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Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art

Sotheby's New York
March 14, 2017
Sale No: 9664

Lot 156, "Black Shawl," by Mohan Samant, acrylic, oil, wood, and wire on canvas, 69 1/4 by 46 1/2 inches, 1987

By Carter B. Horsley

The March 14, 2017 auction at Sotheby's New York of Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art is highlighted by two spectacular works by Mohan Samant, several by Husain, a superb painting by Bharti Kher, and a good work by Raza.

Lot 156 is a glorious, large, mixed-media work by Mohan Samant (1924-2004) entitled "Black Shawl."  It measures 69 1/4 by 46 1/2 inches and the acrylic, oil, wood and wire on canvas work was created in 1987. 

detail of wire

Detail of Lot 156

The painting outlines major components in raised wire much like some popular sculptures by Alexander Calder, but it also adds a large black sculptural element to the middle.  The lot has a modest estimate of $5,000 to $7,000.  It sold for $35,000.

The catalogue includes a quotation from Ranjit Hoskote's 2013 book on the artist that "Mohan Samant, among the earliest of the post-Independence modern Indian artists to train in India and settle as a mature artist in the West, has been called one of the few artistis who has successfully made the bridge between Eastern and Western traditions."

The catalogue entry states that this work was a tribute to his wife, Jillian, and "combines a multitude of processing to include drawing, painting, cut-outs and wiring, giving it a captivating three-dimensional quality."  The entry also notes that the artist was cited by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most important in the world in 1963.

Light blue2

Lot 155, "Untitled (Naga Panchani)," by Mohan Samant, acrylic and watercolor on paper, 73 1/4 by 35 inches, 1997

Another dazzling painting by Samant is Lot 155, "Untitled (Naga Panchani)," an acrylic and watercolor on paper that measures 73 1/4 by 35 inches.  It was created in 1997.  It has an estimate of $4,000 to $7,000.  It sold for $18,500.

Light blue

Detail of Lot 155

It has an very modest estimate of $4,000 to $6,000.  It sold for $18,750.


Lot 159, "Starry Night after V.G.," by Bharti Kher, bindis on mirror, 53 1/2 inches square, 2011

Lot 159 is a very fine homage to Vincent Van Gogh by Bharti Kher (b. 1969).  It is entitled "Starry Night after V.G., and was created in 2011 with bindis on mirror, which is cracked in many places to add to the work's shimmering effects. It measures 53 1/2 inches square and was acquired in 2011 from Hauser & Wirth.  The catalogue entry notes that bindi "is derived from bindu, the Sanskrit word for a dot or a point, sometimes considered the creative seed or womb of the universe in India," adding that "it is traditionally a mark of pigment applied to the forehead associated with the Hindu symbol of the third eye." 

"Bharti Kher's appropriation of the bindi has promoted it to the status of an icon, an instantly recognizable of and for the artist.  Through this process, Kher's bindi has become a further symbol of the power of transformation, and be found not only in her flatworks but also on the surfaces of her epic and dreamlike sculptures, murals and installations."

Glass detail

The lot has an estimate of $70,000 to $90,000.  It sold for $106,250.


Ishrat Kanga, deputy director and specialist of Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art at Christie's, discussing Lot 118, "Untitled (Four Women)," by Maqbool Fida Husain, oil on canvas, 60 by 59 1/2 inches, 1971, at press preview

Lot 118 is a oil on canvas by Maqbool Fida Husain (1913-2011) that is "Untitled (Four Women) and measures 60 by 59 1/2 inches.  It was created in 1971. Ishrat Kanga, deputy director of Christie's Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art, told the press preview that the work is related to Pablo Picasso's famous "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon." It has an estimate of $400,000 to $600,000.  It sold for $936,500.

Hussein blue

Lot 134, "Untitled (Lady and the Tiger)," acrylic on canvas, 50 by 73 inches

A bolder and more colorful painting by Husain is Lot 134, ("Untited, Lady and the Tiger"),  An acrylic on canvas, it measures 50 by 73 inches.  It has an estimate of $180,000 to $220,000. It sold for $212,500.


Lot 117, "Shiva Parvati," by Maqbool Fida Husain, oil on canvas, 38 by 63 1/8 inches, 1966

Lot 117 is a strong oil on canvas by Husain entitled "Shiva Parvati.  It measures 38 by 63 1/8 inches and was painted in 1966. It has an estimate of $500,000 to $700,000.  It sold for $600,500.


Lot 149, "Lover's Tryst," by Avinash Chandra, oil on canvas, 48 by 80 inches, 1985

Lot 149, "Lover's Tryst," is an oil on canvas by Avinash Chandra (1931-1991) that measures 48 by 80 inches.  It was painted in 1985.  It has an estimate of $25,000 to $35,000.  It failed to sell.


Lot 109, "Untitled (Damayanti)," by Raja Ravi Varma, oil on canvas, 28 1/4 by 20 1/4 inches, circa 1890-1900

Lot 109, "Untitled (Damayanti)," is an oil on canvas by Raja Ravi Varma (1848-1906).  It measures 28 1/4 by 20 1/4 inches and was painted circa 1890-1900. In 1979, the Indian Government declared him a National Treasure.

It has an estimate of $500,000 to $700,000.  It sold for $1,692,500.

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