South Asian Modern and
March 20th, 2013, 10 AM
Lot 20, "Village en Fete,"
by Syed Haider Raza, an oil on canvas painted in 1964 glows at the far
end of Christie's gallery
Photographs copyright Michele Leight, 2013
By Michele Leight
The warm glow cast by "Village en Fete" by Syed Haider Raza
set the tone for a gallery filled with beautiful works of art by South
Asian artists at Christies New York during Asia Week this spring.
Painted in 1964, this canvas belongs to a critical period when Raza
experimented with a less structured pictorial space and explored the
play of color in nature. While teaching at the University of
California, Berkeley in 1962 "Raza was deeply impacted by the work of
Abstract Expressionists Sam Francis, Hans Hoffman and Mark Rothko.
'Rothko's work opened up lots of interesting associations for me. It
was so different from the insipid realism of the European School, It
was like a door that opened to another interior vision..." (Raza: Celebrating 85 Years,
Aryan Art Gallery, New Delhi, 2007, included in Christie's catalogue
for this sale).
Lot 20, "Village en Fete," has an estimate of $600,000 to $800,000. It sold for $1,859,750, well
above its high estimate.
Lot 31, "Untitled," by
Vasudeio Gaitonde, 1986, oil on canvas
painting illustrated above, Lot 31, "Untitled," by Vasudeio Gaitonde,
is Property from the Collection of Ursula Bickelman, who is described
in Christie's catalogue for this sale as "an art historian and pioneer
in the history of Indian contemporary art. Her publication Artists Today:
East-west Visual Arts
Encounter published by Marg in 1987 in
collaboration with the poet Nissim Ezekiel is a seminal work for the
field. Further publications include studies on 20th century Indian art
(2000), as well as studies of Western modernist artists and their
relationship to India. This work by Gaitonde was acquired during her
stay in India from 1984-89."
The influence of the artists exposure to Abstract Expressionism during
his time spent in New York on a Rockefeller Scholarship is clear, and
there was the additional exposure to Conceptual Art during the early
60s, especially the work of Sol Lewitt and Joseph Kossuth. Somehow all
this fused into the unique iconography on view here: "Gaitonde has
stood like a rock in the sea of fashion. His achievement is as real as
it is historical." (D. Nadkarni, Gaitonde, Lalit Kala Akademi, New
Delhi, 1983, unpaginated).
Lot 31 has an estimate of $350,000 to $500,000. It sold for $693,750.
Lot 8, "Untitled (Doll's
Wedding)," by M. F. Husain, circa late 50s, oil on canvas
are four of several paintings by MF Husain that did extremely well, a
trend that shows no sign of abating. They are gorgeous - of course -
and give proof of how prolific the artist was. Lot 8, Untitled (Dolls
Wedding)," has an estimate of $300,000 to $500,000. It sold for $363,750.
"Kobra," by Maqbool Fida Husain, 1968, oil on canvas
Lot 58 "Kobra," has an estimate of $350,000 to $500,000. It sold for $423,750.
Lot 19, "Varanasi I," by Maqbool
Fida Husain, 1973, oil on canvas
"Varanasi I" is a beautiful and atmospheric painting inspired by a trip
the artist took to the fabled city on the Ganges with Ram Kumar in
1960. Enthralled by this ancient city that has drawn pilgrims and
travelers for centuries, both artist were inspired to create a series
of paintings and prints: "Husain's choice of inconography in Varanasi I ; the
sun rising above the river Ganges, the priest and the boats, are
immediately recognizable. Through this very simple composition, Husain
conveys the very complex nature of the Hindu mythology. Both the giver
of life and the carrier of the dead, Ganga represents the contradicotry
forces of life and death. The headless priest, black sun and the earthy
colors, brown and green, represent this duality and the bleakness and
austerity, which underlines the grave complexity of the cycle of human
life. Powerful and deeply esoteric, Husain captures the essence of
Varanasi." (Christie's catalogue for this sale)
Lot 19 has an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. It sold for $243,750.
77, "Untitled," by Maqbool Fida Husain, painted circa early 1970s,
acrylic on canvas
"Untitled," depicts a musical instrument - a sitar - and a woman in the
Tribhanga pose often found in classical Indian sculpture. Women and
music are frequent - and important - themes in Husain's work. This
sophisticated and vibrant painting is wonderfully rhythmic, and
reminiscent of Henri Matisse.
"Houses on a Green Hill," by Francis Newton Souza, 1964, oil on board
Lot 77 has an estimate of $450,000 to $600,000. It sold for $507,750.
