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Sale of Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art Announced by Sotheby's New York
T. V. Santhosh, Tracing An Ancient Error. Est. $100/150,000. Photo: Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s sale of Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art on 25 March 2011 will be led by one of the most important paintings by a modern Indian painter ever to have appeared on the market - Akbar Padamsee’s Untitled (Reclining Nude) which carries an auction estimate of $500/700,000. It was acquired by the current owners from the artist over 50 years ago and has never before appeared at auction. Sotheby’s presented the painting to collectors at the recent Indian Art Summit in New Delhi- the first time it had been returned to India since 1960. In addition to the Padamsee the masters of modern Indian painting are well represented in the auction, with major works by MF Husain, SH Raza, Ram Kumar, Krishen Khanna and Jagdish Swaminathan among others.

Further highlights of the sale include a group of Bengal School paintings by Rabindranath, Abanindranath, Gaganendranath Tagore and Jamini Roy centered by Rabindranath Tagore’s famous Death Scene which was once in the collection of Mildred and William Archer (est. $200/250,000). Two other important paintings in this group are a rendition of Rabindranath lying in state by Abanindranath Tagore, a very rare portrayal of this scene; and a portrait of Mahatma Gandhi by artist Jamini Roy executed in his early, Impressioniststyle brush. There are also significant contemporary works by artists such as Ravinder Reddy, Subodh Gupta, T. V. Santhosh, Reena Kallat and Bharti Kher among others.

Modern Indian Paintings
Prakriti by SH Raza from the year 2000 is a meditation on the sublime beauty and force of Nature (est. $500/700,000). The striking and large canvas is made up of 25 squares which form a matrix of interrelating abstract and geometric elements. The painting includes a myriad of symbols including the kundalini, the tree of life, and the bindu or seed of life, which nestles at the centre. These symbols are balanced by the colors of the five elements – earth, water, air, space and fire.

A number of major paintings by MF Husain are included in the sale. They are led by an Untitled, oil on canvas which has been in the same private Italian collection for over 50 years (est. $500/700,000). Further highlights include the 1968 painting Untitled (Minotaur) which comes from the Fritz and Margrit Bohnert Collection (est. $300/500,000). Mr. Fritz Bohnert was in the Swiss Foreign Service and was 1st Secretary in New Delhi from 1966 – 1972, it was during this time that he acquired this painting. Minotaur, the half man, half beast Greek mythological figure, is depicted in a canvas full of cultural reference points and mythic symbols. Further works by MF Husian include Cobalt Horse from the 1970s (est. $180/220,000) and That Obscure Object of Desire from the late 1980s (est. $120/180,000).

The End by Krishen Khanna from the early 1970s comes from the intensely personal The Dead and the Dying series (est. $200/250,000). The series was the artist’s response to the political turmoil that had gripped many parts of South America and South Asia in the previous decade. This period had been marked by a mixture of anguish, bravery, torment, anxiety and disappointment; sentiments which are reflected in this melancholy depiction of a faceless man.

Contemporary Indian Art
Untitled (Head) from 2007 is an exceptionally large and colorful sculpture by Ravinder Reddy (est. $150/200,000). The work is a superb example of the artist’s iconic monumental head sculptures, the vivid coloring of which are inspired by the rich tradition of Indian miniature painting. The gargantuan face of the woman, with painted red lips, kohl-rimmed eyes and flower-strewn hair projects a raw, magnetic appeal, transfixing and drawing the gaze of the viewer, while her open and dispassionate gaze creates an impersonal space around her.

Further contemporary highlights include T. V. Santhosh’s Tracing An Ancient Error which incorporates the artist’s signature technique of solarizing photographic imagery to create works which are suggestive of x-rays or film negatives (est. $100/150,000). In the photographic quality of the painting, the viewer is placed at the center of the action as if they are looking through the lens of a journalist’s camera.

Art from Pakistan
The sale also includes a selection of works by senior Pakistani artists such as A. R. Chughtai and Ismail Gulgee as well as new introductions by contemporary artists working in a range of diverse media such as Mohammad Ali Talpur, Ali Kazim, Faiza Butt and Aisha Khalid. Among the important pieces in the sale is an Untitled work by Ismail Gulgee which is being sold by the Consul-General of Pakistan in Boston (est. $60/80,000). The work, which was acquired directly from the artist in the 1960s, is an excellent example of Gulgee’s vivid abstract oil and gold leaf style.

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