerful portrayal of an ordinary man’s dilemma — that went on to win the Filmfare Critics’ Award.

Tyeb Mehta: A self-critical artist, who brought the tragedy and tradition of India alive on canvas. (Source: Express Archives)

Where can you buy Tyeb Mehta’s paintings?

Most of his popular art works have already been sold at auction markets in millions, but if you are looking to buy some of his lesser-known paintings or sculptures, you need to keep a track of his art pieces that appear on the art market from time to time. Saffron Art, Christie’s, Artsy and several similar online auction sites and artists’ hubs still have a collection of Mehta’s iconic paintings.

Tyeb Mehta’s Falling Bull was sold at the hammer price of Rs 15 crore, the highest in the collection at Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai. (Source: Express Photo by Pradeep Kocharekar)

What should your budget be?

While most paintings are estimated to be sold in the range of Rs 2-3 crore, it finally depends on the demand for the specific artwork.

Tyeb Mehta with his painting at ITC Hotel Maurya. (Source: Express Archives)

Kali to Mahishasura: Art on Canvas

Whether it was the Trussed Bull or the Falling Figure in mid ’60s and ’70s, or his allegorical depiction of Hindu mythology in Kali or Mahishasura, these are some of this most famous paintings.

Kali, Oil on canvas
67 x 54 in (170.2 x 137.2 cm)


“A monumental figure of Kali is one of only a few paintings Tyeb Mehta ever made on this subject. Three large-format standing Kali figures were all painted in a brief period between 1988 and 1989, of which the present lot is the largest, standing at 67×54 inches,” the caption reads. 

Mahishasura, Acrylic on canvas
59 x 47¼ in (150 x 120 cm)


Painted in 1996, Tyeb Mehta’s Mahishasura represents a reinterpretation of Goddess Durga locked in an embrace with the demon.

Falling Bird, Acrylic on canvas
47.75 x 36 in (121.4 x 91.3 cm) 



“Tyeb Mehta, whose most seminal works include his earliest award winning Falling Figure of 1965, and the auction record setting Falling Figure with Bird of 1988, gradually combined man with bird to create a composite creature,” the caption reads.

Thrown Bull, Oil on canvas
28 ½ x 36 ¼ in (72.3 x 92 cm)


One of the earliest examples of Tyeb Mehta’s iconic bull paintings, Thrown Bull (1961) that shows how the animal’s legs are tied down is an assault on life itself.

Two Figures, Acrylic on canvas
59 ⅛ x 35 ⅜ in (150.3 x 90 cm)


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“Tyeb Mehta’s Two Figures is a significant example of the artist’s iconography. Its powerful composition – showing a fragmented but rising body – channels various themes and inspirations. The interplay between figure, gesture, colour, space and structure is perfectly balanced, engaging every viewer on a personal level,” the picture posted on Instagram by Christie’s reads.

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