Lot 64
  • 64

ARPITA SINGH | Don't Cross Central Park at Night

40,000 - 60,000 GBP
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  • Don't Cross Central Park at Night
  • Signed and dated 'ARPITA SINGH / 1995' lower right and further titled 'DONT CROSS CENTRAL PARK AT NIGHT' upper centre
  • Oil on canvas
  • 91.2 x 106.9 cm. (35 ⅞ x 42 in.)
  • Painted in 1995


Acquired from Chemould Gallery, Bombay circa 1990s Thence by descent in 2013


Calcutta, CIMA Gallery, Arpita Singh, 1996


There are very minor losses to the paint surface, most notably around the edges of the work. Small accretions are visible upon close inspection. Hairline craquelure is present in areas of thicker paint. This work is in good overall condition, as viewed. Please note that the upper left corner of the frame is chipped, however the frame is not considered to be part of the artwork.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

'It is easy to be beguiled by the glittering surface of her oil paintings but there is always the subtle hint, like the clues that she scatters on her canvas, to probe a little below the surface till the awareness of the dimensions of another reality grips the viewer. One of the foremost modernists…a formidable painter, Arpita Singh has left her indelible mark on modern and contemporary Indian art'. (E. Datta, ‘Beautiful and Bizarre: The Art of Arpita Singh’, http://www.artnewsnviews.com/view-article.php?article=beautiful-and-bizarre-art-of-arpita-singh&iid=17&articleid=382) In the mid-1960s, Arpita Singh worked as a designer at the Weavers Service Centre in Delhi. “We would visit the National Museum to study Kashmiri textiles. Looking at those great works of art I really began to understand what pattern was all about. I looked at other kinds of textiles too with an acuter awareness, at more contemporary ‘folk’ forms as well. A few years later when I started to paint once again these influences were there in my work.” ( A. Singh quoted in N. Sheikh et al, Memory Jars, Bose Pacia, New York, 2003, p.2) Equipped with her newfound appreciation of weaving, embroidery and tapestry, Singh began to create quilt-like paintings, of which the current work, painted three decades later, is an excellent example.  With thickly applied colour and a pronounced emphasis on the flatness of the picture plane, it almost appears as if the painted figures, vehicles and signs have been appliqued onto the surface of canvas.

The bright colours, childish scrawlings, dream-like perspective, and comforting association with textiles evidenced throughout Singh’s oeuvre, all stand in sharp contrast to the charged themes that she explores. The ominous forewarning of the title Don’t Cross Central Park at Night which is branded across the canvas and the cowering nude female figure who lays above it, signal one such theme. The title of the work is borrowed from the poem Central Park (1987) by Octavio Paz, which was itself inspired by a painting, Belgian Surrealist Pierre Alechinsky’s Central Park (1975).

Singh, through her carefully crafted works, consistently comments on the growing dangers and insecurity of the society around her (from a women’s perspective). In an interview to Ella Datta in 1996, she articulated, “I am an admirer of Octavio Paz. There Is a line of his which I like, “Don't cross the central park at night.” I respond to the note 115 of warning that goes beyond the specific locale of Central Park in New York. The insecurity that I feel about life today is reflected in the choice of colours—the greys and browns…‘ (E. Dutta, Arpita Singh, CIMA Gallery, Calcutta, 1996, unpaginated)

Women are central to Singh’s work. This painting, beautifully executed and emotively charged, is a powerful example of Singh’s socially-motivated artistic production. It speaks broadly to the hardship, obstacles and violence faced by women in places stretching far beyond Central Park’s perimeter.