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Property from the Collection of Rashna Imhasly-Gandhy and Behroze Gandhy leads Christie's first auction in India
Vasudeo S. Gaitonde (1924-2001), Untitled (Landscape), 1949. Estimate: INR8,00,000-12,00,000 / (US$13,000-19,400). Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2013.

MUMBAI.- Works from the personal collection of the late Kekoo and Khorshed Gandhy, Mumbai-based gallerists and among the most significant figures in the development of India’s modern art scene, will be the centerpiece of Christie’s first auction in India. Artists represented from their collection include V.S. Gaitonde, Ram Kumar, S. H. Raza, Tyeb Mehta, M.F. Husain and Jamini Roy. The sale will be held at The Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai on Thursday, 19 December 2013 with a preview exhibition at The Taj Mahal Hotel in New Delhi from 7-9 December.

Hugo Weihe, International Director of Asian Art at Christie's said: “Together Kekoo and Khorshed Gandhy, initially through their framing business and later on at Gallery Chemould, prepared the framework for young artists to thrive. The value of their support and patronage to this group is reflected among the works of art in their collection – from the Husain family portrait, the view by Ram Kumar of the hills near their holiday home to the early Gaitonde landscape shown above. Each is a tribute to friendships made and the central role that they played in shaping the modern Indian art scene. I will never forget Kekoo’s vivid eye and the deep sense of humanity that he exuded, his passion for art and his openness. It is hard to imagine the careers of the great names of modern art without the encouragement of the Gandhy’s and it is a measure of their vision in the early 1960s that their Gallery, under the stewardship of their daughter, continues to show contemporary art today.”

Kekoo Gandhy (1920-2012) ran a highly successful frame company, Chemould, with his Belgian business partner from premises in Princess Street, Mumbai. Alongside the core business he used the space to champion the works of the emerging artists of the modern art movement working in the city. His passion for art became the main focus of his life from the late 1940s and a second shop selling frames and showcasing new art was opened in Calcutta in 1950. In 1963, together with his wife, Khorshed, the Gallery Chemould was opened inside the Jehangir Art Gallery in South Bombay, where it is still holding exhibitions for emerging Indian artists today. This marked a turning point for Kekoo as he was able to leave the running of the manufacturing business to his brother and focus on his passion - bringing people together to talk about art.

From the late 1940s Kekoo organised the Bombay Art Society Salon exhibition, held monthly, often at the Taj Mahal Palace, where the Christie’s sale will be held. At the same time, Gandhy became a key advisor to the new government in India on the development of the arts, organized the third All India Art Conference held in Bombay Town Hall in June 1948 and began writing a regular art newsletter. Exhibitions were held at his gallery for the key figures of the Progressive Artists Group, the artists now considered ‘National Art Treasures’ and The Bombay Group. His legacy is threefold – he established a gallery for modern artists in Bombay, spread the word about their work around India and was among the pioneers who took the best art from India to the world by organising two international travelling exhibitions and gallery shows in Europe.

Many of the works in the sale hung in the spectacular ancestral home of the Gandhy’s, where Kekoo was born and died. It was known as Kekee Manzil, a nickname given to him by his grandfather who built the grand villa in 1921 (Mr. Ghandy is shown above outside his home). It was the gathering place for many of the modern artists represented by the Gallery and is in the Bandra area of Mumbai, overlooking the sea.

There are many beautiful works in the collection, all with a story about the unique friendships or mutual admiration which the Gandhy’s enjoyed with the artists they helped to champion. The first lot in the sale is a wonderful early landscape by Vasudeo S. Gaitonde (1924-2001), painted shortly after he left the School of Art in Bombay in 1949 and a testament to the Gandhy’s early support of modern Indian art. Untitled (Landscape) is estimated at INR 8,00,000-12,00,000 (Lot 1 - US$13,000-19,400.

Ram Kumar (b. 1924) was introduced to Khorshed and Kekoo Gandhy by M.F. Husain and exhibited with Gallery Chemould in Bombay and Delhi through the 1960s and 70s. It was also with Husain that Kumar first visited Benaras in 1960 to sketch the famed holy city on the banks of the River Ganges. An oil in the sale from the 1960s entitled Benaras shows a tightly packed mass of architectural forms, etched out of the impasto background by Kumar’s assured line, hugging a river bank. Like the austere sky above these uninhabited structures, the river before them is grey and unwelcoming (Lot 4 - INR 35,00,000-45,00,000 / US$57,000-72,900).

Syed Haider Raza (b. 1922) was a great personal friend to the Gandhy family and was a regular visitor from his home in Paris. He once came for six months and set up a studio at Kekee Manzil. On one visit he and his wife visited the Gandhy’s family home in Matheran, a hill station about 90 km from Mumbai and this canvas, suitably entitled Matheran and dated 1976, was certainly inspired by that visit. Drenched in the characteristic red hues thrown up by the soil there, the landscape was a great inspiration for Raza and this work is included with an estimate of INR 1,00,00,000-1,50,00,000 (Lot 9 - US$162,000-243,000).

Shown at the bottom of the staircase at Kekee Manzil is this striking composition of a Falling Figure by Tyeb Mehta (1925-2009). This subject, often revisited by Mehta, was born out of a traumatic memory from childhood when he witnessed the violent death of a man in the street during the Partition riots of 1947. Painted in 1991, this painting exhibits Mehta’s mastery of composition and economy of line and colour. The acrylic on canvas is estimated at INR3,00,00,000-5,00,00,000 (Lot 10 - US$486,000-810,000).

By Jamini Roy (1887-1972) is his Untitled (Head of a Woman), a gouache on card portrait showing Roy’s ability to strip away the superfluous and make the elegance of his composition and intense concentration on colour, the focus. It is this style of painting for which he is best known, a revolutionary re-interpretation of traditional South Asian iconography through clean, crisp, modernist lines, (Lot 22 – estimate: INR 2,00,000-3,00,000 / US$8,000-11,300).

An intimate Untitled (Family Portrait) of the Gandhy’s by M.F. Husain (1913-2011), whilst not the most valuable piece by the artist in the collection, is certainly the most personal. He lovingly portrays the family - Kekoo and Khorshed Gandhy with their four children Rashna, Adil, Behroze and Shireen with Adil sitting on a horse – a playful inclusion of the animal that was so integral and iconic within his oeuvre. The oil, painted in 1967, is valued at INR25,00,000-35,00,000 (Lot 25 – US$40,500-57,000).

The collection also includes works by Ganesh Pyne, Pilloo Pochkhanawala, Nalini Malani, Nasreen Mohamedi, Anju Dodiya and Arpita Singh.

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