Souza, Raza in Sotheby’s Indian art sale in London


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London : Auction house Sotheby's London will offer for sale important works by V.S. Gaitonde, F.N. Souza, Tyeb Mehta, M.F. Husain, S.H. Raza, Krishen Khanna and Bikash Bhattacharjee in its annual sale of Indian art May 24.

This will follow Sotheby's successful sale of Indian art in New York earlier this year that exceeded its pre-sale high estimate by more than $2 million and netted $15,007,880 – a record total for a sale of Indian Art by the auction house.

A large proportion of the works in the sale, which include miniatures as well as modern and contemporary paintings, have come from private European, Swiss, US and Canadian collections. The sale is estimated to realise in excess of 2.6 million pounds.

The most important and the highest value work in the sale is Untitled by Gaitonde. It is a stunningly evocative work, indicative of the artist's concerns not with representation but the painted surface itself and is estimated at 300,000-500,000 pounds.

A further highlight of the sale is Untitled, after Titian's Venus of Urbino and Manet's Olympia by Souza.

By aligning himself with the familiarity of Titian's Venus – arguably the most beautiful nude in non-classical Western art – and Manet's Olympia – a controversial work, to say the least, on its unveiling 100 years earlier, Souza sought to forge a new milestone in Indian and European art history.

Souza takes Manet's theme of class distinctions further, referencing in his own work not only to the sexuality and promiscuity evident in Olympia but the domination of India by England. It is estimated at 140,000-180,000 pounds.

An Untitled work by Tyeb Mehta, not quite in the same mood of his Falling Figure or Mahishasura series but an early work by the artist, depicts one of the constants in his work, the bull. In 1959, Mehta left India for England where his paintings were executed in heavily textured colour, applied thickly with a palette knife. It belongs to 1962 and is estimated at 140,000-180,000 pounds.

An important painting by Khanna is another major work to be offered for sale. "Thou Sayest So"/"Interrogation" (illustrated left) takes its title from the interrogation of Jesus Christ by Pontius Pilate and the phrase 'Thou sayest so' is a direct reference to the Gospel of John, chapter 18 verse 37. It is estimated at 50,000-70,000 pounds.

The sale also features several important canvases by Husain, including Mother Theresa Diptych, which is estimated at 80,000-120,000 pounds. Syed Raza's Red Bindu is another of the sale's highlights.

By the early 1980s, the Bindu, a term used to represent the creative seed from which all life emerges, became a central theme in Raza's work. The painting, which draws on Raza's Indian heritage and his experiences as an artist in France, is estimated at 40,000-60,000 pounds.

Among the contemporary works in the sale, which are represented by artists such as Riyas Komu, Jagannath Panda and Justin Ponmany, one of the most important is Red Balloon by the late Bhattacharjee who translated realism in the style of the Western masters.

The sale will be on view at Sotheby's New Bond Street London salerooms from May 20.