Christie’s sale of South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art, taking place on 20 March, will present a selection of exceptional works and iconic masterpieces by leading artists, such as Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, Maqbool Fida Husain, Tyeb Mehta, Jagdish Swaminathan and Syed Haider Raza, alongside contemporaries Subodh Gupta, Rina Banerjee, Atul Dodiya, Bharti Kher, Ravinder Reddy and the rising star from Bangladesh, Tayeba Begum Lipi. The sale will include Pakistani modernist Zahoor ul Akhlaq alongside Abdur Rahman Chughtai, and a group of contemporary artists from the region including, Rashid Rana, Imran Qureshi and Adeela Suleman. In addition, a collection of early works by Francis Newton Souza will highlight 50 years of Goa’s independence.
Having traveled to America and spent the year 1962-63 in Berkeley, Syed Haider Raza was not left untouched by the California sun and painted the monumental Village en Fête (estimate: $600,000-800,000) upon his return to the South of France. It is a seminal painting and the earliest of his large-scaled works that includes the top three world auction records: Saurashtra, 1983; La Terre, 1973 and La Terre, 1985. It expresses the joy of a village festival, the structures of houses and streets providing the pretext for an intricately structured canvas erupting in a burst of colors, not least a celebration of the vibrant hues of his homeland. The vibrant colors dance across the canvas and the painting sings; drums beat in the distance, the gleeful chatter of village women intermingle with the rustling of trees. Brilliantly executed, it marks a new high point in his oeuvre of an extraordinary order and scale.
Throughout his career, Maqbool Fida Husain painted several works that combined two of his favorite themes: music and the female form. This large untitled canvas of a divine female musician (estimate: $450,000 – 600,000) from the early 1970s demonstrates Husain’s extraordinary command of color and line in a large space, executed with enormous vitality, something that is naturally present from the very start of his career. Husain pays homage to classical Indian sculpture by representing the woman in the traditional tribhanga (three bends) pose.
Consisting of forty-five chrome plated aluminum casts of bamboo sticks, Subodh Gupta’s Magic Wands (estimate: $150,000-200,000) is an excellent example of Gupta’s knack for identifying common objects that reveal the flaws of oversimplifying the differences between the urban and rural, rich and poor, tradition and modernity, East and West. Serving as a social commentary on the urbanization of India over the last two decades, the combination of message and medium in Magic Wands is both playful and critical.
Reflective of Pakistan’s artistic tradition, celebrated minimalist artist Zahoor ul Akhlaq (estimate: $6,000 – 8,000) bridges the gap between modern and contemporary art of the region. During his tenure at the National College of Arts (NCA), Lahore, Akhlaq served as teacher and mentor to several generations of artists, including Rashid Rana, several of whose works will also be included in the sale. Recipient of the 2013 Deutsche Bank Artist of the Year award, Imran Qureshi, also a student and teacher at the NCA, challenges ideas about what can be considered contemporary art with his work, Moderate Enlightenment (estimate: $10,000 – 15,000).
South Asian art is the focus of various major international museums with exhibitions of works by Zarina currently on view at the Guggenheim Museum, New York through April. Rashid Rana’s mid-career retrospective recently opened at the Mohatta Palace, Karachi in February and Atul Dodiya’s first solo exhibition in the United States opened at the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati this month. Rina Banerjee, Subodh Gupta, Bharti Kher, Ravinder Reddy and Vivan Sundaram recently participated in the India: Art Now exhibition at the Arken Museum, Copenhagen.