Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art
Live Auction: 16 March 2021 • 10:00 AM EDT • New York

Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art 16 March 2021 • 10:00 AM EDT • New York

T his sale of Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art is led by two paintings – Vasudeo S. Gaitonde’s Untitled (1962) and Jehangir Sabavala’s Lone Vigil (1989), which have both been in their respective private collections for more than three decades. The auction features property from other significant private collections, including the Patwant Singh and Romen & Rasil Basu Family Collection and that of renowned art critic George Butcher. Other auction highlights include paintings by Akbar Padamsee, Sayed Haider Raza, Maqbool Fida Husain, Francis Newton Souza and Jagdish Swaminathan, a selection of sculptures led by Meera Mukherjee’s Untitled (Benaras Ghat), and an array of works from the esteemed Bengal School of Art. Our upcoming sale has many gems to offer to collectors of every stripe, with each work carefully chosen from the diverse corpus of South Asian Art created in the twentieth century.


Jehangir Sabavala, ‘Lone Vigil’, 1989
Jehangir Sabavala
Lone Vigil
Estimate: 450,000 – 650,000 USD
A striking example of Jehangir Sabavala’s later body of work, this masterpiece from 1989 explores the awe-inspiring power of the natural world. The ethereal expanse of crystal blue water and archipelago of floating islands in Lone Vigil possess the feeling of an unattainable, foregone world. By contrast, the female figure who stands among the boats in the foreground, provides a sense of tangible corporeality to the breathtaking waterscape before her. This solitary protagonist, the ‘lone vigil’ of the scene, seems to be the watchful guardian of this unspoiled landscape.

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The Collection of Patwant Singh

Sotheby’s is proud to present a collection of outstanding works from one of India’s most important tastemakers. The works along with their stories paint a vivid portrait of a remarkable individual, one who was admired by the greatest and the best minds of Modern India.

Gaitonde by the Numbers

Over the past two and a half decades, the market for Contemporary Art has outpaced most financial markets, with much of this growth fueled by the dizzying rise in price of works by ‘blue-chip’ artists. Sotheby’s Mei Moses, a constantly updated database of repeat art sales, gives Sotheby’s unique insight into the investment performance of Art as compared to other asset classes. Watch this ‘Market Report’ to see just how fast the South Asian Art Market grown and how far works by one of its blue-chip artists, Vasudeo S. Gaitonde have outpaced the market as a whole.

Sarah Burney on Zarina’s Evolution as an Artist and Printmaker

The works of Zarina reveal an astute understanding of abstraction, minimalism and the power of print-making. Her unique and carefully considered approach has gained the artist international recognition and in 2012 to 2013, Zarina was honored with a retrospective at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, and The Art Institute of Chicago.

In the following article, Zarina’s former studio manager, Sarah Burney, discusses the evolution of the idiosyncratic and much-lauded practice of her long-term collaborator.

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Anatomy of an Artwork. Art as Life.

Lot 39 | Meera Mukherjee, Untitled (Benaras Ghat)

The holy city of Benaras on the banks of the River Ganges has been a site of pilgrimage for millennia and a source of inspiration for artists over centuries. From the eighteenth-century paintings of William Hodges, the nineteenth-century photographs of Samuel Bourne, the canvases of Ram Kumar and Maqbool Fida Husain, and here, in this exquisite sculpture by Meera Mukherjee, the ghats or steps lining the river remain a timeless backdrop against which the unceasing cycle of life unfolds. In this remarkable vignette in bronze, the artist captures with great dexterity and individuality, a scene on the bustling riverside steps, replete with activity and energy.

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  • Puja Beneath Parasols Created with Sketch.
  • Making Their Way Down the Slippery Steps Created with Sketch.
  • Birds and Boats Created with Sketch.
  • Taking a Holy Dip Created with Sketch.
  • Ripples Created with Sketch.
  • Puja Beneath Parasols

    The parasols lining the steps of the ghats are a quintessential element of the immortal image of Benaras. Worshippers seated beneath these parasols chant hymns as they offer homage to the departed souls of ancestors in the effort to enable their peaceful transition to the other world.

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  • Making Their Way Down the Slippery Steps

    Upon the conclusion of rites, offerings are immersed in the river. Pilgrims treading gingerly on the slippery steps as they make their way down to the water is a commonly encountered sight.

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  • Birds and Boats

    Birds skim the water’s surface, ritual offerings floating in the river jostle alongside boats moored at the bank, creating an affecting portrayal of the quotidian and eternal melding effortlessly.

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  • Taking a Holy Dip

    A dip in the holy waters of the sacred river Ganges is believed to wash away sins and rejuvenate both body and soul. Here we see a half-submerged devotee taking a dip and offering oblations to the sun and to water – both sources of life.

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  • Ripples

    The water itself, in spite of Mukherjee’s solid medium, is awash with movement, represented through the rippling coils of bronze. To create this effect the artist fashioned and incorporated individual strands of wax into the original model which then had to be manipulated with great skill and patience to achieve the desired effect.

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Akbar Padamsee
Akbar Padamsee
Estimate: 250,000 – 350,000 USD
Akbar Padamsee’s Landscape, 1956
Shortlisted for La Biennale di Venezia in 1956, this other-worldly landscape by Akbar Padamsee imparts a lesson in the true capabilities and sheer brilliance of Modern Art. Austere in color, subject and form, this masterfully constructed composition is profoundly rich in tone, depth and emotivity. This rare and early work should be viewed in the context of the 1950s, a decade of immense international acclaim for the artist, and as a prelude to his revered but brief ‘Grey Period’ of 1959-60.

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Visit the Exhibition

Following the guidelines for the Phase Four reopening of Manhattan, we are able to accommodate clients in our building by appointment only. The exhibition for this sale will open on 11 March and will close on 15 March at 5pm. To schedule an appointment please click here or contact or +1 212 606 7171. You can read more about our safety requirements here.

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