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Modern and Contemporary South Asian art sale on 19 March announced at Sotheby's
Sayed Haider Raza, Village with Church, 1958. Oil on canvas, 62¾ x 50¾ in. (161 x 130 cm). Est. $1.5/2.5 million. Photo: Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, NY.- On 19 March 2012, Sotheby’s New York Asia Week series of sales will open with Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art. The sale will be led by of the most significant paintings by Sayed Haider Raza ever to appear on the market - Village With Church from 1958 (pictured left). The painting was formerly in the collection of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller III and is estimated to sell for $1.5/2.5 million. Other highlights of the sale will include superb paintings from the other leading Indian Modernists such as MF Husain and FN Souza as well as a wide selection of art from Bengal. The sale will be on exhibition in our New York galleries alongside our other Asia Week sales beginning on 16 March.

John D. Rockefeller III, the eldest son of John D. Rockefeller Jr., devoted his life to the promotion of Asian-American relations. Along with his wife he made several visits to India, meeting numerous artists, businessmen and politicians, including Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his daughter Indira Gandhi. Perhaps his most notable achievement was the establishment of the Asia Society in New York - an organization that continues today with the goal of bringing ‘the peoples of the United States and Asia closer together in their knowledge of each other and each other’s way of life.’ Village With Church was purchased from the landmark 1958-59 exhibition Trends in Contemporary Painting In India and remained in the historic Rockefeller collection until 1994.

A further highlight by SH Raza is the geometric composition Jalashaya (est. $200/300,000, pictured right). The painting, filled with potent colors, draws on the symbols that are part of an ancient and continuous Indian tradition of visual abstraction with the tightly ordered shapes relating to ancient artistic diagrams.

Temple Dancer by FN Souza dates from 1956, a period when the artist was supported by the American patron and collector Herbert Kovner (est. $350/400,000,). With financial security the Kovner years were particularly productive for Souza with the artist producing many of his most admired paintings including Temple Dancer. Of all the members of the Progressive Artists Group, Souza is known as pioneering the frontal nude. The artist’s early paintings of the subject showed women adorned with jewellery and hair ornaments whereas the later paintings such as this showed ladies unadorned giving them a naive beauty.

The early Untitled (Still Life) is a further Souza painting in the sale (est. $150/200,000). It is part of a group of works from the mid-1950s built around powerful ecclesiastical themes, in this example religious vessels are displayed on top of an altar.

The auction also includes an excellent selection of paintings by MF Husain. Untitled (Scientist) depicts the artist’s friend Dr. A. Rahman, an Indian biochemist (est. $200/300,000). The painting is highly unusual for its subdued palette and semi abstracted features, and captures a unique snapshot in the development of Husain as an artist. Due to their personal nature Husain portraits rarely appear on the market, and this current work from 1965 is rich with highly introspective and meditative tones.

Further Husain highlights include Untitled (Woman With Rooster) with bold, playful lines that are highly indicative of the artist’s energetic work from the 1950s (est. $150/200,000), and the powerful autobiographical painting Untitled (Husain’s Family) from 1997 (est. $200/300,000).

Prabhakar Barwe was a contemporary of the Progressive Artists' Group, who was deeply informed by European surrealism—in particular, by the artwork of Paul Klee. His major monumental Untitled work executed on fine dupioni silk in the 1970s is a further highlight of the sale (est. $75/95,000). It was created while the artist was involved as a designer of modern Indian textile at the Weaver’s Service Center in Bombay, alongside notable artists Manu Parekh and K.G. Subramanyan, among others.

Jagdish Swaminathan’s monumental Untitled (Bird, Tree and Mountain Series) from 1972 is the largest work from the iconic series in to appear for sale, and is also the fourth largest by the artist canvas ever to appear at auction (est. $80/120,000). From the white visual center of the painting, the eye of the viewer is drawin to the triangular dynamic of the botanical element, hummingbird and hawk—the latter of which makes a unique appearance on a Swaminathan canvas.

Modernist Art from Bengal
The sale will include a substantial selection of pre- and post-Independence art from Bengal, one of the preeminent centers of art production in India in the early twentieth century. Artists from the region were considered to be earliest harbingers of Indian modernism.

The pieces on offer are wide ranging, from academic Realism that was in vogue at the dawn of the century, to expressionistic ink and gouache works on paper by artists propagating a humanist message, to sculpture grounded in the precepts of European Modernism but inspired by Indian Classical traditions. These works reflect a quest for individuality and represent the breadth and depth of talent and genius in Bengal artists of the twentieth century.

The paintings of Hemendranath Mazumdar and Jamini Prakash Gangooly were rooted in European Academic Realism of the late nineteenth century. Hemen Mazumdar was known as a skilled portraitist and the latter one of the most feted and exhibited 'Indian salon' artists of his day. Mazumdar’s Untitled portrait of a beautiful lady lost in a dream is one of the highlights of this section (est. $40/60,000). Meanwhile, Gangooly's Untitled ethereal dusk landscape is tinged with Romanticism (est. $16/20,000).

The European salon art tradition was firmly rejected by the Bengal School, who wanted to find a new Nationalistic, anti-Imperialist artistic vocabulary. As part of this, they looked to the traditions of India’s rural population for inspiration, displayed in works such as Ganesh Haloi’s Untitled (est. $12/18,000) of a village landscape and the Three Untitled Works in pen and ink on paper by Ramkinker Baij (est. $5/7,000).

Sotheby’s New York Asia Week Auctions March 2012
Monday 19th March – Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art, 10am
Tuesday 20th March - Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, 10am
Wednesday 21st March – Fine Classical Chinese Paintings, 10am
Thursday 22nd March - Indian & Southeast Asian Works of Art, 10am

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