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Sotheby’s London Sale of South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art Hghlighted by Maqbool Fida Husain and Sayed Haide

Sotheby’s London sale of South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art twill take place on the 31st May 2011. Comprised of 62 lots, several with unprecedented provenance, the auction is expected to fetch in excess of £2.8 million.

Highlighting the sale will be works by Sayed Haider Raza. His Bindu is an important 1985 work and is one of the earliest large depictions of the Bindu by the artist. Raza’s preoccupation with nature is apparent in his use of primary colours to highlight the elements of nature; red, blue, yellow, white and black respectively represent fire, water, wind, earth and the sun. It is estimated at £400,000-600,000.

Another important work by Raza from his Paris period is Rue des Fossés St Jaques, an oil on canvas estimated at £300,000-500,000. Raza and his wife, the painter Janine Mongillat, were friends of the current owner’s family and they rented a studio from them at Rue des Fossés St Jaques. Painted a year after Raza was awarded the ‘Prix de la Critique’, this painting depicts the view from the studio window and represents an important early phase in Raza’s career where he abandons the confines of traditional watercolour and takes on oil developing a unique idiom where space and colour seem to feed into one another. In 1958, the painting was photographed with the artist by Henri Cartier Bresson.

Maqbool Fida Husain, The Sixth Seal. Signed ‘Husain’ in Devanagari lower centre and inscribed ‘M F Husain, The Sixth Seal, “64”‘ on reverse. Oil on canvas, 91.5 by 203.3 cm. (36 by 80 in.). Estimate: 400,000 – 500,000 GBP.Photo: Sotheby’s.

Maqbool Fida Husain’s The Sixth Seal, estimated at £400,000-500,000, exemplifies the eclectic balance between Husain’s cubist modern style of painting and Indian traditional sensibility and subject matter. This work, which was formerly in the Collection of Chester and Davida Herwitz , incorporates so many of the artist’s most recognisable themes and symbols. Traditional forms of ancient Indian miniatures, sculptures, dance and folk art manifest themselves in one painting. The painting is made up of six vignettes a compositional device used by the artist in a number of his early works from the late 1950s and early 1960s. This work is published in Bartholomew and Kapur’s seminal book on Husain and was exhibited at Oxford’s Museum of Modern Art’s India: Myth and Reality, Aspects of Modern Indian art in 1982.

Illustrated is Jehangir Sabavala’s oil on canvas The Tree, which is estimated at £65,000-75,000. This painting is part of the Tungabhadra landscapes that were painted in 1965 following a visit by the Sabavalas to South India. The artist was moved by the ruins at Hampi and in particular by the starkness of the artificial lake in the Tungabhadra river, at the border between Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

A further highlight is Manjit Bawa’s Untitled estimated at £100,000-150,000. Manjit’s subjects are often inspired by ancient iconography and myths but his primary concern was not with the narrative of the works but with their spatial and chromatic relationships. The artist’s use of colour was grounded in his formal training as a silk-screen printer and his study of Rajput and Pahari miniature paintings. The simplicity of line and form is contrasted by the subtle graduation of colour and the artist’s use of chiaroscuro. His figures possess a plasticity; sculptural in form yet suspended weightlessly in a space that is void of time and context.

The sale will also include Subodh Gupta’s Hungry God, estimated at £300,000-400,000. Subodh Gupta’s monumental sculpture Hungry God, which in 2010 was exhibited at SESC Pompéia’s Urban Manners 2, Contemporary Artists from India in Sao Paulo, is composed of a wavelike mass of stainless steel pans, milk pails and tiffins. These steel utensils have now become iconic symbols of Gupta’s work. The artist uses these domestic household objects to comment on the underlying social and economic tensions that arise from India’s progressive modernisation. These objects represent familiar features of Indian life which continue to transcend the conflicts between urban and rural existence; wealth and poverty; the religious and the vernacular.

The auction will also feature Subodh Gupta’s Untitled, estimated at £120,000-180,000, which was exhibited in The Empire Strikes Back Indian Art Today show at London’s Saatchi Gallery in 2010. Gupta’s preoccupation with ready-made objects from India transcends the boundaries of the mediums with which he works in. In this painting, stainless steel and copper-bottomed pots, pans and tiffins occupy a position of importance. Immaculately painted, these objects are revered by the artist and suggest an air of ambition and prosperity, congruent with India’s flourishing economy. The photorealistic detail of these pots are starkly contrasted with the abstract, minimalistic background. They hang seductively in the foreground, alluding to the complex and evolving aspect of consumerism in India.

Two early oils by Francis Newton Souza’s Untitled, estimated at 25,000-35,000, is an oil on board dated 1954. The sale will also include Francis Newton Souza’s Untitled, an oil on board, estimated at £35,000-45,000. Acquired directly from the artist by the writer and poet Stephen Spender, both these works are property from the Estate of Sir Stephen and Lady Spender.

*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium

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