Huma Bhabha (b. 1962)
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Huma Bhabha (b. 1962)

The Orientalist

Huma Bhabha (b. 1962)
The Orientalist
70 x 41 x 33in. (177.8 x 104.1 x 83.8cm.)
Executed in 2007, this work is number one from an edition of three plus two artist's proofs
Salon 94, New York.
Acquired from the above in 2007.
Huma Bhabha: Sculptures, exh. cat., New York, Salon 94, 2007 (another from the edition exhibited, illustrated in colour, p. 127).
Shape of Things to Come: New Sculpture, London 2009 (installation view illustrated in colour, p. 147-148; detail illustrated in colour, p. 149).
E. Booth-Clibborn (ed.), The History of the Saatchi Gallery, London 2011 (installation view illustrated in colour, p. 784).
London, Saatchi Gallery, The Empire Strikes Back: Indian Art Today, 2010.
New York, City Hall Park, Statuesque, 2010 (another from the edition exhibited).
Lille, lille3000, La Route de la Soie, 2010-2011 (illustrated in colour, p. 73).
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Please note this work is number one from an edition of three plus two artist's proofs.

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Lot Essay

The Orientalist by Huma Bhabha is a work that instantly conveys compelling ideas of exoticism, power and otherness. Cast in bronze in 2007, Bhabha's figure is theatrically enthroned and poses as an ominous figure of authority. Simultaneously primitive and futuristic, it sits as an imposing relic from a fictional history. A regal air emanates from its polished geometric armour, molten death mask and large lumbering feet. Influenced by Egyptian and Indian antique art as well as horror and science fiction, The Orientalist dramatically recalls the iconography of imperialism.

While recalling the iconographic representation of an Egyptian Pharoah, ambiguity undeniably resonates within the work. Here, the viewer is confronted with a body that is under duress through its exaggerated and grotesque anatomy. Bhabha presents an isolated, mutant figure on what appears to be part-throne, part-electric chair. Portrayed with skeletal abjectness, the artist questions the purpose of commemoration and the legitimacy of heritage - making the work an anti-heroic monument to human frailty.

Born in Karachi, Pakistan, Bhabha's work is often underlined by a gritty humour and raw brutalism that challenges the fallacy of ambition and remembrance. The 'unfinished' appearance of the sculpture made apparent through the weathered bronze patina both exposes the artist's process of making and the materiality of the construction. The result is a work that is as powerful as it is cryptic. The dejected and archaic form in The Orientalist ultimately evokes notions of a lost utopia that mirrors a haunting sense of contemporary anxiety.


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