New York

New York – On September 17, Christie’s will present the Fall sale of South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art, which will offer over 95 exceptional works, with estimates ranging from $2,000 to $600,000 and many from private collections.  The sale will feature works by modern masters, including Syed Haider Raza, Tyeb Mehta, Francis Newton Souza, Akbar Padamsee, Maqbool Fida Husain, and Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, as well as an impressive selection of contemporary works from celebrated artists, such as Subodh Gupta, Bharti Kher, and Jitish Kallat.  The sale will also feature Sri Lanka’s most celebrated 20th century artist George Keyt alongside fellow ’43 Group artists George Claessen and Ivan Peries.

The cover lot of the sale is Raza’s Italian Village, painted in 1953, the largest work from the period to come to auction (lot 110, estimate: $550,000-750,000). This painting marked the pivotal moment when Raza would fully embrace the medium of oil painting and in doing so further his ambition in scale, technique and composition.  Italian Village transformed into an austere geometric landscape and epitomizes the influence of European art on Raza during the 1950s.

Additional highlights from Raza include Jour de Liesse, painted in 1963, a shift from an impressionistic brushstroke to a more fluid expressionism (lot 127, estimate: $200,000-300,000). This painting maintains strong Indian connotations in its palette with a composition influenced by the Rajasthani miniatures in the artist’s personal collection.  This highly textured work evokes the lush forests and landscapes that surround Raza’s home town in Madhya Pradesh.  La Terre, meaning the earth, articulates Raza’s attraction with nature, specifically the forests of Madhya Pradesh, his home town (lot 159, estimate: $350,000-500,000).   Raza who was in France at this time was physically dislocated from his homeland and so his landscapes provided a conduit of communication to home. These landscapes are emotive in their representations of place and allowed Raza to reconnect and communicate with his own origins and heritage.

The founder of the Progressive Artists Group, Francis Newton Souza was a creative genius whose artistic career spanned five decades and three continents. Characterized by his distinct powerful lines and bold, provocative compositions, his paintings are simultaneously imbued with a sense of raw energy and beauty. Pieta (lot 131, pictured page 3, below left, estimate: $250,000-350,000) is a powerful early work, painted in 1947, where the artist mixes elements of the Catholic imagery found in his birthplace with stylistic techniques of western modernism.

An untitled work by Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, a true master of the relationship between linear form, light, and color, will also be featured in the sale (lot 128, estimate: $400,000-600,000).  This painting from 1973 is rendered in restrained brooding blues and greens.  Another untitled painting by Gaitonde comes from Property of St. Lawrence University, New York (lot 126; estimate: $180,000-250,000).  Executed in 1960, this work exemplifies modernity with colorful abstracted forms that build and move in harmony conveying moods and thoughts similar to the beats in music and the steps of a dance sequence.  The bold expanses of color in this painting are unified similar to the reflection of light in nature.

An international giant of Modern art and arguably Sri Lanka’s most celebrated 20th century artist, George Keyt (1901-1993) painted Bhima and Jarasandha in 1943 (lot 141, estimate: $50,000-70,000).  This work was included in the inaugural ‘43 Group exhibition in Colombo, November 1943.  Despite his clear admiration for cubist and fauvist principles, his subject matter was almost always rooted in local tradition, depicting dancers, shepherdesses, and gods, often drawn from Hindu and Buddhist mythology.  Conveying an image both robust and vicious, he captures the last scene of the great fourteen-day battle, where Bhima takes Jarasandha by the feet and tears him apart.

A wide range of contemporary works are also present in the sale.  Bharti Kher’s Landscape from 2007 is made of bindis on painted board that form a large triptych resembling satellite images of the sea (lot 171, estimate: $300,000-500,000).  Kher began painting with bindis in 1995 after what she describes as a ‘supernova’ moment coming across a woman in India wearing a serpent shaped bindi on her forehead.  A powerful symbol of traditional India, the bindi is linked to spiritual awareness and Hindu religious traditions associated with marriage and a woman’s role in the four main stages of life.  For Kher, cultural significance is central to her art, and the bindi is a recurring motif throughout her work.

Subodh Gupta’s Vehicle for Seven Seas Seas is one in a series of works undertaken by the artist on the theme of migration and the return home (lot 172, estimate: $70,000-90,000).  Made in 2003 of aluminum and bronze-cast replicas of airport trolleys and luggage, the shiny cart is transformed into a monument of globalization and into a symbol of prosperity.  Also offered is an untitled work by Gupta, painted in 2005, depicting stainless steel pots, serving as a commentary on contemporary India (lot 195, estimate: $150,000-200,000).  Stainless steel utensils are symbols of the traditional Indian family life that transcends class, religion, and ethnicity, being one of the first truly aspirational objects of modern India.

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