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Stage set for Christie's Indian sale in NY

The Christie's modern and contemporary Indian art auction to be held on September 20 in New York will be dominated by the highlights of masters Tyeb Mehta, FN Souza and VS Gaitonde.

india Updated: Aug 22, 2006 17:10 IST

The Christie's modern and contemporary Indian art auction to be held onSeptember 20 in New York will be dominated by the highlights of masters Tyeb Mehta, FN Souza andVS Gaitonde. It is expected to realise in excess of a conservative $12 million.

While Mehta's Untitled (Figures with Bull Head) from 1984 is put at $800,000-1,000,000, maverick Francis Newton Souza's Red Tower with Trees, a work belonging to 1958, is estimated at a hefty $300,000-500,000.

A number of enticing works will unveil at a historic preview that begins in a New Delhi hotel Tuesday evening - recognising the reality of important collectors in India's capital city.

Christie's, the world's leading art auctioneer, set a stellar performance in Spring 2006 season, with sales in New York, Hong Kong and Dubai totalling over $26 million, clearly establishing itself as the unsurpassed market leader.

An impressive series of record prices achieved over the years, combined with a greater presence in India, have made Christie's one of the world's most prominent promoters of the importance and universal appeal of 20th and 21st century Indian artists.

As part of Christie's New York's Asia Week, the sale of modern and contemporary Indian art will take place on September 20 and will offer major works from the collections of Robin Howard, Madame Krishna Riboud, and Mrs. Fanny D. Tata amongst numerous private collections from Europe, US and India.

This will include paintings by the major Progressives: Tyeb Mehta, Gaitonde, Souza, Maqbool Fida Husain and Akbar Padamsee.

Known to the art world as the connoisseur of the avant-garde, Krishna Riboud was widely travelled, with impeccable taste. The Indian-born Krishna Riboud became one of France's most avid supporters of avant-garde art, exploring a passion which was extraordinarily eclectic and broad but also focused on work by her fellow countrymen in a time when Indian artists were relatively unknown outside.

A descendant of the Tagores, one of India's most renowned artistic families, her vision and taste helped form the collection of Asian antiquities and textiles of the Musée Guimet in Paris.

The sale offers two sublime works by Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, which reflect her refined connoisseurship. The two works offered, both painted in 1971 and both Untitled (estimates $500,000-700,000) were created during one of the artist's most revered periods and reveal Gaitonde's signature capacity to reduce the world to its most primal elements while elevating it to spiritual heights. Also from the Riboud estate is Untitled by Akbar Padamsee, 1963 (estimate $100,000-150,000).

Then there is Robin Howard CBE. The British epicurean, businessman and connoisseur made art the beating heart and engine of his life.

Apart from modern dance - his main love - his convictions also extended into the visual arts, culminating in his patronage of Gallery One, a one-time London gallery noted for its focus on Outsider Art. It was Howard who persuaded the Goan-born Souza, today one of the most venerated 20th century Indian artists, to exhibit in several celebrated solo shows at Gallery One.

The sale offers four Souza paintings, formerly from the Howard collection, of which the monumental Nyasa Negress with Flowers and Thorns (estimate $400,000-600,000) encapsulates the artist's complex attitudes towards women, religion and erotica. This sculptural, almost mask-like nude exhibits a bold and unrestrained sexuality capturing influences of Expressionism, Primitivism as well as a stylistic ode to Picasso.

Man and Woman, 1954 (estimate $300,000-500,000) featuring Souza's portrait will also be offered, as will two landscapes, Untitled (Landscape), 1960 (estimate $300,000-500,000) and Row of Red Houses with Trees, 1957 (estimate $250,000-350,000).

It is in his landscapes that Souza demonstrates the inherent tension between nature and civilisation and both paintings evoke an atmosphere of dissonance and conflict. Two of the works in this collection was published in the seminal Souza catalogue by Edwin Mullins.

The show stopper, however, will be the large and magnificent work by Tyeb Mehta, Untitled (Figures with Bull Head) that featured in the 1987 exhibition in Geneva, Coups de Coeur. It prefigures Mehta's later work on the subject of Durga and Mahishasura.

A superb group of works by Syed Haider Raza spans his career from early figurative landscapes to abstract expressionism to his geometric phase.

Also bound to create waves are significant works by Bhupen Khakhar and Arpita Singh -- two critically acclaimed artists whose works are highly coveted by collectors.

Khakhar's Artist's Studio, 1995, (estimate $200,000-300,000) is an expressive dreamy autobiographical work indicative of his late style upon revealing his homosexuality. Arpita Singh's Bhishma (estimate $150,000-200,000) references and depicts a modern day take on the horrors of warfare and violence using the epic tale of the Mahabharata, as an allegory.

Looking to the future is a strong selection of top contemporary artists, including Subodh Gupta, Atul Dodiya, Anju Dodiya, Nataraj Sharma, Jitish Kallat, Justin Ponmany, Hema Upadhayay, Aisha Khalid and Nusra Latif Qureshi.

First Published: Aug 22, 2006 17:10 IST