Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information
Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Sotheby’s Sale of Indian Art

Sotheby’s fall sale of Indian Art will be held in New York on 17 September 2009. The auction will feature a range of paintings by some of the leading Modern and Contemporary Indian artists as well as an impressive selection of Indian Miniatures from the collection of Dr. Ananda K. Coomaraswamy. And Behind Me Desolation by Tyeb Mehta is set to be one of the major highlights of the sale and graces the cover of the auction catalogue in honour of the much celebrated artist who died earlier this year. The painting was previously sold in the groundbreaking auction of Contemporary Indian Paintings from the Chester and Davida Herwitz Charitable Trust at Sotheby’s New York in June 1995 – Sotheby’s first ever stand alone sale of Contemporary Indian Art. The painting is expected to fetch $250/350,000. Among the many other highlights of the sale is Untitled by V.S. Gaitonde, which is expected to fetch $400/600,000, and Bewildered Brown by M.F. Husain which is estimated at $80/120,000.

M.F. Husain
Bewildered Brown by M.F. Husain, one of eight works by the artist in the sale (Lot 10, Est. $80/100,000). Photo: Sotheby’s

Discussing the sale, Zara Porter-Hill, Head of Indian Art at Sotheby’s said: “Following the success of our June sale in London – which surpassed expectations – we have assembled a tightly edited sale with an emphasis on quality works at reasonable estimates. Among the carefully chosen modern works is, And Behind Me Desolation by Tyeb Mehta – who died just a few months ago – and a major untitled painting by V.S. Gaitonde. The sale also features a group of miniatures from the collection of Dr. Ananda K. Coomaraswamy and a number of superb Pakistani Contemporary pieces.”

Modern Art
Tyeb Mehta was one of the best known and most acclaimed Modernist painters in India. The news of his death in July 2009 was reported on the front pages of newspapers across India and in an obituary, the New York Times described him as “the leading light of India’s first post-colonial generation of Modernists.” He emerged as an artist at the time of Partition and his memories of the tragic events to which he had bore witness clearly had a huge impact on his art. And Behind Me Desolation is from the late 1970’s and is typical of a period in which his work was characterised by monumental drawing that has an almost sculptural feel. The painting is dominated by a central figure that can be seen as an expression of Mehta’s anguish at the trauma and dislocation of the individual in contemporary society.

Untitled by V.S. Gaitonde is expected to fetch $400/600,000. It is typical of the artist’s work as it is constructed with intimate layers of colour and texture that were made using a roller and palette knife instead of a paint brush. Gaitonde would build up layers of paint on the canvas in order to then strip them away and reveal new layers of the work. Although the painting is non-representative the artist rejected the term ‘abstract,’ preferring to see his paintings as ‘non-objective.’

A further Modern highlight is Bewildered Brown by M.F. Husain, one of eight works by the artist in the sale (Lot 10, Est. $80/100,000). The painting depicts a group of horses in a dynamic composition that captures the energy and power of the animals. Horses play an important part in Husain’s art; they are often shown riderless and staring into the distance at an unseen audience. On the far side of this painting a horse can be seen leaving the group which has attracted the attention of the central gray stallion creating a subtle tension in the work.

An Untitled work by Francis Newton Souza depicting a joker also features (Lot 27, Est. $120/150,000). Untitled is a representation of the Joker, who can take on the appearance of any other character by disguising his true identity. Painted with a long, clown-like face, and a highly saturated palette divided by black outlines that is reminiscent of Romanesque art and stained glass windows.

Among the miniatures in the sale will be six from the collection of Dr. Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, a towering figure in the field of Indian and Southeast Asian Art. Dr. Coomaraswamy worked in Sri Lanka, India and finally America, where he set up the first ever Indian Art department at a US institution – the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. A collector as well as a scholar he built up an unmatched collection of Mughal, Rajput and Pahari paintings and drawings that have been passed down through his family. The highlight of this group is An Illustration to a Jataka Series: The Sixth Dream of King Pasenadi painted circa 1780-90. It is a pictorial depiction of an ancient Jataka tale in which a powerful tiger slinks away from weak Jackal, symbolising how a lowly upstart can usurp a once powerful ruler.

Among the Contemporary works on offer will be a selection of cutting-edge Contemporary Art from Pakistan including a sculpture by the young Pakistani artist Adeela Suleman whose work is influenced by the complex social and political situation in Pakistan. Lie Together is a typical work that uses household and domestic objects to create a melancholic sculpture (Est. $6/8,000).