A landscape and
a portrait by Francis Newton Souza are illustrated here, both of them
superb examples of this influential artist's unusual style. Souza left
sunny Goa to study and practice art in London, and Lot 13, "Elder," is
clearly influenced by Georges Roualt, who outlined his subjects in
black, inspired by the stained glass windows he admired in France's
sumptuous cathedrals and churches: "He struggled in these years as a
young Goan in London aspiring to be a successful painter. Elder
was perhaps a product of a nostalgic yearning in Portuguese Goa during
his childhood. 'The Roman Catholic Church had a termendous influence
over me, not its dogmas but its grand architecture and the splendour of
its services. The priest dressed in richly embroiled vestments, each of
his garments from the biretta to the chasuble symbolizing the
accoutrement of Christ's passion.'" (FN Souza, 'A Fragment of
Autobiography', Words & Lines, 1997, New Delhi, p.10). Lot 13
has an estimate of $30,000 to $50,000. It sold for $81,250.
Lot 14, "Houses on a Green Hill" also alludes to the Catholic imagery
of FN Souza's childhood that permeates so much of his work, including
the stained glass windows of the cathedrals of Goa: "The work is
abstract perhaps not in appearance but in its existential
undercurrents, the absence of humanity at such an epicenter of
civilization, where religion, modernity and nature coexist in a
perpetual struggle." (Christie's catalogue for
Lot 14 has an estimate of $150,000 to $200,000. It sold for $339,750.
Lot 13, "Elder," by Francis
Newtown Souza, 1951, oil on masonite board
Lot 84, "In what seemed at first a monster's colonial dream,
leprechauns of amber body and agile mind blew west wondering what it
would be like to leave land, ocean, bird, bear, feline and the bounty
of horned beasts, to leave our nature for culture," by Rina Bannerjee,
2008, mixed media on panel; Center: Lot 85, "Fools House," by Atul
Dodiya, 2009, oil, acrylic, marble dust and charcoal on canvas; Front:
Lot 3, "My Daughter's Cot II," by Tayeba Begum Lipi, 2012, stainless
steel razor blades; Right: Lot 86, "Magic
Wands," by Subodh Gupta, 2004, chrome plated cast aluminum
What a line up!
Lot 84, a fantastical map of the world by Rina Bannerjee with
a long title -"In what seemed at first a
monster's colonial dream, leprechauns of amber body and agile mind blew
west wondering what it would be like to leave land, ocean, bird, bear,
feline and the bounty of horned beasts, to leave our nature for
culture" - keeps company with Lot 85, "Fools House," by Atul Dodiya,
and a cot made of razor blades by Tayeba Begum Lipi, who
talks about this riveting and thought-provoking piece in Christie's
catalogue for this sale:
"Most of my works are realted to very personal issues of
human life. I always like to play with contradictions as I think our
life is full of absurdity...The COT is only a cold empty space to me. I
see, and at the same time do not see, the nigtmare of the bloody hours
and months it took for me to make this piece...I am from a large
family. I'm the 11th or 12 children. I was born in the northern part of
Banfladesh in a very small town called Gaibandha. I watched my nephews
and nieces grow up next to me. Those days women gave birth at home with
the help of a village woman. The only tool to support the delivery was
a new sharp razor blade that had to be boiled on a stove before the
baby was born. Perhaps this memory from my childhood stuck in my
head...I love to use various materials in my art work. In the
beginning, I might have been influenced by other artists who used real
razor blades. But in the end, when I decided to create an object with
the same material, I decided to fabricate the razor blades in stainless
steel, which gave my work another dimension." (In conversation with the
artist, February 2013)
Lot 3, "My Daughter's Cot II," by Tayeba Begum Lipi has an estimate of
$18,000 to $20,000. It
sold for $22,500.
Lot 84, by Rina Bannerjee, has an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000. It sold for $30,000.
Lot 85, by Atul Dodiya has an estimate of $60,000 to $80,000. It sold for $75,000.
Lot 89, "Unidentified Soldier," by Rameshwar Brootha, 1990, oil on
canvas, scraped with blade; Front: Lot 113, "Boatmen," by Meera
41, "Metamorphosis," by Ayaz Jokhio, 2008, printed text on paper laid
different works of art co-exist on a gallery wall at Christies,
complementing each other. Lot 89, "Unidentified
Soldier," by Rameshwar Brootha, "depicts a dehumanized figure in the
vestments of war, corroded by conflict. This eerily ephemeral
combatant, visceral and menacing, suffers in silence. Brotha's
archetypal tendrils contort in agony as they reach out to this
anonymous soldier. This figure becomes a monument of mourning, a
manifestation of the masculinity and the melancholy that war's
destruction brings upon mankind." (Christie's catalogue for this sale).In
the center above is Lot 113, "Boatmen," a bronze sculpture by Meera
Mukherjeea (see below) and on the left is a work by the Lahore based
artist, Ayaz Jokhio, a student of Rashid Rana. (Lot 41)
"Metamorphosis," by Jokhio, combines text and image: "With an acute
understanding of the local culture, he is watchful of how textbooks,
classrooms, and the media circulate ideas on the meaning of nationhood
and nationality in Pakistan. Like Broodthaers, Sol Lewitt and John
Baldessari, Jokhio deemphasizes aesthetic and material concerns in
favor of an engagement with ideas." (Christies catalogue for this sale)
Lot 89, by Rameshwar Brootha, has an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. It sold for $50,000.
