Sought-After Artists of Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art

Sought-After Artists of Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art


Please note that Sotheby’s Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art will proceed as scheduled on 16 March 2020 beginning at 11:00AM EDT. Bidding will be available live in our salesroom, online, and by telephone.


T his March, Sotheby's New York will present the 25th annual Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art auction in New York – a Silver Jubilee celebration that will continue in auctions and events throughout 2020. Kicking things off, the 16 March auction of Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art will feature a robust array of works with storied provenances, accessible price points and covetable artists. Many of the includes works will be coming to auction for the first time, or else have gone unseen for at least a generation.

The sale is led by a number of artists recognized for their revolutionary contributions to the canon of South Asian Art – artists who pushed boundaries and paved the way for a new age of creative thinkers. Below, we highlight a few of the many key artists featured in the auction; read on to learn more.

Maqbool Fida Husain

M aqbool Fida Husain (1913 – 2011) is considered one of India's most accomplished and mythologized modernist painter in the decades after Independence. Renowned for revolutionizing Indian Art, he was a founding member of the Bombay Progressive Artists’ Group which formed in 1947. Husain’s fame developed around both his charismatic personality and his prolific paintings, which sought to create an image of “Indianness” corresponding to a new modern and secular cultural identity.

Padmini Mohini Shankhini, circa 1969
Estimate $120,000 – 180,000

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Mehndi, 1962
Estimate $100,000 – 150,000

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To the Market, circa 1950s
Estimate $40,000 – 60,000

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Estimate $30,000 – 50,000

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Shānti- Shānti
Estimate $5,000 – 7,000

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Vasudeo S. Gaitonde

V asudeo Santu Gaitonde (1924 - 2001) was a pioneer of abstract art in India (though he preferred the term "non-objective" for his work). Although he was not an official member of the Progressive Artists' Group (PAG), Gaitonde was part of a movement of artistic reinvention that followed Independence.

Gaitonde produced very few works during his lifetime, partly due to his philosophical and meticulous approach to his art. As an artist, he held strong beliefs in his identity as a painter and isolated himself from others, removing any distractions that would interfere with his goal in achieving the purest form of expression through light, color and texture. Gaitonde's primary concern was not with representation, but with the painted surface itself. In the artist’s own words: “A painting is simply a painting – a play of light and colour. Every painting is a seed which germinates in the next painting. A painting is not limited to one canvas, I go on adding elements and that’s how my work evolves ... There is a kind of metamorphosis in every canvas and the metamorphosis never ends." (M. Menezes, ‘The Meditative Brushstroke’, ART India Magazine, Vol. III, Issue III, 1998, p. 69)

Untitled, 1963
Estimate $1,000,000 – 1,500,000

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Bhupen Khakhar

W idely considered to be India's first Pop artist, Bhupen Khakhar (1934 - 2003) painted the people and places he'd encountered with wild colors and pervasive humor. In the 1970s, Khakhar bore witness to the increasing acceptance of homosexuality in the UK. After interacting with artists such as David Hockney, this became the hallmark of the later phases in his artistic production, which made him the first Indian artist to freely disclose his sexual orientation through his work.

In the year 2000, Khakhar was honored with the Prince Claus Award at the Royal Palace of Amsterdam. Among other honors, he won the Asian Council's Starr Foundation Fellowship in 1986, and the prestigious Padma Shri (Indian Government's award for excellence) in 1984.

In the Coconut Groves, 1993
Estimate $200,000 – 300,000

Importantly, the present work was a feature of the Tate Modern's 2016 retrospective on Khakhar.

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Raja Ravi Varma

A lthough Raja Ravi Varma (1848 - 1906) earned his fortune as a master portrait artist for the upper echelons of royal society in India, he achieved fame as a pioneer of popular culture, responsible for the mass dissemination of a new visual vocabulary through oleographs. By infiltrating the majority of households with his paintings and prints, he was essentially responsible for influencing and shaping perceptions for generations to follow. In addition to his unsurpassable talent, he depicted characters from ancient religious and mythological texts that resonated with the Indian people, a sure-fire recipe for success.

Untitled (Swami Vishvamitra in Meditation), 1897
Estimate $700,000 – 900,000

A one time, the present painting belonged to Fritz Schleicher, Varma’s German printer who set up his renowned press in Lonavla. The painting is among a very limited body of Varma's work that is in free circulation outside India and available for acquisition by international buyers.

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Nasreen Mohamedi

N asreen Mohamedi (1937 - 1990) was a founding figure of the minimalist abstract art movement in India – furthermore, she's recognized as one of a handful of Muslim women to first establish a professional artistic career in India and beyond.

Untitled, circa 1963
Estimate $200,000 – 300,000

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Indian & South Asian Modern & Contemporary Art

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