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    Sale 11512

    South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art

    26 May 2016, London, King Street

  • Lot 1

    NASREEN MOHAMEDI (1937-1990)


    Price Realised  


    NASREEN MOHAMEDI (1937-1990)
    photographic prints on paper
    7 7/8 x 11¾ in. (20 x 29.8 cm.) image; 9 3/8 x 12 in. (23.8 x 30.5 cm.) image; 9 3/8 x 12 in. (23.8 x 30.5 cm.) each sheet
    Executed circa 1965, printed 2000; number two from an edition of two (each)

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    Much like her jottings and diary entries, Nasreen Mohamedi’s photographic practice, which spanned most of her career from the early 1960s onwards, was a largely private pursuit. As Susette Min notes, these photographic prints, which were not exhibited during the artist’s lifetime, can perhaps be read as “personal notebooks that one can turn to for insight into her motivations and cite as evidence of the sustained way in which she looked at the world through an abstract system or structural order of lines, shapes, light, shade, textures and patterns.” (S. Min, ‘Fugitive Time: Nasreen Mohamedi’s Drawings and Photographs’, Nasreen Mohamedi, Lines Among Lines, London, 2005, p. 22)

    Several of her early photographs like this pair, posthumously printed by her family after her untimely death in 1990, were shot in barren desert locations in Bahrain, Kuwait and India. This particular pair is likely associated with the trip Mohamedi took to Rajasthan in the mid-1960s, to assist fellow artist Maqbool Fida Husain as the still photographer on his film project, Through the Eyes of a Painter. Together, these closely-cropped images reveal the way in which the artist manipulated framing and lighting in her photographic work to tease out the nuances of each image. Rather than serving a documentary purpose, these works extended Mohamedi’s close examination of the natural and the man-made and her distillation and documentation of their basic essence. “The photographs, neither representational nor abstract, are sited in simple encounters of the tangible, pared down to light and dark, seeming to reveal universal truths beyond the logical. Intensely personal, and as controlled as the gaze of the artist, they reach outside the self, to perceive and connect.” (Nasreen Mohamedi, Becoming One, Talwar Gallery website, accessed April 2016)

    Currently, a comprehensive retrospective of the artist’s work is on view at The Metropolitan Museum in New York. This exhibition, which inaugurated the venerable institution’s newest outpost, the Met Breuer, is Mohamedi’s first museum retrospective in the United States, having travelled from the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, and the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi. Speaking about the international significance of Mohamedi’s oeuvre, Sheena Wagstaff, chairman of the museum’s Department of Modern and Contemporary Art noted, “The poignant story of Mohamedi, a relatively little-known but significant artist, reveals a highly individual artistic quest, drawing on historic sources from across the world, alongside her evocative photography as an unexpected form of visual note-taking.” (S. Wagstaff, ‘Nasreen Mohamedi’, Metropolitan Museum website, accessed April 2016)

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    Acquired from the artist's family, circa early 2000

    Pre-Lot Text

    The Pursuit of Photography

    Silence, silence inward a further stillness
    Moving sounds, shadows penetrating
    On the outer skin
    Moving and whirling
    A whirlwind of no consequence
    Grains of sand which sparkle with the sun
    Darkest shadows of the moon
    Lifting a white sheet
    All a process of decay and birth
    To see a shadow in a dark, dark room
    Fingers to reach a destination
    Clutching liquids
    A cold fire