Lot 41, by Ayaz Jokhio, has an estimate of $4,000 to $6,000. It sold for $5,250.
of Lot 113, "Boatmen," by Meera Mukherjee
What makes art
auctions so wonderful is that sculpture like "Boatmen" (illustrated
above) suddenly appear on the market, creating awareness in a
new generation of art afficionados, or those that perhaps were not able
to appreciate the genius of this sculpturess when she was creating her
miniature masterpieces. Meera Mukerjee (1923-1998) is no longer with
us, but her art lives on, and what a superb example of her unusual
talent "Boatmen" is. Her gift did not go unrecognized by her country:
"Recipient of the Padma Shri, President's Award of Master craftsman,
Abindranath Award from the West Bengal Government, Mukerjee emerged
onto the Indian art scene at a time that was transitional, full of
change and eclecticism. Borrowing from tradition and modernity her
works have an immediacy that transcends into the contemporary. Deeply
influenced by the Dhokra technique of Bastar in Madhya Pradesh, Meera
Mukerjee perfected a technique in bronze that was unique. Mukherjee's
innovative process and approach to bronze constituted sculpting the
works first in wax, so as to preserve the tactile nature of the
material upon wihch she would then build up and add surface decoration
in wax strips, and rolls. The bronze finish consequently appears
organic and malleable imbuing the work with lyricism and rhythm as it
captures a dynamic moment in time" (Christie's catalogue for this
sale). There is an atmospheric and moving photograph of Meera Mukerjee
at work on her Calcutta verandah in Christie's catalogue for this sale.
The technique she deployed is ancient:
"The ancient process of making cast metal figures, known as
cire perdue, is still alive in the tribal areas of India today and is
known there as Dhokra, meaning 'oldest.' This tradition of lost wax
casting is an ancient one in India, going back to the Indus valley
civilizations. Some historians say it originated at the time of the
Sumerian culture in 2000 BC. Today it is practiced by artists who live
in and around Bihar, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal, as well as
Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharasthra, and Karnataka."
(www.purpleonion.nl/background/tribalbronzes). The authors write "the
above information has been extracted from the wonderful book "Indian
Folk Bronzes" (New Delhi, 1991), by Shri K. C. Aryan, a leading expert
on Indian Folk Art, and is still in print today. We highly recommend
40, "Moderate Enlightenment," by Imran Quereshi, 2007, gouache on wasli
Imran Quereshi confront the complexities of our times in paintings like
"Moderate Enlightenment: "The Moderate Enlightenment series deals with
the socio-political issues that most of the world is currently facing.
The works portray religious people carrying out everyday activities,
such as exercising, enjoying nature and reading. When viewed in the
context of Pakistani society, viewers may read such activities in a
very different light...I have deliberately used three colors repeatedly
in each of these works: red, white, and blue, inspired by the colors of
the American flag" (Artist statement, Hanging Fire, p.
Lot 40, "Moderate Enlightenment," by Imran Quereshi, has an estimate of
$10,000 to $15,000. It
sold for $35,000.
88, "Stitching an Undefined Border," by T.V. Santosh, 2007, oil on
painting by T.V. Santosh illustrated above features a Muslim tailor and
the indispensible tool of his trade - a sewing machine. Far from being
a literal interpretation of its title - "Stitching an Unidentified
Border - Lot 88 makes a political statement and is painted in tha
artists reverse negative style: "The humanism distilled in his works
demand that the viewer resist detachment from reality. 'We cannot be
elsewhere when the event takes place. We cannot take solace, like
viewers of the TV news, in the fact that we are elsewhere, in
comfortable living rooms far away from the action. These paintings
remind us that, morally, we are where the action is; and the action is
where we are." (N. Adajania, 'No Alibis for the Image', T.V. Santosh:
Unresolved Stories 2004- 2007, p. 11).
Lot 88, by T.V. Santosh has an estimate of $30,000 to $50,000. It sold for $43,750.
2, "Untitled," by Bharti Kher, bindis on paper
works of art by different artists depict the the bindu - or bindi - in
a unique and personal way.Lot 2, "Untitled," by
Bharti Kher is a meticulously executed spiral of bindis glued on to
paper, with an estimate of $30,000 to $50,000. It sold for $32,500.
