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Sayed Haider Raza's masterpiece La Forge to make its auction debut at Sotheby's
Sayed Haider Raza, La Forge, 1971, acrylic on canvas. Estimate: £300,000-400,000*. Photo: Sotheby's.
LONDON.- Sotheby’s London forthcoming auction of Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art including Indian Miniature Paintings on Friday, 8th June 2012 will offer Sayed Haider Raza’s key 1971 work, La Forge, at auction for the first time. The sale will comprise 91 lots including Indian miniatures, Anglo-Indian art, modern and contemporary South Asian art, which are expected to realise a combined estimate in excess of £2 million.

Holly Brackenbury, Sotheby’s Director and Indian Art Specialist, said: “We are pleased offer a group of important works by some of the most influential South Asian masters, such as Sayed Haider Raza, Francis Newton Souza and Maqbool Fida Husain. Many of these works have come from private collections and were acquired directly from the artists. Our Contemporary section includes works by artists who have exhibited extensively in leading international institutions.”

Sayed Haider Raza’s La Forge (illustrated on page one) represents the pinnacle of Raza’s career when, after some artistic experimentation, his work bore an innovative form of expression focused on the orchestration of colour. Throughout his career Raza has been influenced by the mystical power of nature; the elements and the potency of colours and symbols to represent the elements are central to his works. These defining features are beautifully realised in the present painting, estimated at £300,000-400,000.

Maqbool Fida Husain’s Islam, estimated at £300,000-400,000, is a monumental painting which presents a masterful depiction of the artist’s Muslim faith. The work is part of an impressive ten-panel series of works titled “Theorama”, for which Husain drew inspiration from his past as a billboard painter and his preoccupation with theosophy. Painted in the early 1990s, these imposing canvases celebrate ten different faiths. In the present work Husain’s careful use of line and colour, as well as the religious motifs and metaphors, make this work a significant homage to Islam.

Francis Newton Souza’s Woman with Mirror and Flowers, estimated at £180,000-220,000, is an important large-scale portrait produced the year after Souza was selected to represent Great Britain in the 1958 Guggenheim International Award. The painting has been in a private collection and was acquired directly from Souza.

Another work from a private European collection is Ram Kumar’s Untitled, estimated at £50,000-70,000. The painting was acquired in Paris circa 1958, during which time the artist produced a series of figurative works, commenting on the despair and desolation experienced in India after Independence.

Leading the sale’s section of miniature paintings is Maharana Sajjan Singh Riding in an Elephant Procession, Mewar, Rajasthan, India, circa 1880, an exquisite work of opaque watercolour heightened with gold on paper, estimated at £15,000-20,000. It is a grand depiction of the Maharana Sajjan Singh, who was sixteen years old when he came to the throne and whose reign lasted only ten years due to excessive drinking. Very few paintings from this period have survived, due to the introduction of photography in the late nineteenth century. This rare work offers an insight into the pomp and splendour that accompanied the courtly processions of this period.

A section of the sale will be dedicated to Anglo-Indian Art, comprising Western depictions of the cultures and rituals of South Asia. The section will be led by one of the largest paintings by Horace Van Ruith to come to the market. The monumental Worshippers at the Trimbakeshwar Temple in the Town of Trimbak, in the Nasik District of Maharashtra Dedicated to Lord Shiva, estimated at £60,000-80,000. The Duke of Connaught praised van Ruith in a letter to his mother, the Queen Victoria, stating: “No man understands the peculiar characteristics of Indian life better than [van Ruith] does.” Despite his longevity and considerable output, van Ruith’s paintings are rare and seldom appear on the market, making this painting a highly desirable masterpiece.

An eclectic range of contemporary art will feature in the Contemporary section of the sale. Jitish Kallat’s Untitled (Stations of a Pause), estimated at £80,000-120,000, is part of the artist’s Stations of a Pause series of works which address his concerns with the polarities of urban existence.

Gravity by Alwar Balasubramaniam, estimated at £20,000-30,000, is an intriguing work which playfully manipulates “negative” and “positive” spaces to challenge the viewer’s perceptions. The present work of white fibreglass was cast using the artist’s own face. Balasubramaniam’s works have been exhibited around the world including at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra, Australia (2011); the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City (2010); the Essel Museum in Vienna (2009); the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo (2008), and at the first Singapore Biennale (2006).

Made to Order by Sharmila Samant, estimated at £16,000-18,000, is a saree made from used bottle caps linked together, which she has been producing since the late 1990s. Samant’s sarees are a comment on the social and economic situation found in many Indian cities, where recycling is a daily activity and a means of survival.

Sonia Khurana’s Lone Women Don’t Cry, estimated at £9,000-11,000, is a black-and-white silent video installation. Lone Women Don’t Cry has been exhibited at many prominent art fairs and at the Centre Pompidou in Paris last year.

*Estimates do not include the buyer’s premium.

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