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Modern and Contemporary South Asian and Middle Eastern art dominate Bonhams sale
Jewad Selim, Mrinalini Sarabhai. Oil on canvas, 56 x 46 cm. Executed1946-49. Estimate: £40,000-60,000. Sold for: £170,000. Photo: Bonhams.

LONDON.- Bonhams sale of Islamic and Indian art in London (8.4.14) produced strong results for Modern and Contemporary Asian art with five of the top ten items in the sale important paintings from across the region from the Middle East to India.

“The Middle Eastern section of the sale achieved 86% sold (by value), with 25 buyers from 12 countries. One third of the works went to buyers outside the region demonstrating the increasing international appeal of works in the category. Over a third of works were sold to clients who are new to Bonhams indicating continual growth and broadening of the market,” said Nima Sagharchi, who heads the Modern and Contemporary Middle East element in this department.

A rare and exquisite painting by Iraq’s foremost modernist painter Jewad Selim, depicting Mrinalini Sarabhai, one of the most celebrated figures of classical Indian dance which was estimated to sell for £50,000-70,000 made £170,000, more than twice the top estimate.

Mrinalini Sarabhai, one of the most renowned and prolific practitioners of classical Indian dance, was born in Chennai 1918, she was educated in Switzerland, her native India and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. By her early twenties, Mrinalini had already performed in India, Europe and America with her company.

This portrait was painted during her first London appearance in 1949 at St Martin's Theatre in London's West End with the "Ballets Hindous" which also performed in Geneva, Lucerne and Brussels in the same year. At the time the portrait was painted Selim was studying in London on a government scholarship and mixing in artistic and musical circles where he encountered Mrinalini. He started at the Chelsea School of Art in January 1946, but moved to the Slade School of Fine Art in September of that same year.

A painting by Charles Hossein Zenderoudi (Iran1937) estimated to sell for £80,000 to £110,000 sold for £158,500. A renowned scholar and translator of Persian literature and a leading Iranian neo-traditionalist Charles Hossein Zenderoudi’s picture is arguably one of the finest examples of the artists work from the 1970’s, when he shifted his focus away from dense talismanic imagery and placed a greater focus on recurring letterforms.

Another prominent highlight of the sale was a very rare early work by Iranian artist Farhad Moshiri, a mixed media assemblage from the 1990’s which made £72,100. Inspired by Rauschenberg’s “Combine’s” and the artistic vocabulary of the proto-pop art movement, the work was executed in 1994, making it the earliest Moshiri to be offered at public auction.

Walk on Earth, an acrylic on canvas executed in 1983, by M.F. Husain achieved a price of £69,700. As a Muslim, Husain was heavily influenced by his Islamic faith. Walk on Earth most probably refers to the Qu'ran writing, "Do not walk pompously or arrogantly about the earth; you cannot break it open, nor match the mountains in height."

Maqbol Fida Husain travelled extensively during his lifetime and the influence of different cultures upon his work is clear to see. In its early stages, he was very much influenced by the Chinese style. In the 1950s Husian had visited China where he encountered the art of the Sung Dynasty and was particularly inspired by the depiction of horses by celebrated Chinese artist, Xu Beihong (President of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in China). Husain’s trademark horses have now become a vital part of Indian art history.

A painting titled ‘Imagination’ by the Pakistani artist Sadequain sold for £60,000. This was one of the seven Sadequain works in the sale. Painted in 1968 it had been estimated to sell for £25,000 to £35,000.

Nour Aslam, who heads the Modern and Contemporary South Asian elements in this sale said: “This is, by far, the best selection of Sadequain’s works to come to the market for a while. They are of great quality and fresh to the market. All the pieces are pivotal works and they have come in from countries across Europe as well as Pakistan. Clearly, his appeal in the international market has consistently been strong and continues to grow.”

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