NEW YORK - I am incredibly excited about our upcoming Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art sale in New York on 19 March. Having been in the New York office to catalogue the sale in person, I was able to experience working with each piece of art from the get go. We have put together a truly vibrant sale with a focus on exceptional provenance and artworks that are fresh to the market. Here are a few of my personal favourites.
Vasudeo S. Gaitonde’s Painting No. 3, 1962. Estimate $2,000,000-3,000,000.
Painting No. 3 was included in one of Vasudeo S. Gaitonde’s earliest New York exhibitions in the 1960s. The works he created during this time served as a bridge between his geometric patterns of the 1950s and his later move towards abstraction. In this luminous painting, some figurative elements remain, and the horizon line alludes to the possibility of a landscape. A recluse, he produced few works in his lifetime, but his painstaking approach and methods of reflection resulted in some of the most powerful and enigmatic works in the canon of Modern Indian Art. Gaitonde will be the subject of a major retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum in New York this autumn, making him one of the first Modern Indian artists to be honoured with a retrospective in the United States.
Bhupen Khakhar’s Buffalo Among Flower Bed, circa 1969-1970. Estimate $150,000-200,000.
Bhupen Khakhar’s Buffalo Among Flower Bed comes from the Collection of Dr Johanna Nestor, the Austrian ambassador to India and Ceylon from 1966-70. It reflects the artist’s proclivity towards the floral and lush hued imagery of Rajasthani picchavai paintings. He also drew inspiration from the jewelled tones of Indian miniature paintings with their tiny figures depicted in a larger environment. Known as ‘India’s first Pop artist,’ he was one of the first Indian artists to be recognized by a major international institution when he was honoured by a retrospective at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in 2002. He remains among the most sought-after Indian artists, with Sotheby’s New York’s recent sale of American Survey Officer in September 2013 achieving $401,000 from a high estimate of $220,000.
Maqbool Fida Husain’s Untitled (Three Horses), circa 1960s. Estimate $100,000-150,000.
Untitled (Three Horses) is a dynamic work by India’s most popular artist, Maqbool Fida Husain, often described as the ‘Picasso of India.’ As a young boy he was impressed by the power and grace of horses, and chose to revisit this subject throughout his career. His energetic lines and masterful brushstrokes set his work apart from other paintings of horses. One can almost sense the movement of these animals within the canvas, a far cry from the static nature of Cubism. Brilliantly rendered in the artist’s immediately recognizable calligraphic style, this painting is a wonderful example of Husain’s genre. His work remains highly sought-after and continues to influence a whole generation of Indian artists.
Ram Kumar’s Untitled, 1964. Estimate $80,000-120,000.
Painted in 1964, Ram Kumar’s Untitled, is a fine early example of his experimentation with abstraction. This work belonged to Samuel and Hope Efron, an extremely philanthropic couple who served on several boards and charitable institutions, including The Center for Biomedical Ethics at the University of Virginia. Ram Kumar bore witness to pivotal movements in art history and these styles have infused and influenced his work, although his subject matter remains distinctly Indian. He moved to Paris in the 1950s where he studied under the great masters André Lhote and Fernand Léger. Influenced by their tutelage, and inspired by the Hindu holy city of Benares, which Kumar first visited in the early 1960s, he has essentially rendered a Cubist Indian painting.
Francis Newton Souza’s Head on an Orange Background, 1957. Estimate $120,000-180,000.
This painting hails from the collection of Harold Kovner, a respected American art collector, who was so impressed by Souza’s work that he became an important patron. In exchange for a monthly stipend, Souza produced a number of canvasses for Kovner during this four-year benefaction. With the freedom to paint whatever he desired, Souza painted some of his finest works. With blocks of colour and thick black outlines, this painting represents Souza’s signature stained glass style, recalling the windows of the Catholic churches in Goa, where he had a devout upbringing. With extreme fragmentation and a loosely ordered composition indicative of his style, this is a brilliant example of Souza’s strangely captivating portraits.