This September, Sotheby’s auction of Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art will feature masterworks from four private American family collections, many of which were exhibited in landmark exhibitions since their acquisition in the 1950s—1970s. These pioneering collectors built lifelong relationships with some of India’s most influential Modern artists, including Maqbool Fida Husain, Ram Kumar, Krishen Khanna, Jehangir Sabavala, and Syed Haider Raza.
The centerpiece of Sotheby’s September auction—a monumental oil painting by M.F. Husain from the historic Abe and Jan Weisblat Collection—is part of the well-known, surrealist Maya Series from the 1960s. This bold composition suggests a rarely articulated and intensely personal psychological self-portrait of the artist, coupled with the artist’s signature leitmotif—the faceless woman. Having no memory of his late mother’s face was one of the great tragedies of Husain’s life, and inspired one of the legendary artist’s most recognizable, tender and enduring themes.
Also of note is the extraordinary, widely published oil painting by Jehangir Sabavala, The Unruffled Calm, from the Collection of Manuela and Cleveland Fuller. At the artist’s suggestion, critic Ranjit Hoskote selected The Unruffled Calm for publication in his 2005 publication, ‘The Crucible of Painting: The Art of Jehangir Sabavala’ , as well as his 1998 monograph, 'Sabavala: Pilgrim, Exile, Sorcerer.' Sabavala is best known for his masterful treatment of light, as well as the delicate qualities of transparency, reflection and luminosity which define his visionary landscapes.
Additional highlights include rare works by artists such as Manjit Bawa and Bikash Bhattacharjee; bronze sculptures by Sarbari Roy Chowdhury and Prodosh das Gupta; and a selection of significant works by modern and contemporary Pakistani artists such as Abdur Rahman Chughtai, Jamil Naqsh, Seher Shah and Shazia Sikander.