Christie’s sale of South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art, taking place on 18 March, will feature works of leading 20th and 21st century artists from India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. The sale will offer an array of Modernist masterpieces by Syed Haider Raza, Tyeb Mehta, Maqbool Fida Husain, and George Keyt alongside the biggest names in South Asian contemporary art, including Bharti Kher, Subodh Gupta, Rashid Rana, Jitish Kallat, and Rina Banerjee. The sale also includes a special feature on modern and contemporary sculpture.
Leading the sale is Syed Haider Raza’s La Terre, or the Earth, of 1973(estimate on request). This tour de force belongs to a key period in Raza’s career and exhibits his mastery of landscape, expressionistic use of color, and his spiritual and symbolic engagement with the notion of creation, the bindu. The earth is conceived in burnt siennas, ochres, and browns, expressed through lines and diagonals that generate the forces that control the sacred order of the universe. La Terre is thus an amalgamation of the numerous themes Raza embarked upon throughout his career. Within the artist’s oeuvre there are very few works of this monumental size and caliber. La Terre, 1973, is a testament to Raza’s great intellectual capacity and artistic virtuosity.
Tyeb Mehta’s Untitled (Bull) (estimate: $2,000,000-3,000,000) will also be offered in the sale. Painted in 2000, this painting of a falling, flailing bull with its marble tones appears almost sculptural, and uses an icon he systematically revisited and reinvigorated. The bull had held a fascination for Mehta, and became an emblem for his artistic and philosophical expression. This painting serves as the apotheosis of Mehta’s vision on the human condition, in its symbolic use of the tumbling trussed beast. Painted at the threshold of the new millennium, in 2000, this monumental work is one of the largest paintings from the artist’s oeuvre, the size of which underscores the significance of the bull in his artistic language. Partially anthropomorphized, this bull, ordinarily associated with immense masculinity and strength, is depicted by Mehta as victimized by circumstance, fate, and damnation. The subject, Bull, can be seen as a visual epitaph of the artist’s quest to express the grandest of ideas about existence and life’s struggles.
Leading the contemporary group is Subodh Gupta’s “Spill” (estimate: $300,000-500,000), depicting the stainless steel vessel, an iconic emblem of Gupta’s artistic vocabulary. Always finding tension and irony in the mundane, the artist regularly employs the stainless steel bucket and cooking implements in both his paintings and sculptures. In Spill, Gupta has magnified the pedestrian milk bucket as it spills over in excess with more utensils. Focusing on containing the minutiae of culture and tradition within the pristine and protective walls of stainless steel, Gupta’s vessel becomes an overt icon of Indian vision.