Masterpieces by M.F. Husain and Tyeb Mehta will lead the sale of Modern Art at Saffronart, with a total estimate Rs 14.62 crore (US$ 2.75 million) to Rs. 18.39 crore (US$ 3.40 million). Taking place on 18-19 December, the auction features an extraordinary Kerala scene by Husain from the 1960s, estimated at Rs. 60,00,000 to Rs. 80,00,000 (US$ 113,210 to 150,945) along with Tyeb Mehtas significant 1961 canvas Untitled, first exhibited in his solo show at Bear Lane Gallery in London, estimated at Rs. 1,60,00,000 to Rs. 1,90,00,000 (US$ 301,890 to 358,495).
Saffronarts last auction of 2012 presents 70 modern Indian artworks of exceptional quality and provenance by 27 artists. The sale will take place online at www.saffronart.com
and will feature works by modern masters including M.F. Husain, Tyeb Mehta, F.N. Souza, S.H. Raza, Ram Kumar, Manjit Bawa, Ganesh Pyne and Bikash Bhattacharjee among others.
Featured on the catalogue cover is a strikingly beautiful untitled canvas by Husain, executed in the 1960s. Husain first travelled to Kerala in the 1960s, where he was immediately struck by the beauty and fecundity of the land as well as its rich cultural traditions, particularly its music and dance. In this painting, a large tribute to Kerala from this period, Husain represents the Southern Indian state's verdant beauty through one of his favourite subjects, the female figure. Here Husain paints four women seated in different positions and involved in different tasks ranging from bathing to tending cooking fish. The figures overlap with several large leaves, including those of the banana palms so characteristic of Kerala. Using a palette of greens, browns and whites, the artist aimed to reproduce the "three or four subdued and silent colours of Kerala's Kalyani Kutty" or enigmatic woman.
Another highlight of the auction is Tyeb Mehtas Untitled. Painted in 1961, this canvas represents one of the earliest phases of Mehta's figuration, before he turned to the sharp lines, bisecting diagonals and flat expanses of colour that became the hallmarks of his later works. The present lot is an important example of this early phase in Mehta's oeuvre, and stands testimony to his preoccupation with the figure throughout his career. Here, the artist uses an almost monochromatic palette to portray a seated female figure, seemingly lost in contemplation. The solitary subject's face with its forlorn features speaks of defeat and grief. Her body only echoes this despondency; while one arm pillows her head, the other rests on her raised knee, as if unable to rise against the weight of the despair that has descended around her.
Another important lot in the sale is F.N. Souzas East End Factory London from 1957, estimated between Rs. 42,40,000 and Rs. 53,00,000 (US$ 80,000 and 100,000). In this painting, the composition is governed by an eerie stillness rather than the apocalyptic force that usually characterized Souzas landscapes. The artist's palette, typically vibrant, is almost monochromatic here, dominated by shades of midnight blue and black. One of Souza's depictions of London, a city he became more sympathetic towards following his eventual artistic recognition and success there in the mid 1950s, this landscape's unusual verticality and controlled palette underline its dark and disconcerting atmosphere.
This painting was first offered for sale in Cape Town in 1958, a year after it was painted, at an auction in aid of the Treason Trial Defence Fund. Donated to the auction by Souza, the present lot represents the artist's strong commitment to freedom of expression, and to the 156 individuals, including several Indians, who were charged with high treason and faced the death penalty in South Africa for voicing their opposition to the Apartheid regime there.
Manjit Bawas 1976 canvas Untitled is estimated at Rs. 65,00,000 to Rs. 85,00,000 (US$ 122,645 to 160,380). Deeply influenced by the teachings of Sufi mystics, the artist often incorporated mythological themes and subjects in his work. These subjects express simplicity not only in their forms, but in their interactions with the viewer as well. In this large painting, Bawa paints Krishna as a shepherd, set against a deep green background, playing on his flute to calm and enrapture the herd of cattle that surrounds him.
Speaking about the auction, Dinesh Vazirani, CEO and Co-founder of Saffronart, said, 2012 has been a remarkable year for Saffronart. Keeping in mind that collectors have become very selective, we have carefully edited the last sale of the year, in line with our commitment to present extraordinary works by highly prized Indian artists at competitive estimates to collectors around the world. This auction, dedicated to modern Indian art, includes a number of historically and aesthetically significant works by artists that defined what the genre meant in a newly independent country.
Saffronarts Winter Online Auction will be accompanied by print and online catalogues, as well as private viewings in Mumbai, New Delhi and New York. The sale will take place online on 18-19 December, 2012. Collectors may place bids at Saffronarts website www.saffronart.com, or via Saffronarts proprietary iPad, Blackberry and iPhone applications.