Lot 21, "Tam Soonya," by Syed Haider Raza, is a somber yet
magnificent example of infinite variations on
this theme by the artist: "The realization of the innate force of the
bindu has been an integral part of Raza's oevre since the late 1980s.
The bindu, or the black point, can be variously interpreted as zero,
drop, seed, or sperm, and it is the genesis of creation. The circle
becomes less of a graphical component and more of a central point
representing concentrated energy. It is the cosmic egg gestating within
the womb of the unmanifested universe; ready for germination.The bindu
is also the focal point for meditation and the principle around whch
Raza structures his canvases." (Christies catalogue for this sale)
Lot 21, by Syed Haider Raza has an estimate of $ 280,000 to
$400,000. It sold for
Left: Lot 6,
"Untitled," by Syed Haider Raza, 1983, oil on wood panel;
Lot 21, ""Tom Soonya," by Syed Haider Raza; Right: Lot 4, "Untitled,"
by Ravinder Reddy, 1996, painted and gilded polyester, resin and
light-hearted "bindu" appears on a box - or super-sized dice - created
as a gift for Raza's friends Claude Mollard and Marie-Josie Salou in
1983. Lot 6, "Untitled," has an estimate of $60,000 to $80,000. It sold for $67,500.
Illustrated on the right is a marvellous fibreglass "goddess,"
appropriated by Ravinder Reddy with great wit and irony from Indias
rich and ancient sculptural tradition: "His women, while commanding in
scale and demeanor, have less than idealized features, closer to folk
than to fine art. And while he titles some pieces for the great
Goddess, Devi, others are given ordinary Indian names, often ones
popular in rural India. The result is a hybrid, with roots in the past
but also in the pop cultural present. A heroic art with a common touch:
kitsch for the ages." (H. Cotter, 'Art in Review: Ravinder Reddy, New York Times, 12
October, 2001, included in Christie's catalogue for this sale)
Lot 4, "Untitled," by Ravinder Reddy has an estimate of $60,000 to
$80,000. It sold for
1, "Morning, Afternoon, Evening, Night (Home is a Foreign Place)," by
Zarina, 1999, woodcut with Urdu text printed in black on Kozo paper and
mounted on Somerset paper
infinity, the point or zero are subjects that often appear in Indian
art, mythology and life. Christie's catalogue for this sale offers
insight into Zarina's art practice and Lot 1, "Morning, Afternoon,
Evening, Night (Home is a Foreign Place)": "Home is a Foreign Place can
be read as a poem, from left to right, and includes symbols
representing the cosmos, fate and time. Characterized by a formal
austerity, these prints reflect Zarina's understanding of
space and proportion and an affinity for the line and basic geometric
shapes...A retrospective exhibition of Zarina's work is currently on
view at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, (January-April
2013). This exhibition was previously at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles
and is due to travel to the Art Institute of Chicago...In 2011, Zarina
was one of the four artists chosen to represent India at the Venice
Biennale. Her work is in the permanent collections of the MoMA, New
York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Whitney Museum of
American Art, New York; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles;Victoria and Albert
Museum, London; the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris; and the National
Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi."
Lot 1, by Zarina, has an estimate of $7,000 to $9,000. It sold for $15,000.
Lot 52, "Untitled (Bird and
Tree)," by Jagdish Swaminathan, painted in the 1970s, oil on canvas
mystical painting of a tree with a bird hovering over it is by Jagdish
Swaminathan. Christie's catalogue for this sale includes a quote by the
artist: "A work of art to me is an enigma, and the power it exercises
over me is magical not rational." (Artist statement, December 1964).
Lot 52 has an estimate of $120,000 to $180,000. It sold for $327,750, well above
its high estimate. Well deserved for such a delicate gem
of a painting.
Prices for South Asian Art are very strong, with works by
contemporary artists invigorating those by beloved and well-established
sale of South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art achieved $8,574,875.
Hugo Weihe, International Director of Asian Art and
International Specialist Head, South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art,
New York, said: "The sale of South Asian Modern & Contemporary
Art was a success on all levels, with works by Modern Masters, such as
Syed Haider Raza, Francis Newton Souza, and Tyeb Mehta performing
extremely well. In addition to the active saleroom there was a
significant amount of bidding online, with over a quarter of lots
having been bought or directly underbid by a Christie's LIVE client."
Deepanjana Klein, Head of Sale, South Asian Modern and Contemporary
Art, New York, commented: "In addition, sculptures and contemporary
works attracted buyers who remained determined to acquire works of
excellent provenance. World auction records were set for Rina
Bannerjee, Tayeba Begum Lipi, Imran Quereshi, Ayaz Jikhio, and Farida
Batool, a testament to the growing strength of the Sou