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Museum quality Gaitonde leads Sotheby's Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art Sale
Gaitonde’'s ethereal Painting No. 3, estimated to bring $2 – 3 million. Photo: Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s sale of Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art in New York on 19 March 2014 during Asia Week is highlighted by Vasudeo S. Gaitonde’s ethereal Painting No. 3, estimated to bring $2 – 3 million (above). This major work is the only painting by the artist currently on the auction market and was included in one of Gaitonde’s earliest New York exhibitions in the 1960s. Painting No. 3 captures a pivotal moment in the artist’s career when he turned away from his earlier geometric works and began to experiment with using a paint roller and palette knife. Gaitonde is hugely celebrated internationally, with his works achieving ever-higher prices at auction. Reflecting this success, Gaitonde will be the subject of a major retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum in New York this autumn, making him one of the first Modern Indian artists to be honoured with a retrospective in the United States. Sotheby’s exhibition of Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art will be held during Asia Week and open to the public beginning 11 March 2014.

Yamini Mehta, International Department Head, Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art, notes, “This is an extremely exciting time for Indian art, with the attention of collectors focused on vibrant activity in the field of auctions, art fairs and museum shows both in India and around the world. We have every expectation that our sale, which has works representing the diversity of art from the Subcontinent, will engage new members of the art community in appreciating the achievements of Indian artists. I am thrilled that in the lead up to our New York sale there has been enormous enthusiasm for a master work by V.S. Gaitonde which we are privileged to have on offer in advance of a major retrospective of his work at the Guggenheim Museum in New York this coming autumn.”

Priyanka Mathew, Vice President, Head of Sales, Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art, said, “For Asia Week, we are delighted to feature art of the highest caliber representing the breadth of our category from the seminal Painting No. 3 by Gaitonde to the very best offerings in our contemporary section by artists like Jitish Kallat and Ravinder Reddy, many of which have served as international ambassadors of Indian art having been included in several important exhibitions in Europe and America. The sale is culled from a variety of private collections and is notable for a number of rare works, most of which have never before appeared on the market.”

Francis Newton Souza is admired for his magnificent landscapes, which formed the majority of his works created in the 1950s and 1960s. He studied in Italy in the 1960s, during which time he visited numerous European capitals including Rome, Madrid and Amsterdam. This exposure to the various cityscapes across the continent served as the framework for his compositions during this time. The present work, Untitled (Landscape), could be an abstracted depiction of Rome based on the cathedral, steeples and architecture (est. $150/200,000). Coming from an Australian private collection, the large work is a re-discovered gem. In addition to this work by Souza are two other highlights from this celebrated period in the artist's career that have storied provenances.

Eight works in the sale are from the collection of Her Excellency the late Dr. Johanna Nestor, Austria’s ambassador to India from 1966 to 1970, including Buffalo Among the Flowers, a rare and lush early landscape by noted Baroda master Bhupen Khakhar (est. $150/200,000). It is noted not only for its distinguished provenance, but it also reflects the artist’s proclivity towards the foliage and verdant imagery of Rajasthani miniatures and Natdwara temple paintings. The composition relates to Khakhar’s American Survey Officer which was sold at Sotheby’s New York in 2013 for over $400,000. The present work is a dream-like composition created early on in Khakhar’s career and informed his painting style throughout his life. Three of Paramjit Singh’s earliest landscapes are also part of this collection, including Untitled (Still Life), estimated at $15/20,000. Singh only made five of these types of canvases, and they were exhibited at his very first solo exhibition in 1969.

The sale features two seminal works by Gulam Rasool Santosh. Reminiscence of African Sculpture is one of the artist’s earliest and largest abstract works to come to the market (est. $40/60,000). The work was created during the time of the artist’s return to Kashmir in 1956 from Maharaj Sayajirao University Baroda. In the 1960s, Santosh studied Tantrism and esoteric Shaivism, and became the progenitor of a new indigenous style of art in India. Santosh’s Untitled reflects this mature neo-tantric style and was formerly in the historic collection of Chester and Davida Herwitz and at 6.5 x 5 ft, it is by far the largest painting by the artist to come to market (est. $120/180,000).

Five works in the auction are from an important international contemporary collection. They were created between 2006 and 2008 by some of India’s leading mid-career artists such as Jitish Kallat, Subodh Gupta, Jagannath Panda, Ravinder Reddy and Sudarshan Shetty. These works have been shown in various venues internationally and are truly some of the finest examples of Indian contemporary art that have been produced. Artists such as Anju Dodiya and Seher Shah complete the contemporary offerings. Anju Dodiya's Victor is a diptych featuring a delicately painted enigmatic ruler (with elements of self-portraiture) paired with historical textbook illustrations (est. $30/50,000). This work was part of an unprecedented exhibition she held at the Baroda Palace in 2008.

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