Mehta, Husain highlights of Sotheby’s New York sale


New Delhi : A rare piece of work by Tyeb Mehta, M.F. Husain’s “Bewildered Brown” and a range of miniature Jataka paintings sourced from a private Indian collector will be the highlights of Sotheby’s sale of Indian art in New York Sep 17.

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“Behind Me Desolation” by Tyeb Mehta, one of India’s leading modern artists, who died in February, is estimated at $350,000 while “Bewildered Brown” has a hammer price of $120,000, said a press statement issued by Sotheby’s Thursday.

The miniatures have been culled from the collection of Aananda K. Coomaraswamy, an authority on Indian and southeast Asian art. Coomaraswamy worked in Sri lanka, India and finally America, where he set up the first ever department of Indian art at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

A collector of repute, he built a collection of rare Mughal, Rajput and Pahari paintings.

“Behind Me Desolation” was previously sold in an auction of Indian paintings in June 1995, Sotheby’s first-ever stand-alone sale of contemporary Indian art.

According to sources at Sotheby’s, it is one of Mehta’s typical 1970 works that was characterised by monumental drawings with a sculptural feel.

The painting is dominated by a central figure that can be seen as an expression of Mehta’s anguish at the trauma and dislocation of the individual in contemporary society. Mehta was influenced by the partition of the country.

Other highlights include an untitled work by V.S. Gaitonde, expected to fetch $600,000 and “Brown” by Husain.

Husain’s canvas, one of eight works by the artist in the sale, depicts a group of horses in a composition that captures the energy and power of the animals.

“Horses play an important part in Husain’s art. They are often shown riderless and staring into the distance at an unseen audience. On the far side of this painting, a horse is seen leaving the group which is dominated by a grey stallion creating a subtle tension in the work,” said Zara Porter-Hill, head of the Indian Art at Sotheby’s.

Gaitonde’s work has dense layers with a roller and palette knife instead of a paint brush to give it a stripped abstract feel. An untitled canvas of a joker by F.N. Souza is also another important art work estimated at $150,000.

“Following the success of our June sale of Indian art in London which surpassed expectations we have assembled a tightly edited sale with an emphasis on quality works at reasonable estimates,” Porter-Hill said.

The highlight of the Jataka series is an illustration, “The Sixth Dream of King Pesandi”, painted between 1780 and 1790.

A selection of cutting-edge contemporary art from Pakistan, including a sculpture by young Pakistani artist Adeela Suleman whose work is influenced by the complex social and situation in the country, will also go under the hammer.