Sotheby’s to Auction Indian and South Asian Art on 15 September

On 15 September 2011 Sotheby’s New York will present Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art including Indian Miniature Paintings as part of the week of Asian art auctions. The sale offers approximately 90 works dating from 18th century miniatures to paintings and sculpture from some of the leading names in Indian Modern art. Among the many highlights of the sale is The Cobweb Cloud by Jehangir Sabavala, one of the most important paintings by the artist ever to appear at auction (est. $220/280,000) and Eglise, a 1962 abstract work by SH Raza (est. $300/500,000). The sale also includes a strong group of paintings by the other leading Modern Indian painters such as MF Husain, Jagdish Swaminathan, Ravi Varma, and Jamini Roy. Overall the auction is expected to fetch $2.5/3.6 million* with the pre-sale exhibition opening on 9 September.

Jehangir Sabavala’s Cobweb Cloud is one of the artist’s most important works. It was chosen by Sabavala and his curator for inclusion in the major retrospective at NGMA Delhi and also appeared in the critically acclaimed 2005/6 exhibition of the artist’s work in Mumbai. This ‘Gossamer Landscape’ captures the evening light over a plain and is characteristic of the artist’s subdued palate. It marks an important turning point between his early cubist works and the textured composition of more recent paintings.

Eglise by SH Raza exudes the dynamic energy typical of the artists abstract period (est. $300/500,000). The work was painted in 1962, the same year Raza travelled to the US, a trip in which he encountered Abstract Expressionism via the New York School of painters. This was also the year the artist moved from oil to acrylic, and Eglise is one of the last works produced in oil before this transition.

In Musician MF Husain continues to explore the sitar player – a theme that fascinated him throughout his career (est. $80/120,000). In this painting the cool subtle palate of greens, blues and taupe contrasts to the vibrant read and yellow tones of earlier sitar paintings. The work has previously been in the collection of the actor and musician Alan Arkin who, according to the former owners, saw himself as the central sitar playing figure.

Untitled by Jagdish Swaminathan comes from the Bird, Tree and Mountain series in which the artist combines the simple compositions and forms of the indigenous aesthetic with a bold use of color. The current work includes naked trees, floating spheres, multiple suns and the signature delicate bird that combine to resonate order and calm (est. $180/220,000).

Ravi Varma is considered one of the founders of Indian Modern art. Through observing visiting foreign court painters he gained renown as one of the country’s first portrait artists working in the European tradition. The artist is also known for founding India’s first oleography press which made his paintings accessible to the public. This press was sold to his German printing technician Fritz Schlesicher, through whose family collection this magnificent Untitled (Himalayan Beauty) portrait has descended (est. $00/150,000).

The sale includes a fine group of Punjab Hills miniature paintings led by an illustration from the Sirmur school depicting Krishna and the Cow from circa 1810, originally from the G. K. Kanodia Collection and first published by W. G. Archer in his seminal book Indian Paintings from the Punjab Hills (1973) (est.$30/50,000).

*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium

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