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Christie's will be expanding their Indian art sale by including classical art for the first time
Tyeb Mehta’s Untitled (Two Figures) painted in 1981, represents an important turning point in the artist’s work, illustrating a growing complexity in composition and the facility of line. © Christie’s Images Limited 2015.

MUMBAI.- Christie’s announce that its third consecutive India Sale, to be held in Mumbai on 15 December, will include a section dedicated to Classical Indian Art. This extended sale offering commemorated the 20th anniversary of Christie’s presence in India. This strategic auction extension was enhanced by the recent stellar results achieved for Indian antiquities included in the March auction of the Robert Hatfield Ellsworth Collection in New York, realising a total of $134 million, to date the most valuable private collection of Asian Art to be offered. By including classical art to Christie’s third India Sale the company will lend its international standards to this burgeoning domestic market.

William Robinson, International Head of World Art declared: “When we made the bold move in 2013 to hold our first sale in India we had hopes of including Indian Classical Art in our auctions in the near future. With the necessary licenses now in place, we are excited to bring our longstanding expertise in this category, which has for so long been one of the cornerstones of our business, to our sales in India. As these objects are not able to be exported, but can still be exchanged in India, they will be safeguarded, and through the cataloguing process they will be properly identified and, for the time they are on exhibition, available for all to see and enjoy.”

One of the most important works of art offered in the sale is a buff sandstone figure of the dancing Ganesha, the lovable and mischievous elephant-headed deity. The theme of the dancing Ganesha captivated the sculptors of Central India, resulting in the production of some of the liveliest examples between the 8th and 11th centuries. This Ganesha is carved with voluptuous form as well as a sense of joygul elegance and agility. This signature piece of the sale is amongst the finest of its type (estimate: INR 60,00,000-70,00,000). The sculpture section also contains a magnificent life-size early Chola granite dvarapala figure formerly in the collection of the noted dancer Yamini Krishnamuthi (b. 1940 / estimate: INR 1,20,00,000-1,20,00,000).

At the heart of the miniature paintings selection is a group that comes directly from the ancestral collections of the Maharajas of Bikaner. Very well preserved by the dry desert air, these are a reminder of how cosmopolitan Bikaner was in its heyday. Not only does the group include typical elegant depictions of Krishna and palace life, but also two paintings that clearly illustrate the direct influence of Golconda (present day Hyderabad) in the Deccan. The group also contains two fanciful depictions of Europeans that relate closely to those painted on the ceilings of the Phool Mahal in the Fort of Bikaner (estimates range from INR 2,00,000-12,00,000).

Throughout 2015, Christie’s South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art team has been able to offer some rare and unique works of art, resulting in new world auction records for Maqbool Fida Hussain and Gaganendranath Tagore set in London in June, as well as the second highest price at auction for Amrita Sher-Gill. More recently, Chrsitie’s also established a new world auction record for any modern Indian work of art sold at auction when Francis Newton Souza’s Birth sold for US$4,085,000 in New York this September.

Featuring exceptional works of modern and contemporary South Asian Art, The India Sale will comprise approximately 80 lots from important private and corporate collections. The auction includes modern masterpieces by Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, Tyeb Mehta, Ram Kumar, Nasreen Mohamedi, Manjit Bawa, Nandalal Bose, Abanindranth Tagore and Gaganendranath Tagore. Gaitonde’s radiant painting from 1995, Untitled maintains a delicate balance of light, texture, colour, and space, which makes the artist's paintings lyrical and luminous. With their virtually imperceptible gradations of pigment and enigmatic forms, which seem to spontaneously emerge from and disappear under the almost liquid surface, Gaitonde's canvases elicit new discoveries with each viewing. A recent retrospective at the Guggenheim in New York, which opened at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice this month, brought Gaitonde’s work to an international audience, and followed on from Christie’s debut Mumbai auction in December 2013, in which a 1979 painting by the artist sold for INR 23,70,25,000 ($3.7 million) setting a new world auction record for the artist.

Tyeb Mehta’s Untitled (Two Figures) painted in 1981, represents an important turning point in the artist’s work, illustrating a growing complexity in composition and the facility of line. In this modernist masterpiece, the heavily textured impressionistic brushstrokes from his early days are completely transformed into a new painting mode. Illustrating the transition between Mehta’s diagonal works and his later variations on the theme of the Mother Goddess, in this painting large expanses of flat earthy and vibrant colours are paired with a conscious two-dimensionality focused more on line than contour.

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