Contemporary Art Auction to Feature Works by Leading Indian Contemporary Artists

LONDON – Indian artists such as Subodh Gupta (b. 1964), Bharti Kher (b. 1969), Anish Kapoor (b. 1954), Raqib Shaw (b. 1974) and T.V. Santhosh (b. 1968) are an ever-growing force in Sotheby’s international sales of Contemporary Art – in addition to the company’s regular dedicated sales of Indian Art – and this summer’s major series of Contemporary Art sales in London will see this trend gather further momentum still. The sales on Tuesday, July 1 and Wednesday, July 2, 2008, will present a total of eight works by these cutting-edge and highly sought-after names and together the works are estimated in excess of £2 million. The sale will also include a work by Pakistan’s leading Contemporary artist, Rashid Rana.

James Sevier, a specialist in the Contemporary Art department, comments: “The group of works by Contemporary Indian artists being offered in our July sales is the largest group of its kind to be offered in our international Contemporary Art sales in London, indicating the growing international focus on this area of the market. Featuring recent paintings and sculptures by Subodh Gupta, Bharti Kher and TV Santhosh – alongside important works by Raqib Shaw and Rashid Rana – the tightly curated assemblage reveals the broad variety of themes, materials and ideas that are flourishing within India’s Contemporary arts scene at the beginning of the 21st century. As the country’s traditional beliefs and rural way of life are confronted with the rapid pace of change exacerbated by the country’s urban transformation and the global media, the work of these artists explores the divisions and conflicts prevalent in Indian society today.

We have witnessed a huge growth in demand for works by Indian artists over the past 18 months; their work is increasingly being sought by Western and Indian collectors. This demand has seen new record price levels continually being achieved at auction. We expect the works on offer in July to follow recent trends, affirming the position of these artists as some of the most innovative and influential names on the international Contemporary Art auction market today.”

An Untitled sculpture from 2003 by Anish Kapoor leads the group in terms of value, with an estimate of £1-1.5 million. This stunning piece embodies the pioneering manipulation of space and material that characterises the very best output of this world-renowned sculptor. One of the largest of the artist’s alabaster works and the first double-concave piece to come to auction, its sheer magnitude marks it apart as a sculptural phenomenon, evoking the grandeur of a feat of nature. Contrasting to the immensity of the marble, two beautiful hollows have been carved to mirror each other either side of the monolith, creating a spatial echo across a thin screen of alabaster. Thus, while the work’s scale is truly inspirational, addressing the viewer at eye-level and engaging total bodily experience, the colossus is also imbued with a serene weightlessness. It manifests dualities that have become synonymous with Kapoor’s seminal canon: presence versus absence; infinity versus illusion; and solidity versus intangibility.

An Untitled black Belgian granite sculpture by Kapoor will also be offered with an estimate of £400,000-600,000. Executed in 2002, the sculpture is a further sublime example of the artist’s ongoing sculptural enquiry into the relationships between form, material and space. Powerful in scale, the awe-inspiring physical presence and natural beauty of this rough-hewn monolith engages the viewer at eye level. It is one of only a handful of works that Kapoor has made on this scale in black Belgian granite. A third piece by Kapoor will be a lacquered bronze sculpture entitled After Marsyas. The title of this sculpture relates to Kapoor’s 2002 commission for the Unilever Series in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern entitled Marsyas. After Marsyas, estimated at £70,000-90,000, presents an experimental lens for contemplating the metaphysical polarities of human experience.

Subodh Gupta’s Untitled from 2005 is estimated at £200,000- 300,000 and this work will see Gupta – who is arguably the most internationally recognised of all the Indian Contemporary artists – take the stage in a major Evening Sale of Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s once again. The Untitled canvas depicts a vessel stall glistening in the pink dawn of sunrise and it is one of the artist’s most important and powerful photo-realist paintings to ever come to the market. The canvas captures the sense of promise and expectation that epitomises the mood of ambition and prosperity within India’s flourishing economy. The glistening pots and pans mark a stark contrast with the flatness of the soft pink background, creating a strong visual tension. The pots and pans are everyday icons of India’s complex and rapidly evolving contemporary identity; they are a staple of Indian homes both among the rural and urban echelons of society. Gupta utilises the stainless steel objects to inspire a commentary upon the prevailing social ills of discrimination, caste politics, industrialisation and religious tensions exacerbated by India’s urban transformation.

A second work by Gupta will be a highlight of the Contemporary Art Day Sale and this comprises a cast aluminium sculpture from an edition of three entitled Untitled (Across Seven Seas). This piece is estimated at £40,000-60,000.Naval,

New Delhi-based Bharti Kher is a trans-cultural Indian whose broad artistic language explores everyday concerns like identity, race, ethics and society and their continued dislocation within a global media age. Executed in fibreglass, wood and fur and estimated at £40,000-60,000, Misdemeanours from 2006 is one of Kher’s most iconic and powerful sculptures. It captures a snarling hyena whose hyper-real – almost hallucinatory form – typifies the dream-like characters inhabiting the surreal landscape of Kher’s imagination. It points towards the shattered harmony between man and nature in a modern society in which animals are increasingly confined to laboratories, zoos and tourism in their struggle for survival against the onset of urban expansion and a booming human population.

Raqib Shaw’s Chrysanthemum & Bee (after Kotsushika Hokusai) encapsulates the multiple layers – in terms of both style and subject matter – that typify the work of this artist. Shaw’s output can be defined as occupying a space between two artistic traditions; that of Kashmir in India (where he was born) and also London (where he now lives). Taking inspiration from the work of the great Japanese painter and printmaker Kotsushika Hokusai, Shaw applies a vibrant Kashmiri palette to the Japanese organic source motif, transforming the subdued, delicate hues of the original print into an explosion of iridescent colours. Motion in an otherwise static image comes from the bee that is, like the eye of the viewer, drawn to the flower. Shaw’s treatment of the chrysanthemum – considered in the Western world to be the symbol of death and mourning – is a masterstroke in the inverting of preconceived notions and truly embraces the Japanese interpretation of the flower as a symbol of regeneration. The panel was acquired directly from the artist by the seller in 2001 and is estimated at 80,000-120,000.

Further Day Sale highlights include TV Santosh’s oil on canvas from 2005, Man Made Famine and the Rats, estimated at £40,000-60,000 and a stunning work by Pakistan’s leading Contemporary artist Rashid Rana entitled Veil #6.

Since Rana’s first solo exhibition in 2004 with Peter Nagy’s Nature Morte Gallery, he has become one of the leading figures of Mumbai’s vibrant Contemporary Art scene. Rana is an artist who is best known for his photographs, videos and installations which tackle multiple issues such as politics of gender, violence and popular culture, as well as the authenticity of a work of art in the current media age of global distribution. Veil #6 belongs to Rana’s critically acclaimed series of works that drew their inspiration from the urban environment of his home city of Lahore. It depicts a found newspaper image of five veiled Muslim women at a protest rally against un-Islamic dress and brings together all of the artist’s concerns regarding gender, race, the media and popular culture with a single image. Added to this is the work’s underlying subversive content – namely the thousands of tiny pornographic images that describe the composite image in a pixelated x-rated mosaic. Rana’s photographic practice creates images that offer an alternative view of how popular ideas and prejudices are created.