South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art at Christie’s

LONDON- Christie’s London is proud to announce a particularly fresh and multi-faceted celebration of South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art in June 2008.

Twelve works will be offered from The Harmony Art Foundation in association with Barclays Wealth as part of Christie’s London sale of South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art on Wednesday 11 June. The 12 works, led by Francis Newton Souza’s Untitled, 1956 (estimate: £15,000-20,000), H.G. Arunkumar’s playful sculptures Toys: Aeroplane- Car-Sprung Ball (estimate: £15,000-20,000) and Navjot Altaf’s powerful sculpture December 15th, 2000 (estimate: £18,000-20,000), are being auctioned. The proceeds will go to the future activities of the Foundation. Elsewhere in Christie’s South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art sale on Wednesday 11 June 2008, a further 100 works from the leading 20th and 21st century artists from South Asia, including artists from India and Pakistan will be offered. Highlights include Francis Newton Souza’s Birth, 1955 (estimate: £600,000-800,000), and Tyeb Mehta’s Untitled (Figure on Rickshaw), 1984 (estimate: £300,000-500,000), which are museum quality masterpieces and timeless examples of 20th century classic Modern styles, as well as key contemporary works such as Subodh Gupta’s Untitled, 2007 (estimate: £300,000-500,000). The sale as a whole is expected to realise in excess of £3.7 million.

Works From the Harmony Art Foundation in Association with Barclay’s Wealth
In 1995, well before the surge of global interest in modern and contemporary Indian art, Tina Ambani created Harmony Art Foundation to provide a non-profit platform for emerging artists in the subcontinent and build bridges of understanding with other cultures and artistic perspectives. Many of today’s prominent artists started their careers at Harmony, including Jitish Kallat, Anju Dodiya and Atul Dodiya. In support of this endeavour, on 11 June Harmony Foundation will be offering 12 works for sale at Christie’s. The proceeds will be used to further the organisation’s activities.

Mrs Tina Ambani, Founder and Patron of Harmony Art Foundation: “I am truly passionate about the Harmony Art Foundation; it aims to empower artists and sculptors in India by creating infrastructure for them to blossom, furthering exchange and dialogue through international collaboration; giving awards and holding residencies that promote Indian and international artists and sculptors; and offering private support for nonmainstream art forms like sculpture, environmental and video installation. Over time, the foundation wishes to create a keener sense of knowledge and sensitivity about the rich spectrum of contemporary art practices in the country. Going forward, the foundation aims to hold more events and workshops and work with museums and private collectors, in India and across the world. The collaboration between Christie’s, Barclays Wealth and Harmony Art Foundation to sell these 12 works and raise funds will enable the foundation to achieve its mandate.”

Dr Amin Jaffer, Christie’s International Director of Asian Art: “I am delighted that Christie’s, the world’s leading art business, Harmony Art Foundation and Barclays Wealth have united in this significant collaboration which highlights the importance of philanthropy within the arts. The inspirational vision and commitment of founder and patron, Mrs Tina Ambani, have already made a positive impact in supporting artistic practice in the present day. Art crosses boundaries and unites people with a stimulating, shared appreciation of creativity and originality. Christie’s is proud to facilitate the sale of works from the Harmony Art Foundation as part of the London sale of South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art on 11 June 2008 and we feel confident that with bidders around the world these works will raise significant funds to help the Foundation’s future philanthropic projects.”

The 12 works have estimates ranging from £3,000 through to £20,000, making this an accessible group of works, with fascinating provenance, which will excite both new and established collectors. They are led by Francis Newton Souza’s Untitled, 1956 (estimate: £15,000-20,000), H.G. Arunkumar’s playful sculptures Toys: Aeroplane- Car-Sprung Ball, which are brass and nickel coated, 2006 (estimate: £15,000- 20,000), and Navjot Altaf’s powerful sculpture December 15th, 2000 (estimate: £18,000-20,000).

Other works range from Anupam Sud’s set of three sensuous etchings Draupadi’s Vow; Couch Potato; Infiltrators, 2006 (estimate £8,000-12,000) and Akbar Padamsee’s Head, 2006 (estimate: £8,000-10,000), to Dhruva Mistry’s Moving Mountains – 2 bronze 1988-1990, edition 3/5 (estimate: £8,000-10,000) and Spatial Diagram, stainless steel and paint 2005-2006, variation 7 (estimate £6,000-8,000). Rameshwar Broota’s photograph Untitled – 14 , 2007; edition 9/9 (estimate £6,000-8,000), Ambreen Butt’s Daughter of the East, from the ‘Dirty and Pretty’ series, 2008 (estimate £3,500-4,500) and Dhruvi Acharya’s set of three watercolours Metamorph II (I); Metamorph II (II); Metamorph II (III), 2008 (estimate £3,000-4,000), are also sure to attract great interest.

