Distinguished Provenance: 8 Works of Modern & Contemporary Southeast Asian Art

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Among the highlights of the upcoming Modern & Contemporary Southeast Asian auction in New York are a range of works from important collections. Indeed an artwork’s provenance can be at times a vital piece of information in telling the object’s story. A work of art that has caught the eye of a discerned collector is often revered for its distinguished past. Click ahead to read some of the personal histories of the owners of just a few of the Southeast Asian masterworks that will be offered on 14 March in New York.

Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art

14 March | New York

Distinguished Provenance: 8 Works of Modern & Contemporary Southeast Asian Art

  • Jamini Roy, Untitled (Sita In Upvan). Estimate $8,000–12,000.
    Joan V. Bondurant (1918–2006) was an American political scientist who lived in India from 1944–1951 working for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during World War II. Life in India instilled in her both a love of the country and a fascination with the work of Mahatma Gandhi. Her work came to the attention of India’s foremost leaders, including the country's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who wrote the foreword to Dr. Bondurant’s influential book, Conquest of Violence: The Gandhian Philosophy of Conflict, a classic in its field.



     



     

  • Raja Ravi Varma (1848 –1906) Untitled Damayanti), Painted circa 1890–1900. Estimate $500,000–700,000.
    In 1894, after producing a large number of oil paintings, Varma founded India's first oleography press in Lonavala, known as the Ravi Varma Oleographic and Chromolithographic Printing Workshop to make his artwork available and accessible to the public, revolutionizing the presence of art – typically relegated to the court or temple – into everyday homes. To help reproduce his paintings, Varma employed Fritz Schleicher, a German printer from Berlin, highly qualified in color lithographic printing to act as manager of the workshop. Varma eventually sold the Press to Schleicher in 1903, at which stage the firm was renamed The Ravi Varma Fine Art Lithographic Works. Schleicher was known to have been a good businessman under whose management the press garnered a reputation for producing high quality prints and experimenting with innovations like adding metallic foil to create an effect that was reminiscent of the Tanjore paintings Varma had seen in Kilimanoor. While he stayed true to Varma’s original vision for the Press, he expanded the press’s portfolio by securing jobs to print textbooks and photographs. Schleicher had twelve children, the youngest, a daughter named Lottie, who had started her education in Berlin, but with the rise of Nazism, moved to a private school in Vienna. In 1941, Austria was in the throes of World War II, which forced her to move to India with her fiancé, Dr. Surendra Singh. Mrs. Lottie Schleicher Singh inherited a group of works from her father from where this exceptional painting hails. Several of these were offered at Sotheby's London in 1996-97. 

  • Sayed Haider Raza, Paysage,1983. Estimate $200,000–300,000.
    Chester Herwitz was a designer and manufacturer of handbags from Massachusetts who first visited India in 1961, whilst travelling around the world with his wife, Davida. They were instantly enchanted by the subcontinent and its art scene. Over the next thirty years they were to amass a collection of Indian modern and contemporary art that was to become the most important and comprehensive in the world. The Herwitzes were responsible for bringing international attention to Indian Modern and Contemporary art. Their collection of more than 3,000 paintings and drawings has been exhibited globally in world-class institutions. The collection included examples from all the leading Modern Masters and Contemporary Indian artists of the twentieth century.  Though part of their collection has been dispersed, it is an honour to remember these early pioneers in the field and get revisit the works they once lovingly collected, as the regroup into other new collections. 

  • Maqbool Fida Husain, Untitled (Four Women), 1971. Estimate $400,000–600,000.
    Initially the Herwitzes were particularly drawn to the work of the Modern master Maqbool Fida Husain, whom they went on to form a lifelong friendship with. It was Husain’s seminal painting Zameen (1955) that inspired Herwitz to start collecting. Herwitz first encountered the painting at the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi in 1961 and identified Husain as a ‘colossus’ of the Indian art scene. With Husain’s encouragement they soon began to look at other Indian artists. Their interest and in depth understanding of the subject earned them the artists’ respect. As Husain stated in January 1995 “They have done for Indian art what no Indian industrialist has been able to do. And their aim was not to decorate offices, but to be involved in the Indian contemporary art movement.” (ibid.) 



     

  • Ganesh Pyne, Untitled (Krishna with Flute),1979. Estimate $30,000–50,000.
    To aid their charitable arts trust, a part of their collection was auctioned through Sotheby’s between 1995-96 and again in 2000. These Sotheby’s auctions established for the first time, an international market in Indian Modern and Contemporary art and were the first single owner collections to come to auction in this category. In 2001, the core of the Herwitz Collection was endowed to the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, with a designated gallery opened in 2003. It is the only such institution internationally that has a dedicated space for Modern Indian Art.

  • Paramjit Singh, The Blue Rock, 1974. Estimate $15,000–20,000.
    Mr. Olmstead was a preeminent international lawyer recognized as one of America’s leading authorities on international law, trade and arbitration. He was named a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE, Hon.) by Queen Elizabeth II in 1990 in recognition of his contribution to the field. He acquired this work in 1975 during a trip to India for the 56th Conference of the International Law Association held in New Delhi from 28 December 1974 to 4 January 1975.



     

  • Kattingeri Krishna Hebbar, Victims, 1961. Estimate $40,000¬–60,000.
    Mr. Rafo N. Ivančević  was the Consul-General of the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia in India. He and his wife Fanny lived in Bombay from 1961 – 65. They were both art and culture enthusiasts, who befriended many artists and inaugurated a number of art exhibitions during their tenure in India. The artist was a close personal friend of the couple.



     



     



     

  • Krishnaji Howlaji Ara , Untitled (Vase with Red Flowers). Estimate $5,000¬–7,000.
    Mr. Rafo N. Ivančević  was the Consul-General of the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia in India. He and his wife Fanny lived in Bombay from 1961 – 65. They were both art and culture enthusiasts, who befriended many artists and inaugurated a number of art exhibitions during their tenure in India. The artist was a close personal friend of the couple.

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