NEW YORK - Sotheby’s spring sale of Indian Art in New York will be held on March 19, 2008, and will include important Modern paintings by M.F. Husain, J. Swaminathan, Rameshwar Broota, F. N. Souza, S. H. Raza, Ganesha Pyne and Arpita Singh, among others. The offering of 89 lots, which is estimated to bring $4.8/6.8 million, will be on public exhibition beginning March 13th.
The top lot of the sale, F.N. Souza’s Head of a Man (est. $280/380,000), engages a format that the artist used repeatedly, that of a head and torso painted on a plain background. Such a composition draws from religious iconography, a format adopted by Renaissance artists such as Titian, whose work Souza would have seen first hand at the National Gallery in London, where Souza arrived in 1949. However, although the influence of Byzantine painting and the old masters are evident, the finished painting is completed in Souza’s own unique style. Souza employs black outlines reminiscent of stained glass, adding to the covertly religious sentiment of the painting.
Another highlight of the sale is an Untitled painting of a nude and horse by artist M. F. Husain (est. $200/300,000). The horse has remained an enduring theme in Husain's works since the 1950s. The artist was fascinated by horses since his childhood, and in ancient Indian mythology, these animals are a symbol of life force and energy. The present painting depicts a faceless rider who attempts to mount a rearing stallion. The interaction between the two, articulated in clashing diagonal planes, is intensely kinetic and both figure and horse seem to be spinning in a vortex of energy. The application of color itself in sweeping fluid strokes heightens the sense of movement and power. That Obscure Object of Desire VI (est. $200/300,000), also by Husain, is part of a series which responds to a Buneul film of the same title which is about a male character whose desire for a certain woman leads to entrapment. The works share an epical and cinematic concern with the fate of conflict, questioning the nature of personal identity and the self-destructive potential of desire itself.
Arpita Singh’s Amina Kidwai with her dead husband (est. $200/300,000) depicts a man and a woman surrounded by everyday objects such as plants, flowers and tea cups. Singh, who began her career as a tapestry weaver, utilizes the rhythms of repetition to form structure and continuity within her painting. Her bright palette seems almost at odds with the subject matter, conveying the sense that these life stages, including death, are natural states of affairs.
An Untitled work by S. H. Raza (est. $100/150,000) from 1960 shows the artist’s movement towards a less structured composition, focused upon a visual language of form and color. The potency of symbols and colors utilized by Raza are central to the evolution of his work, which is characterized by the crossbreeding of the modernity of Europe and America with the spirituality of India. Another highlight of the sale is a 1968 Untitled landscape by Ram Kumar. Estimated at $120/180,000, the work is executed in the artist’s trademark earth brown and ocher tones and is typical of his paintings from the late 1960s that mark a decisive stage in the progression of his style towards pure abstraction. In works from this period the elements of the landscape are reduced to barely recognizable forms that seem to meld into each other in fluid and shifting vertical and horizontal planes, as seen in the present painting.
An Untitled work by Rameshwar Broota (est. $50/70,000) depicts a portrait of a man, but an unsettling disquiet surrounds the figure, almost as if details are being erased. As with his previous paintings and most recent works, this portrait appears to comment on the inevitable decay of the human body. Other works featured in the sale include Peeli Dhoop by M.F. Husain (est. $100/150,000), an abstract depiction of a settlement in bright green and yellow, and an Untitled abstract work by Jagdish Swaminathan (est. $180/220,000). Sotheby’s New York Spring 2008 Asian Art Auction Schedule: March 17 Contemporary Art Asia
: China Japan Korea, March 18 Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, March 19 Indian Art, March 19 Indian and Southeast Works of Art, Including Miniatures. Sotheby’s Hong Kong Spring 2008 Auction Schedule at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre
: April 8 Fine Chinese Paintings, April 8 Modern & Contemporary Southeast Asian Paintings, April 9 Contemporary Chinese Art, April 10 Magnificent Jewels and Jadeite, April 10 Important Watches, April 11 Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art. Sotheby’s London Spring 2008 Asian Art Auction Schedule
May 14 Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art Sotheby’s Paris Spring 2008 Asian Art Auction Schedule
June 12 Arts of Asia.