Christie’s South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art Sale
Christie’s South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art sale on Wednesday 11 June 2008, features a total of 112 works – including those offered from the Harmony Art Foundation in association with Barclays Wealth – from the leading 20th and 21st century artists from South Asia and artists from India and Pakistan. Highlights include Francis Newton Souza’s Birth, 1955 (estimate: 600,000-800,000) and Tyeb Mehta’s Untitled (Figure on Rickshaw), 1984 (estimate: £300,000- 500,000), which are museum quality masterpieces and timeless examples of 20th century classic Modern styles, as well as key contemporary works such as Subodh Gupta’s Untitled, 2007 (estimate: £300,000-500,000). The sale as a whole is expected to realise in excess of £3.7 million.

Yamini Mehta, Christie’s Senior Specialist, South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art, London: “The market for Indian art is very strong. It has incredible depth because it started as a market that was supported by Indians worldwide and now is picking up steam internationally. We are very excited about the selection in the sale as it includes many exceptional works and masterpieces with universal appeal.”

Modern works
Birth, 1955 (estimate: £600,000-800,000), is a masterpiece by the founder of the Progressive Artists Group, Francis Newton Souza. This painting exemplifies the artistic essence of Souza and is his most important work to come to auction. The property of a Private American Collection, this painting was submitted for The Guggenheim Painting Award in 1958 and also part of the London Commonwealth Institute of Art’s Indian Painting Now touring exhibition in 1965; in 2005 Souza became the only Indian artist to have a room dedicated to his works at Tate Britain. The excellent provenance, beauty and content of this work are sure to create great excitement amongst both institutions and private collectors.

Tyeb Mehta’s Untitled (Figure on Rickshaw), 1984 (estimate: £300,000-500,000), is
another leading highlight within the sale. Mehta’s iconic Rickshaw series underscores the anonymity and isolation of the common laborers; his paintings reflect his own disillusionment with the world around him. The powerful content of Mehta’s works is heightened by his unique formal treatment of the canvas. As with Souza’s Birth this painting played an important part in the development of Indian art and is museum quality; always in fierce demand, this work by Mehta is likely to attract competitive bidding.

A further key work is Rameshwar Broota’s Havaldar –III, 1980 (estimate: £90,000-120,000). This painting reflects Broota’s visual transition from his earlier ironic ‘Gorilla Man’ to his ‘Primordial Man’, who symbolizes the universal substance of the human being. This was executed during the period when Broota discovered his signature technique of layering flat monochromatic pigment and then scratching and scraping at the surface with the sharp edge of a broken blade. Other strong modern works include Gandhi – Man of Peace, 1969 (estimate: £100,000-150,000), as well as Syed Haider Raza’s Rajput House, 1965-1966 (estimate: £80,000-120,000) and Sadequain’s Untitled, 1985 (estimate: £20,000-25,000).

Contemporary works
Subodh Gupta’s Untitled, 2007, edition 2/3 is the star lot amongst the contemporary art offered and is estimated to realize between £300,000 and £500,000. Epitomizing his artistic vocabulary, which is firmly rooted in the vernacular of everyday India, this work is made of stainless steel and stainless steel kitchen utensils: milk pails, washing buckets, tiffin boxes, chappati tongs and daal strainers; durable items which are familiar to all echelons of Indian society and often part of the bridal trousseau. Gupta sees these gleaming mass-market commodities as symbolizing India’s struggle for an equilibrium between urban/rural; wealth/poverty; socialism/capitalism; low caste/high caste and religion/secularism.

Addressing another aspect of contemporary society, Ravinder Reddy’s sculpture Head (estimate: £60,000-80,000) explores the traditional and the contemporary in both theme and material. Made from fiberglass and enamel paint rather than traditional materials such as clay, plaster and gold leaf, Reddy references Jeff Koons, whilst thematically addressing the issue of maintaining reverence and adherence to tradition whilst being under pressure from society to achieve femininity and beauty through makeup, clothing and hair styling.

Attached Wings, 2004 by Ashim Purkayastha, (estimate£40,000-60,000), is a stunning mixed media work which has been exhibited in Mumbai at the Sakshi Gallery’s dedicated show in 2004 and also in London at the Aicon Gallery’s New Wave –Contemporary Art from India show in 2007. Born in Digboi, Assam, to Bengali refugees, Purkayastha later moved to New Delhi, where he was able to view and dissect the contemporary culture of the Indian Republic’s bustling capital with the discerning eye of an outsider. Inspired by the current socio-political situation, he sorts through imagery of Indian daily life, identifying overlooked items such as stamps and re-contextualizes them to reveal political and social messages. Elsewhere in the sale other contemporary works include T.V. Santhosh’s Untitled, 2005 (estimate: £30,000-50,000), Justin Ponmany’s Staple agony – II (Plastic Memory), 2006 (estimate: £30,000-50,000) and Anita Dube’s Offering, 2000 (estimate: £5,000-£7,000).

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