Perception-changers: 5 modern and contemporary artists from South Asia

Specialists Deepanjana Klein and Sheila Parekh-Blum look at key artists whose work is offered in our South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art sale on 14 September

‘South Asian artists and South Asian art are no [longer] regional,’ states Deepanjana Klein, International Head of South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art at Christie’s. ‘Their language is universal. You cannot even call it South Asian art anymore. These artists are from South Asia [but] are represented across the world by museums, biennales and art fairs.’  

Here, we highlight five artists whose work is offered in the South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art auction on 14 September at Christie’s New York, and who epitomise the emergence of this region onto the international stage.

The first is Lahore-born Anila Quayyum Agha, a female Muslim artist who examines the feeling of being trapped and blocked, having been barred from mosques and confined to certain cultural moulds. After relocating to America, travelling widely and taking specific inspiration from the Alhambra in Spain, Agha now translates the intricate Moorish motifs, symmetry and craftsmanship of the structures forbidden to her with a freedom of expression for all to witness.

Shilpa Gupta (b. 1976), Someone Else A Library of 35 Books Written Anonymously or Under Pseudonyms, 2011-12. Etched stainless-steel books and shelves. 7⅞ x 10¼ in (20 x 26 cm) each book; 96 in (244 cm) overall each shelf; 96 x 8½ x 72 in (244 x 21.6 x 188.9 cm) overall installation. Estimate $40,000–60,000. This work is offered in South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art on
Shilpa Gupta (b. 1976), Someone Else: A Library of 35 Books Written Anonymously or Under Pseudonyms, 2011-12. Etched stainless-steel books and shelves. 7⅞ x 10¼ in (20 x 26 cm) each book; 96 in (244 cm) overall each shelf; 96 x 8½ x 72 in (244 x 21.6 x 188.9 cm) overall installation. Estimate: $40,000–60,000. This work is offered in South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art on 14 September 2016 at Christie’s in New York

The second is Shilpa Gupta, a leading Indian artist based in Mumbai who carefully selects her media to encourage inquiry and reflection on global identity. A. Balasubramaniam, the third, is a well-known artist who works with his own body to create minimalist sculptures that play with reality and illusion.

Subodh Gupta (b. 1964), Untitled, 2006. Oil on canvas. 65¾ x 90 in (167 x 228.6 cm). Estimate $70,000–90,000. This work is offered in South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art on 14 September 2016 at Christie’s in New York
Subodh Gupta (b. 1964), Untitled, 2006. Oil on canvas. 65¾ x 90 in (167 x 228.6 cm). Estimate: $70,000–90,000. This work is offered in South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art on 14 September 2016 at Christie’s in New York

Subodh Gupta, probably the most widely-recognised Indian contemporary artist, focuses on common materials and subject matter in Indian households. As related by Sheila Parekh-Blum, Specialist, South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art, Gupta’s Untitled painting of stainless-steel utensils — representations of the middle class — ‘comment[s] on the ubiquity of [the items] within India, but also on their perfection and the idea of seeking that perfection’.

Bharti Kher (b. 1969), Mother of Anything Possible, Anytime, 2006. Bindis on aluminum sheet; triptych. 95¾ x 47¾ in (243.2 x 121.3 cm) each; 95¾ x 144 in (243.2 x 365.8 cm) overall. Estimate $200,000–300,000. This work is offered in South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art on 14 September 2016 at Christie’s in New York
Bharti Kher (b. 1969), Mother of Anything Possible, Anytime, 2006. Bindis on aluminum sheet; triptych. 95¾ x 47¾ in (243.2 x 121.3 cm) each; 95¾ x 144 in (243.2 x 365.8 cm) overall. Estimate: $200,000–300,000. This work is offered in South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art on 14 September 2016 at Christie’s in New York

The fifth and final selection is Bharti Kher, who emerges from a different perspective. Arriving in India from England in the 1990s, her art illuminates the multi-layered influences of political, gender and social conflicts.