S otheby’s is honoured to be offering works from the remarkable collection of Mrs. Ute Rettberg of Surya Galerie, Germany. Formed in 1973, in Freinsheim, the gallery was the first of its kind in Europe - selling up-and-coming contemporary Indian artists. Mrs. Rettberg played an important role in the expansion of the Indian art market abroad and herself acquired an astonishing personal collection of paintings, drawings, prints and sculpture, which she has lived with for almost fifty years. This selection - from Madhubani to Neo Tantric art - form a time capsule of a unique period in modern Indian art and is a testament to the enduring legacy of Mrs. Ute Rettberg.
Surya Galerie began through a collaboration between Mrs. Rettberg and Kekoo Gandhy, the founder of the pioneering Chemould Gallery, Bombay. Mrs. Rettberg, one of the first women in the German diplomatic service, lived in Bombay during the mid-1960s, while working at the German Consulate General. Attracted to the vibrant colours of Indian contemporary art, and inspired to support talented young artists, she began to acquire works to decorate her and her husband’s new home in Juhu Beach. Following the Rettbergs’ return to Germany, Kekoo Gandhy sent Ute an array of works to show in her newly-founded Surya Galerie. This arrangement lasted for two years, after which Ute worked directly with the artists of her choice. She formed close friendships with many of these artists, such as K. K. Hebbar, Devayani and Kanwal Krishna, Satish Panchal and Surya Prakash, some of whom would stay with her in Freinsheim for months at a time, showing their works in solo and group shows at the gallery.
This selection of works closely relate to the symbology and geometry of ‘Tantra’, the ancient Hindu and Buddhist philosophy. Neo Tantric art was first seen in India the 1960s and forms an important moment in the history of Modern and Contemporary South Asian art.
Recognised by influential New York art critic, Clement Greenberg, as a significant painter in the field of modern Indian art, Ambadas Khobragade is a pioneer of colour and form. He held his first one man show in New Delhi in 1965. It was in the same year that he produced the current lot, The Closed Membranes of Silence. This painting abounds with lyrical and undulating forms and reveals an exquisite handling of colour. It was Ute Rettberg's first acquisition and the painting which started her collection. Rettberg sold Ambadas' works at Surya Galerie throughout the 1970s, up until the gallery closed in 1981. Throughout this time, Ambadas remained one of the gallery's most successful artists.
From mezzotint to screenprint, Mrs. Ute Rettberg has acquired a wealth of works by eminent Indian printmakers. These works provide a compelling insight into the diverse and accomplished printing techniques of modern South Asian artists.