By Michele Leight
Christie's Asia Week kicks
off with "South East Asian Modern and Contemporary Art, a
stunning collection of works by contemporary artists and sculptors,
including M.F. Husain, T.V. Santosh, Vasudeo Gaitonde, Jamini
Roy, Arpita Singh and Riyas Komu, among others. From Asia's past
are highly collectible Indian Miniatures, elegant Gandharan sculptures,
glowing gilt-bronzes, and Tibetan thankas.
Christie's galleries were packed
with Chinese, Japanese and Korean art, including a winsome collection
to be included in a sale entitled "For the Enjoyment of Scholars:
Selections from the Robert H. Blumenfield Collection," which
garnered enormous interest from prospective buyers, and was the
subject of a lecture entitled "Reflections of the Chinese
Scholar's World" by Rosemary Scott, International Academic
Director, Asian Art, Christie's. The Bengali artist Jamini Roy
is well represented at this sale with works like the elegant "Untitled
(Seated Woman)," (Lot 3, estimate $18,000 to $22,000, illustrated),
and two unusual works (not illustrated), formerly in the collection
of Ambassador Stanislas Ostrorog, Ambassador of France to India
and Nepal from 1951-60: Lot 8, "The Last Supper," (estimate
$20,000 to $25,000) and Lot 11, "Mother and Child,"
with an estimate of $25,000 to $35,000.
"The well edited sale
generated immense and competitive bidding for some of the finest
modern and contemporary works from India and South Asia, illustrating
the importance of quality and condition. It was fantastic to witness
so many new, as well as established clients in the room, on the
phones, and on Christie's LIVE making the atmosphere in the room
very energetic. This is a great start of the new season,"
declared Hugo Weihe, Christie's International Specialist Head
of South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art.
Of the 91 offered lots,
75 sold for $8,937,00.
Lot 30, "Sita Hanuman,"
is an oil on canvas by Maqbool Fida Husain (b. 1915). It measures
38 1/8 by 70 1/2 inches and was created in 1979. It has an estimate
of $600,000 to $800,000. It sold for $842,500.
Three impressive paintings
by Maqbool Fida Husain are illustrated here. Lot 17, "Untitled
(Lady with Lamp)," estimate $60,000 to $80,000, and Lot 38,
"Dhoban," (estimate $80,000 to $120,000), are sophisticated,
Cubist influenced works in luscious blue tones, while the magnificent
"Sita Hanuman" (Lot 30, estimate $600,000 to $800,000),
depicts Sita's rescue from Ravana by Hanuman, and one of the artists
favorite subjects - horses - in the earth tones of India. This
painting was executed at a particulary fertile time in the artists
career, following international recognition after his inclusion
in the Venice and Tokyo Biennales in the '50s, and exhibiting
alongside Picasso in the Sao Paolo Biennales of the'50s and '70s:
"Harry N. Abrams, an admirer of Husain's work, published
one of the first monographs on any modern Indian artist - a seminal
volume on Husain,"(Christie's catalog for this sale). Lot
38 sold for $254,000.
"Blue" dazzles again
in the masterful "Blue Abstract" by Vasudeo Gaitonde
(1924-2001) (Lot 18, estimate $250,000 to $350,000), influenced
by Abstract Expressionism, which was making an impact on the international
arts scene at the time this work was painted. "Less is more"
takes on a poetic quality under the brush of this superb artist,
inviting quiet contemplation. This is definitely a painting to
"live with," a prize for any collector. It sold for
Two paintings by Syed Hyder
Raza (b. 1920) were painted over thirty years apart, showing the
artist's progression towards the simplified forms of Abstract
Expressionism. Lot 40, "Gestation," with an estimate
of $600,000 to $800,000, is rendered in the baked earth and primary
colors of India, the circles and geometric forms invoking mandalas
and yantras. Lot 40 sold for $1,202,500. The fluid forms
of Lot 20, "Eglise Jaune," a jewel, estimate $70,000
to $90,000, bear little relationship to the now iconic, powerful
geometric canvases associated with the artist. Lot 20 sold
The sweet coloring of "The
Ritual, " by Arpita Singh (b. 1937)(Lot 72, estimate $150,000
to $250,000), belies the subject matter depicted - ritualistic
human sacrifice in primitive societies. Similarly, the decetively
poetic quality of "The Future is the Past is the Present,"
by Dhruvi Achraya (Lot 55, estimate $20,000 to $30,000), "embodies
the psychological and emotional aspects of an urbn woman's life
in a world teeming with discord, violence and pollution. "
(Artists Statement, www.dhruvi.com/statement, Christies catalog
for this sale). Skilfully incorporating comic book imagery, Indian
Miniatures and flat Japanese painting, this artwork depicts the
past, present and future of a contemporary woman's life, and the
roles and responsibilities she must juggle. Lots 55 and 72
failed to sell.
Elegaic and surreal, Lot 21,
(estimate $160,000 to $180,000), "Untitled (Bird, Tree and
Mountain Series), by Jagdish Swaminathan (1928-1994), exudes the
warmth, sunshine and mysticsm of India, while "evoking formal
facets seen in works by Paul Klee and Pahari miniatures."Christies
catalog for this sale). Lot 21 sold for $182,500. It is
illustrated here with Lot 28, "Male Nude," by Francis
Newton Souza (1924-2002), 1960, with an estimate of $100,000 to
$150,000. Lot 28 sold for $122,500.
"Untitled," by Manjit Bawa (1941-2008) (Lot 65, estimate
$120,000 to $180,000), depicting a modern Durga and her lion,
almost holds its own with T.V. Santosh's compelling contemporary
warriors, resigned to a global crisis, war, terrorism and violence,
we cannot be sure which, except that they are constant themes
in the artist's work. Lot 65 sold for $434,500. Lot 42,
"Untitled," by T. V. Santosh b. 1968), an oil on canvas
that measures 48 by 72 inches, has an estimate of $80,000 to $100,000.
