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Seminal work by Bhupen Khakhar leads Sotheby's Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art Sale
Francis Newton Souza, Untitled (Landscape). Oil on canvas laid on board, 48 by 24 in. (121.9 by 61 cm). Est. $200/300,000. Photo: Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, NY.- On 18 September 2013, Sotheby’s will present Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art as part of the Asia Week series of auctions and events. The sale will be led by American Survey Officer from 1969, a very rare and early canvas by Bhupen Khakhar that comes from a Private Midwestern Collection (est. $180/220,000). The work is representative of a critical moment in Khakhar’s career as he developed a local and idiosyncratic language for Pop Art in India and has never before appeared at auction. The auction will also feature seminal paintings by some of India’s most storied modern artists including Ram Kumar and Francis Newton Souza and will feature a carefully curated selection of works by important modern artists not often seen at auction. This is the first Indian art sale in New York after the landmark Amaya Collection sale earlier this year, the first international evening sale of Indian art which totaled almost $6.7 million with four artist records achieved. Highlights from the sale will be on view in our York Avenue galleries beginning 13 September 2013.

Yamini Mehta, International Director, Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art notes, “We are thrilled to offer a curated selection of exceptional works ranging from important senior modern artists such as Bhupen Khakhar, to those rarely seen at auction, at a time of growing interest in the category. The September auction follows not only the landmark evening sale of Amrita Jhaveri’s collection in New York this past March, but also the strong results achieved at our summer sale in London, including a million dollar price achieved for a newly-discovered work by V.S. Gaitonde which was the highest selling work of the season.”

Priyanka Mathew, Vice President, Head of Sales, Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art, adds, “In the upcoming sale, seminal artists such as Francis Newton Souza and Ram Kumar are juxtaposed with works by senior artists making their auction debut including Bipin Goswami, Kshitindranath Majumdar, M. Reddeppa Naidu and Badri Nath Arya; an array of works to entice both seasoned and new collectors alike. The sale includes fine works of Modernist sculptors such as Prodosh Das Gupta and Himmat Shah. It is part of a concerted strategy to expand and broaden the market by including artists from a wider geographical area and to promote talented artists who have historic importance but have not been seen by a wider audience.”

Originally owned by a Latin American diplomat, an Untitled 1961 landscape by Francis Newton Souza is one of his finest landscapes to appear in the market, and it brings to focus the artist’s mastery with linear and geometric configuration. It was painted during a time of study and experimentation while Souza was on a travel grant throughout Italy (est. $200/300,000). With as much expression and emotion as his portraits, this horizon of buildings is painted tightly against each other in a staunchly cubist manner. A further highlight by Francis Newton Souza is the historically significant Sabartés after Picasso; After Pablo Picasso, (est. $100/150,000) which once belonged to Harold Kovner, an American collector who was Souza’s leading patron between 1956 and 1960. This painting is one of his finest and most iconic works.

The present work by Manjit Bawa is an iconic representation of Apu, the beloved mascot for the Asian Games hosted in Delhi in 1982 (est. $200/280,000). The painting was commissioned specifically for the Games and is notable because the event was historically important for India. The painting is from a critical and transformative moment in Bawa’s career, and this canvas is distinguished for its bright colors reflected in the rich Indian palette.

A rare untitled drawing of village women serves as the largest drawing executed by South Indian artist K. Laxma Goud ever to come to market (est. $30/50,000). This work is characteristic of Goud’s subdued pastel palette and distinct use of line, as his artistic practice is rooted in a lifelong passion for the purity of drawing.

The auction includes a selection of six early works by Ram Kumar, one of India’s most venerable artists, to celebrate his work. In 1961, the artist visited the holy city of Varanasi, depicted in this work, in which he sought to capture the spiritual nature of his experience (est. $100/120,000). This trip resulted in a significant shift in his painterly style; he began to move away from figuration and started to paint a series of landscapes devoid of the usual constituents of reality where the human figure is noticeably absent. This new expression of lines, forms and the orchestration of color began in the 1960s and continued to appear in his paintings for many years, particularly in the present work, painted in the 1980s. A view of Varanasi represents his first impression of the revered city, painted the same year he visited it in 1961 (est. $80/120,000). With thickly applied impasto and masterful brushstrokes, this powerful landscape matches the mystery of the sacred city itself.

Aspiration is an early, rare example of Gulam Rasool Santosh’s figurative works and is one of the largest of its kind to come to the market (est. $100/120,000). This work dates from the first period of his work as a professional fine artist, and it establishes his unique voice as an artist with Kashmiri roots, seen in the clothing and jewelry of these figures.

Jehangir Sabavala painted Kumaon Skies in 1993 after a visit to the Khali estate in the Kumaon region of the Himalayan foothills (est. $180/250,000). Painted from an aerial perspective in his distinctive Impressionist brushstroke, this work offers the viewer a stunning glimpse of Kumaon from the artist’s vantage point.

A further highlight of the sale is A. Ramachandran’s dynamic Kalinga War painted in 1981 (est. $180/200,000) from a European private collection. The painting references the historic battle of Kalinga from the 3rd century BCE which marked a watershed moment in the reign of India’s first Emperor, Ashoka when he eschews violence for peace by converting to Buddhism. The enormous six by twelve foot canvas is a tour de force by the artist, portraying a tangled mass of animals, humans and weaponry colliding with ferocity, and is infused with the heat and power of battle.

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