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Late master Tyeb Mehta's work titled Falling Figure with Bird to lead Saffronart's Autumn Art Auction 2012
Bharti Kher’s spectacular 2007 work ‘Indra’s Net (6)’ is priced between Rs. 37,80,000 to Rs. 48,60,000 (US$ 70,000 to 90,000).

MUMBAI.- Two eminent Indian artists from different eras are featured in auction in September. Led by Tyeb Mehta’s important 1988 canvas ‘Falling figure with Bird’ and an extremely rare painting by Amrita Sher-Gil from the early 1930s, Saffronart’s annual Autumn Art Auction promises collectors some of the finest modern Indian paintings to come to market in recent years.. This auction also includes works by established modern masters including M.F. Husain, V.S. Gaitonde, F.N. Souza and Arpita Singh, alongside a strong selection of contemporary works by Bharti Kher, Sudhir Patwardhan, Atul Dodiya and Jitish Kallat, among others. The auction will take place online at on September 19-20, 2012.

The auction includes 75 lots, with a total estimate Rs. 21.78 crore (US$ 4.03 million) to Rs. 28.6 crore (US$ 5.29 million). Tyeb Mehta’s 1988 work ‘Falling Figure with Bird’, also featured on the cover of the catalogue, is estimated at Rs 8,10,00,000 to Rs. 10,80,00,000 (US$ 1,500,000 to 2,000,000) and is one of the most important paintings from Mehta’s suite of falling figures. For the first time, the artist entangles his androgynous human figure with that of a bird, both captured as they hurtle downwards into a dark abyss from what appears to be a closing window of blue. As in many of his works, here Mehta draws on both Indian and Western myths and legends to create a substrate upon which he painstakingly builds an image that reflects his own concerns. In this painting, the artist refers as much to the age-old story of Icarus, whose wings, affixed to his body with wax, melted under the sun dooming his attempt to fly, as he does to that of Garuda, Lord Vishnu’s vehicle, a mighty eagle-human hybrid symbolic of war and violent force.

The figures, locked together in endless freefall, convey not only the anxiety and disquiet that Mehta carried with him following his experiences of the horrors of Partition and war, but also his engagement with modernist concepts like existentialism and ‘Universal Man’. Thus, more than motifs of personal anguish and ‘doomed heroism’, Mehta’s falling figures come to represent a collective existential crisis. In last year’s Autumn Art Auction, Tyeb Mehta’s ‘Untitled’ was the top lot, selling for Rs. 7,19,90,000 (US$ 1,565,000).

Amrita Sher-Gil’s c 1931 ‘Untitled (Zebegény Landscape)’ is estimated between Rs 3,24,00,000 to Rs. 4,32,00,000 (US$ 600,000 to 800,000). It is one of only five paintings by the artist to have ever come up for public auction. Of the artist’s 172 documented paintings, 95 are in the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi. Two other paintings are in institutional collections in Chandigarh and Lahore, making this one of the only opportunities for collectors to acquire a work by one of the most important Indian artists and pioneers of Indian modernism.

Executed with the confidence of a well established artist and displaying a maturity surprising for Sher-Gil’s years, this landscape portrays a grassy path meandering along a thatched wall. While the light in the foreground is dappled, passing through a stand of tall trees on the right, the sky beyond them is a bright, clear blue. It is likely that Sher-Gil painted this work en plein air during one of the many holidays she spent in the Hungarian village of Zebegény on the banks of the Danube, over the course of her stay in Paris.

Arpita Singh’s 2003 painting ‘Summer Months’, is estimated between Rs. 81,00,000 to Rs. 97,20,000 (US$ 150,000 to 180,000). This canvas extends the idea of violence beyond the personal to the very public communal riots and bloodshed that took place across Gujarat in 2002, deeply affecting the artist. To reflect on this duality, Singh surrounds her vulnerable female subject with a host of funerary images including several aged men and women in black, and wreaths and bouquets of pink flowers. Almost as if the mourners do not communicate the idea of violence explicitly enough, the artist also rains daggers down on the scene, paints a machine-gun in one corner, and a body spilling its entrails out in another. In Saffronart’s 2010 Winter Art Auction, Arpita Singh’s monumental painting ‘Wish Dream’, achieved a record price for the artist, fetching an astounding US$ 2.24 million. This is also the highest price achieved by an Indian woman artist at auction globally, and a world record price for an artwork sold at an online auction.

Bharti Kher’s spectacular 2007 work ‘Indra’s Net (6)’ is priced between Rs. 37,80,000 to Rs. 48,60,000 (US$ 70,000 to 90,000). In Buddhist philosophy, Indra's net (also known as Indra's pearls or Indra's jewels) is a metaphor used to explain the concept of emptiness and the principle of the interdependence of all phenomena as a result of the mutually interdependent nature of cause and effect. In the present lot, Kher's leitmotif of the 'bindi' takes on the role of giving physical form to the ancient idea of 'Indra's Net'. The repeated application of the 'bindi' in a series of concentric circles and patterns produces an ad infinitum effect, drawing parallels between the 'bindi' and Indra's 'pearls'. Kher's use of the bindi adds to the complex symbology it already represents, contributing to its ambiguous power.

Speaking about the auction, Dinesh Vazirani, CEO and Co-founder of Saffronart, said, “Assembled with an eye for the very finest of modern and contemporary Indian art, this auction includes a remarkable collection of works. Not only does the catalogue offer collectors a once-in-a-lifetime chance to acquire a painting by Amrita Sher-Gil, it also includes vital works by Tyeb Mehta, Gaitonde, Husain, Souza, Atul Dodiya, Jitish Kallat and many other artists.”

Saffronart’s Autumn Online Auction will be accompanied by print and online catalogues, as well as preview events and private viewings in Mumbai, New Delhi and New York. The sale will take place online on 19-20 September, 2012. Collectors may place bids at Saffronart’s website, or via Saffronart’s proprietary iPad, Blackberry and iPhone applications.

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