On the 11th of December, Mumbai will once again take its place at the heart of the international art market as Christies
holds its second auction in India. Works by the leading names of Indias modern art movements, Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, the Tagores, Jamini Roy, Tyeb Mehta and Francis Newton Souza will be offered alongside 10 contemporary pieces donated by artists such as Subodh Gupta and Bharti Kher, sold to benefit Khoj, the artist residency programme established in India in 1997. The auction will also include significant works and items by some of Indias designated National Treasure artists, which are considered of such importance to the cultural development of India that they cannot leave the country.
The auction will take place on 11th of December at 7.00pm at The Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai with a pre-sale viewing open to the public, from 9th to 11th December. A selection of works will also be publicly previewed in New Delhi at The Taj Mahal Hotel from 28th to 30th November.
Sonal Singh, Head of Department, Mumbai, noted: Our first auction held here a year ago was a great success, and once again we have worked hard to curate a sale of the highest quality with an offering that covers Indias most important modern and contemporary art movements. Along with the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, our Mumbai sale will act as a finale to a year which began with the successful annual India Art Fair in Delhi, and was highlighted by the opening of the V.S. Gaitonde retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in October. It has been a great year in which many have come together from around the world to shed new light on Indian art and culture. Christies is delighted to have been asked to support all three initiatives.
Tyeb Mehtas (1925-2009) mastery of composition and economy of line is evident in the painting Untitled (Falling Bull) which leads the sale. Showing the central figure of a bull on a rickshaw set against blocks of vivid colour, it showcases Mehtas recurring motif: For me, the trussed bull is a compulsive image. The 1999 canvas is estimated at INR8,50,00,000-12,00,00,000 ($1,385,500-1,956,000).
One of the last works by the internationally recognised artist, Vasudeo S. Gaitonde (1924-2001), for sale just six weeks after the opening of a retrospective of his work at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, will be another highlight of the auction. Offered by a private collector in India, it was painted in 1998, the last year he is known to have worked and only a few years before his death. Painted in vibrant hues of green, this painting is expected to sell for INR5,50,00,000-7,00,00,000 ($896,500-1,141,000) and has never been offered for sale at auction before.
A remarkable pocket book belonging to the artist, Nobel Laureate, poet and philosopher Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) is a most unique addition to the sale. The journal, written in Bengali in Tagores hand, is a rare mixture of poetry, art and introspection. Covering the years 1889 to 1904, the pages reveal the private concerns of Tagore, from mundane land transactions and taxation, to a poem written as a guide for children learning to read. The book was given by Tagore to a teacher at Santiniketan, Subodh Chandra Mazumder, and is being offered by his descendants. Tagore composed many of his major poems and songs in this book, including poems from the Sonar Tari (Golden Boat) series and 19 poems from the Swaran series. Nothing similar by the Nobel Laureate has been offered before for sale at auction in India, (estimate INR40,00,000-60,00,000 / $65,200-97,800).
Early works by four of the masters of Indian modernism, SH Raza, Ram Kumar, FN Souza and Tyeb Mehta, all of whom studied or practised art in Europe, reflect their engagement with western modernism. A family portrait by Francis Newton Souza (1924-2002) from 1947 is being offered for the first time at auction, (estimate: 4,60,00,000-6,20,00,000 / $750,000-1,010,600). It depicts a poor, half-clad family of four sitting in front of a house in which one or more of them are probably employed. Through the window a table is laden with fresh fruit, fish and wine, a striking contrast to their circumstances. In letters Souza confirmed that he had considered an alternative title, The Proletariat and the Plutocrats Dinner. Tyeb Mehtas (1925-2009) Girl in Love, from 1957, which will be offered at an estimate of INR70,00,000 90,00,000 / $114,000-147,000 is a tender portrait and a magnificent example of the artists early work, complementing his Untitled (Falling Bull) discussed above. A view of Parisian rooftops from the 1950s by Syed Haider Raza (b. 1922) Les toits de la rue St. Jacques, is estimated at INR3,00,00,000-40,00,00,000 ($489,000-652,000). Finally Ram Kumars (b. 1924) Orphans, showing two destitute young men, painted in 1956 soon after his return from Paris, is estimated at INR2,25,00,000-2,75,00,000 ($366,800-448,300).
A small group of rare, unseen canvases and works on paper from the 1970s by Nasreen Mohamedi (1937-1990) are offered for sale from the collection of Neelam Mansingh Chowhry, theatre artist, 2011 Padma Shri recipient and close friend to the artist. They will be of special interest given their provenance and following the recent exhibitions of Mohamedis work at the Tate Liverpool in the United Kingdom and the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art in New Delhi. The artist, well known as Indias great modern minimalist, studied in London at St. Martins School of Art and then in a print attelier in Paris. She settled in Bombay and was mentored by V.S. Gaitonde before moving to Delhi and then to Baroda, where she taught at the M.S. Universitys Faculty of Fine Arts. Here the two canvases and three other works on paper reflect, in their great simplicity, Mohamedis lifelong dedication to minimalism, in her art and other aspects of her life (estimates from INR18,00,000 / $29,300).
Fittingly, just as a major exhibition of the work of Atul Dodiya (b.1959) opens at the Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Mumbai, his Untitled portrait of Picasso from 1981 (estimate: INR4,00,000-6,00,000 / $6,500-9,800) and a later work from 2011 (sold to benefit Khoj) will be offered in the Mumbai auction.
Offered alongside the modern art is a group of 10 contemporary works by artists including Subodh Gupta, Rashid Rana, Mithu Sen, Thukral & Tagra, Nilima Sheikh and Bharti Kher, to benefit the Delhi based Khoj International Artists Association, a globally recognised artist residency programme and an important platform for South Asian artists of the future. All the artists have donated works to Khoj exclusively for this sale.