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Saffronart to Offer an Exceptional Collection of Modern and Contemporary Art at Auction
S.H. Raza ( Lot 27), Carcassonne, (1951). Rs. 65,25,000 - 87,00,000/$ 150,000 - 200,00.

MUMBAI.- Saffronart, the world’s largest online fine-art auction house, will showcase an important selection of works by modern masters and contemporary artists at its annual Summer Online Art Auction. With a total of 65 lots, the auction includes a wide variety of paintings, sculptures and installations by leading artists including S.H. Raza, Tyeb Mehta, Jogen Chowdhury, Manjit Bawa, G. Ravinder Reddy, Bharti Kher and Jitish Kallat. The auction will take place online at on June 15-16, 2011.

Saffronart’s 2011 Summer Online Auction of Modern and Contemporary Indian Art presents an impressive array of noteworthy masterpieces of exceptional quality and provenance. Highlights of this sale include a wide range of paintings by modern masters like S.H. Raza, Tyeb Mehta, F.N. Souza and Jogen Chowdhury, as well as outstanding works by contemporary artists such as Bharti Kher, Anju Dodiya, Jitish Kallat and G. Ravinder Reddy.

Among the highlights of this sale is S.H. Raza’s exquisite 1951 painting titled ‘ Carcassonne ’. On his move to France in the early 1950s, Raza began experimenting with orchestration in his drawings and paintings using as elements of construction the houses and churches of rural France . Although inspired by the French countryside, these new landscapes were devoid of human presence and did not indicate any particular time or place.

One of the citadels he visited on his travels through the country and was moved to capture in paint was Carcassonne . This painting is the first of two known works that the artist painted after a visit to this fortified French town in the southern region of Languedoc-Roussillon. Perched on top of a hill, the history and construction of Carcassonne can be traced as far back as 100 BC, when it was first fortified by the Romans, then added to by the Visigoths and the Cathars, and finally, in the mid-1800s, restored to its original glory by the French architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc.

Here, Raza offers a tightly composed landscape seen over a long, dark roof in the foreground, and flattened against the calm, gray-blue sky beyond it. This compact townscape offers a view of both, the turrets and barbicans of Carcassonne’s upper fortress, now listed as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites, as well as of the surrounding houses of the lower city, known as ville basse, highlighting the hierarchal, feudal construction of the town.

While Raza’s early watercolour landscapes, executed in the 1940s, had a fluid feel and betrayed the influence of artists like Oskar Kokoschka, paintings like Carcassonne display a very different handling of composition and structure, as well as a change of medium. This change was largely influenced by a 1948 meeting with Henri Cartier-Bresson, the famous French photographer who was in India at the time, and who admired Raza’s work but commented on its lack of formal structure.

Another significant modern work on offer is Tyeb Mehta’s ‘Untitled (Kali)’ from 1998. An associate of the Bombay-based Progressive Artists’ Group, Tyeb Mehta’s career spanned several decades, styles, and media. Born in Gujarat in 1925, the artist’s first forays into the world of art were as a budding cinematographer in the wake of the Second World War. Later, in part because the religious rioting during the Partition of India drastically circumscribed his activities, Mehta turned to painting, enrolling at the Sir J.J. School of Art in Bombay.

From very early in his career, then, human manifestations of violence, struggle and survival came to hold deep meaning for the artist. Given his personal experiences with aggression and upheaval, one of the primary concerns of Mehta’s art is the profound and almost-endemic nature of human suffering. As Ranjit Hoskote explains, the artist is well known for his translations of this disquiet onto canvas.

Summer vacations spent with his grandmother in Calcutta might have provided the artist with early inspiration to use the figure of Kali as a symbol of the inbred, societal violence he decried, but it was his residency at Santiniketan in the mid 1980s that cemented its place in his art. For Mehta, Kali was both a harbinger of destruction, and a portent of the end of violence in her ability to contain and destroy ignorance and malevolence. One of only six paintings of Kali that the artist executed, the present lot equally illuminates the creative and destructive powers, the forgiveness and the vengeance, that her figure represents.

This 1998 canvas, the last Mehta painted in the series, is executed in a limited palette of olive green and brown. Here, the unforgiving deity, like all of the artist’s figures, is born from the unfinished, intersecting lines and precisely defined fields of contrasting colour that are the trademark of his works from this period. Directly engaging his viewers with uncomfortable questions about the causes and effects of brutality, Mehta uses this canvas to create spaces in which they can question the role of violence in society and in their own lives.

Some of the contemporary highlights of the catalogue are G. Ravinder Reddy’s iconic ‘Gopika’ from 2003; Bharti Kher's 2007 bindis and velour fabric on painted wooden panel titled ‘Rugged Terrain’; and Jitish Kallat’s monumental 2002 painting ‘Italics (War Dance).

The sale will be accompanied by an illustrated print catalogue, preview events and private viewings at Saffronart’s gallery spaces in Mumbai, New Delhi , London and New York . The sale will take place online on June 15-16. Collectors may place bids at Saffronart’s website, or via Saffronart’s proprietary Blackberry and iPhone mobile applications.

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