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Sotheby's To Auction Works on Behalf of Kolkata Museum
Lot 70. Jehangir Sabavala, The Chortens, 2005. Oil and acrylic on canvas. Est. $150/200,000. © Sotheby's Images.

NEW YORK, N.Y.- On July 17, 2007, Sotheby’s will hold an auction of modern and contemporary Indian works of art on behalf of the Kolkata Museum of Modern Art (KMOMA), Kolkata, India (formerly Calcutta), with the majority of the proceeds going to benefit the Museum project. The sale will feature 84 lots of modern and contemporary Indian works of art, chosen by the Managing Trustee of KMOMA, including paintings, sculptures and photographs donated in full or in part by collectors and artists, presenting works by artists such as Tyeb Mehta, Jehangir Sabavala, Somnath Hore, Sakti Burman, Ram Kumar, F.N. Souza, Akbar Padamsee, Jogen Chowdhury, Ganesh Pyne, Arpita Singh, Rameshwar Broota, Paresh Maity, Subodh Gupta, Chintan Upadhyay, Baiju Parthan and Dayanita Singh. Works from this auction, which will be on exhibition at Sotheby’s in New York beginning July 9th, are estimated to raise Rs. 10/14 crores (US$2.3/3.2 million).

Rakhi Sarkar, Managing Trustee of KMOMA who was curator of the sale, said: “We are so pleased to hold the first auction which will raise funds for this unique project, the first of its kind, in India, dedicated to an international audience. Artists from across India have joined hands with the government and private sector to bring an understanding of civilizations and cultures from around the world to the same platform in this state-of-the-art museum.”

Zara Porter Hill, Head of the Indian and Southeast Asian Art department, continued: “Sotheby’s is privileged to host this special fundraising auction to benefit the Kolkata Museum of Modern Art. The sale is an opportunity for collectors to acquire works by several artists who are in high demand and for whom only a limited supply of works are on the market.”

Highlights: The cornerstone of the sale is Tyeb Mehta’s Kali Head (Green), 1998, which is fitting given that Kali, the fierce mother goddess, is devoutly worshipped in Kolkata, the future home of the KMOMA (lot 66, est. $400/600,000). In this iconic work, Mehta portrays the ancient Hindu Goddess Kali, the warlike deity embodying destruction, in an astonishingly modern manner – potbellied with large breasts, her arms flailing and her mouth a terrifying gorgeous gash of white. Mehta refers to it as a “fantastic primordial image”, the destroyer of evil and protector of humankind.

Senior Bengali artists including Jogen Chowdhury, Ganesh Pyne, Sakti Burman, Somnath Hore have all made important contributions. National legend, sculptor Somnath Hore, donated the exquisite bronze work, Wounds, 1998, for the KMOMA benefit auction before his death (lot 84, est. $20/30,000). J. Sabavala’s important work, The Chhortens, 2005, a square oil and acrylic on canvas depicting wayside reliquaries nestling at the feet of a high snow-clad massif, maintains the austerity of color and structure that the subject evokes (lot 70, est. $150/200,000). Introspective and spiritual, the painting is haunted by nostalgia, for moments once possessed and now lost. The work, while being thoroughly representative of his distinct style, echoes Sabavala’s training in the European tradition as well as his early fascination with Cubism.
Unlike Sabavala’s serene work, Arpita Singh’s Classified File, 2007, is a whimsical composition where comedy and tragedy become interchangeable as Singh comments on our programmed urban existence, the mindless obsession with creation of wealth and prevalence of social injustice (lot 39, est. $100/150,000). Her bold use of color and confident control of the medium reveals her extraordinary talent as a painter.

Other highlights include an important early paper drawing Study of a Girl, 1960, by Jogen Chowdhury (lot 77, est. $40/60,000); Sakti Burman’s exceptional Giraf in Liberty, a dream-like dense network of varied tones and textures (lot 57, est. $80/120,000); Akbar Padamsee’s contemplative Couple (lot 75, est. $100/200,000); and Rameshwar Broota’s stark monochromatic canvas, Untitled, commenting on violence, the wounded and human degradation (lot 50, est. $120/180,000).

The selection also offers works by young contemporary Indian artists, such as Subodh Gupta’s shiny bronze and chrome sculpture of cosmetic items unveiling the complexities of a consumer-driven, globalizing society (lot 12, est. $50/70,000); a large black and white abstract triptych by Kingshuk Sarkar; and works by Jaya Ganguly, Chintan Upadhyay, Bose Krishnamachari and T.V. Santosh. Baiju Parthan’s Metronome and Yield, 2006-07, deal with the artist’s multiple engagements with mass media, counterculture, the internet, mythological symbols, and new age spirituality (lot 16, est. $12/18,000).

Also included are photographs by Pushpamala N, Vivan Sundaram and Dayanita Singh. Tribal artists, such as Swarna Chitrakar, Bhuri Bai, and Mayank Shyam represent the traditional art of Bengal, explored through urban and contemporary themes.

The KMOMA Project: KMOMA, a joint venture between the government of West Bengal and the private sector, is the first project of its kind in India, bringing together 70 artists, various galleries, private individuals and Sotheby’s to support a national art museum in India. At a press conference last year, KMOMA announced that the Museum was slated for completion in 2012. The mission of the museum is to collect, preserve and exhibit national and international works of fine art from the 18th century through contemporary art. The 570-crore (US$150 million) project will be spread over 10 acres in Rajarhat, Kolkata, and KMOMA’s building, to be designed by an international architect, will have four major sections: National Galleries, Western Galleries, Far Eastern Galleries and a large academic wing to promote research, conservation and curatorial practices. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Chief Minister of West Bengal, is the Chief Patron of the Museum. Distinguished members of the international art and financial community form the Board of Trustees and Advisory Committee of the KMOMA. They include B.M Khaitan, Chairman of Eveready Industries; Rajat Gupta, Former CEO McKinsey & Co USA; Lord Swaraj Paul, Member of the House of Lords, UK; Sreedhar Menon, former Deputy President, American Express; Frank Wisner, Former US Ambassador to India; Purnendu Chatterjee, CEO, Chatterjee Group; Pratapaditya Pal, Art Historian and Curator, Los Angeles; and artists Jogen Chowdhury, Ganesh Pyne and Paritosh Sen. Rakhi Sarkar is the Managing Trustee.

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