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Paper works make waves in Indian art

Uma Nair takes a peek into some of the masterpieces in Indian paper art.

india Updated: May 18, 2006 17:24 IST
Uma Nair

"Paper has a primordial feel to it, a canvas cannot match the excitement that a sheet of paper can offer. A sheet of paper is a woman waiting to be seduced."

 
        - Francis Newton Souza:  December 25, 2000

No one could say it better than Souza and precisely 5 years after his death the world is waking up to atheist Souza's brilliance in words, wit and work.

Auction house Bonhams made history of sorts when they conducted a sale of paperworks by one Indian artist Francis Newton Souza on May 3 in London this year.                                                                                            

The Souza on Paper sale made £240,000 for the 40 lots with 90 per cent sold, the top lot being lot 31 at £20,400 titled "Crowned Head".                                         

"The sale reflects the explosion of interest in and rising value of Indian art in general and Souza in particular," said Bonhams.                                         

Jogen Chowdhury's "Man In Bed"

In the West there has been renewed interest in works on paper.

For the past 15 years, collectors and curators of drawings have met at the Salon du Dessin during the last week of March.                                        

The salon that is to be held at the Palais de la Bourse in Paris brought together some 30 galleries that exhibited almost 1,000 drawings from all periods.

Auction data in 2005 showed that the drawings segment represented almost 24.4 per cent of total Fine Art transactions and 12.7 per cent of turnover ( 11.6 per cent in 2004).

Last year, some exceptional pieces went under the hammer.                                                                                       

We note in particular a major gouache by Pablo Picasso entitled "Nu Jaune" (1907) that sold for USD 12.5 million at Sotheby's on November 2 after an estimation of $3-4 million.

The highest bid in the "Old Masters" drawings segment, was, for a work by Andrea Del Sarto depicting the head of Saint Joseph, a study for the painting "The Holy Family" hanging at the Pitti Palace that was bought by Jean-Luc Baroni for £5.8 million on July 5, 2005.

The drawings segment is experiencing a boom and posted the sharpest price rises in 2005 of all Fine Art categories.

Expressed in euros, prices rose by on average 14.6 per cent in 2005 as comparee to 9 per cent for paintings and 8.1 per cent for sculpture.

Despite this growth, the bought-in ratio still remained high at around 35 per cent.

Beyond this overall rise, late-19th century art movements have achieved astonishing levels of growth.

Saffronart's summer sale saw a leap in the prices of works on paper.

The finest works on paper at the Saffronart Summer Auction were those of Hebbar, Souza, Raza and Jogen Chowdhury.                                         


However right on top of the paper mart with an all time ecstatic high was Jogen's "Man In Bed" a work of ink and pastel on paper done in 2002 that went for $110,000 (Rs 4,730,000).