Lot 42 sold for $92,500.
Lot 41, illustrated at the
top of this story, "A Theory of Antithesis," (2002),
also by T.V. Santosh, but a-typically monochromatic, was inspired
by the philosopher Hegel's "idea of history and progress."
The catalogue notes that the artist says "that the form of
historical movement, the process or progress, is the result of
conflicting opposites. This area of Hegel's thought has been broken
down in terms of the categories of thesis, antithesis and synthesis.
All things contained within themselves carry dialectical contradictions,
which are the primary cause of motion, change and development
in the world." Lot 41 has an estimate of . It sold for
The imposing head featured
here, "A highly important mottled red sandstone head of a
Jina," India, Mathura, Utta Pradesh, Gupta Period, mid-5th
Century, (Lot 167, estimate $250,000 to $350,000) is softened
by beautifully sculpted and textured red sandstone. It sold
The marvellous bronze, Lot
175, "A bronze figure of Bakakrishna," (estimate $150,000
to $250,000), with arm and leg raised, is a reminder of the nationwide
love of dance in India - although this might just be one of the
many Yoga stances that are also woven into the fabric of Indian
life, even in the 21st century. It failed to sell.
Lot 181, "An Ivory alterpiece
of Durga Mahishasuramadin," the superbly carved Durga shown
here, was "most likely presented by Mubarak Ali Khan II (r.
1810-1838), Nawab of Bengal, to King William VI (d. 1837),"
cites Christie's catalogue. Durga is the subject of several iconic
paintings by the deceased contemporary Indian artist Tyeb Mehta,
seen here in sculptural form on her lion in deadly combat with
her adversary, the Buffalo demon Mahisasura. A formidable goddess,
Durga is flanked by Lakshmi and Saraswati anchored on lotus bases,
and Ganesha and Skanda on their mounts. This incredible confluence
of good battling evil is mounted on a carved ivory table set against
an architectural backdrop inlaid with mirror. Framing the whole
like a halo is a beautiful arched frame carved in relief with
other deities. The reverse is incscribed "His Highness of
Bengal" and "Toolsee Ram Maker 1836", and includes
the labels "Art Treasures Exhibition 1857" and King
George V. Lot 181 has an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000. It
sold for $470,500!
"A Gray Schist Figure
of Maitreya," from Gandhara (Lot 144, estimate $50,000 to
$70,000), in long flowing robes, and "A Large Gray Schist
Figure of a Seated Maitreya," (Lot 147, estimate $80,000
to $100,000), with a vessel containing "the Exilir of Life,
are studies in tranqulity after the sturm and drang of the goddess
Durga. Lot 144 sold for $68,500. Lot 147 sold for $116,500.
Lot 262, "A large gilt
and ploychromed copper repousse plaque of Harihara" flanked
by two vibrant thankas has an estimate of $3,000 to $5,000. Harihara
has four arms, one holding a trident, another the chakra, while
both front arms hold the rosary and conch shell - an arsenal guaranteed
to banish evil. It sold for $4,750.
Not shown here is Lot 153,
(estimate $1,000 to $1,500), "A Terracotta Figure of Ganesha,"from
India, Gupta period, 5th century, 8 inches high, a beloved deity
that appears in many forms - on calendars and billboards, as statues,
or souvenirs - across India, as well as more imposingly in sumptuous
temples and ancient carvings weathered by centuries of heat and
dust. The lovable god is depicted seated on a throne with his
trunk dipping into a bowl of sweets. Generously proportioned with
a rotund belly, Ganesha clearly enjoys his food. It sold for
Indian miniatures are becoming
more and more appreciated by a wider audience, and the gorgeous
examples here offer insights why. Lot 205, "A folio from
the Bhagavata: The Wedding of Krishna and Rukmini," (estimate
$15,000 to $20,000), features a royal couple surrounded by attendants
on a beautiful vehanda open to the skies, with a garden in the
distance, with musicians are on hand to entertain.
Lot 202, (estimate $40,000
to $60,000), offers a more macho form of entertainment for a maharana
and his attendants - a buffalo fight in the courtyard below his
beautiful marble palace. Fellow buffalos and an elephant wait
patiently, like gladiators, for their turn to duke it out before
an enthralled audience. "A large painting of a Maharana entertained
by a water buffalo tournament" is unusually large for an
Indian Miniature, perhaps because there is so much to squeeze
into the composition. It failed to sell.
The pleasure intensifies in
Lot 186, "A painting from Harivamsa," (An Account of
the Dynasty of Hari - Vishnu - from the Mahabarata]), with Lord
Krishna centre stage in a yellow dhoti, and his companions cavorting
playfully with scantily clad women in the Jamuna River. Their
hastily removed clothing forms an abstract pattern of intense
colors on the riverbank. Lot 186 has an estimate of $50,000 to
$70,000. It sold for $56,250.
It would seem from Indian Miniatures
that royalty were either weilding jewel encrusted swords on the
battlefield, getting married, attending unbelievably opulent durbars,
or indulging themselves in a wide variety of pleasures, like the
hookah. Lot 184, estimate $10,000 $15,000, illustrated above,
shows the Nawab of Tonk seated on a Persian rug under an elegant
canopy, enjoying the quiet pleasures of huqqa. The setting is
nirvana, with comfortable cusions, fountains and flowers, open
to the skies dotted with non-threatening clouds. The good life.
It sold for $8,125.
After the sale Hugo Weihe
remarked that "heated bidding was seen in all categories"
and that the "sale reflects a reinvigorated interest in the
classical field with cross-over buying from new collectors including
interest from South Asia."