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South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art
The Art of Nandalal Bose, Abanindranath Tagore and Rabindranath Tagore: The Supratik Bose Collection

Christie's New York

September 17, 2013

Sale No: 2723

"Without Fear" by Tagore

Lot 24, "Where the mind is without fear," by Rabindranath Tagore, ink on paper, executed circa 1910, from The Art of Nandalal Bose, Abanindranath Tagore and Rabindranath Tagore: The Collection of Supratik Bose, Courtesy Christie's Images

Triptych by Bharti Kher

Lot 171,  "Landscape," by Bharti Kher, bindis on painted board; triptych, each executed in 2007; Photo Carter B. Horsley

By Michele Leight

A delicate composition entitled "Where the Mind Is Without Fear" by India's beloved poet, artist and Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, and a monumental bindi "Landscape" by Bharti Kher, both illustrated at the top of this review, set the stage for a diverse selection of works of art at Christie's "South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art" and "The Art of Nandalal Bose, Abindranath Tagore and Rabindranath Tagore: The Supratik Bose Collection" sales during Asia Week in New York. Other highlights of the sale included Syed Haider Raza's "Italian Village," painted in 1953, two beautiful canvases by Vasudeio Gaitonde's - "Untitled," circa 1973 in turquoise hues and vibrant "Untitled" circa 1960  - and two compelling oils by Francis Newton Souza, "Pieta," and  "St. Sebastian." A luscious, unusual, landscape by MF Husain, "Wasteland," painted in 1963, featured heavily impastoed swathes of pigment reminiscent of Vincent Van Gogh, illustrated in this review, as are most of the referenced works of art).

Detail of Lot 171

Detail, "Landscape," by Bharti Kher; Photo Michele Leight

Bharti Kher's constellation "bindi" tryptich is a wonderful piece, evoking oceans, or tiny islands viewed from space, depending on what the viewer "reads" into it, Christie's catalogue for this sale offers its own take on this organic piece:

"Bindis swirl together to form an extraordinarily texutred surface resembling satellite images of the sea. Kher's bindis, like schools of fish, move in sync throughout the vast ocean mimicking the constant flux and migration paterns of today's modern world. Fusing this sense of symbolism, history and metaphor with an understanding of the tradition of abstract art, Kher's raidant and colorful painting is a fascinating work of great beauty reflective of the changing world."

Lot 171, "Landscape," has an estimate of $300,000 to 500,000. It sold for $339,750.

Souza  and Raza

Left: Lot 180, "Untitled (St. Sebastian)," by Francis Newton Souza, circa 1955, oil on board, painted circa 1955; right: Lot 110, "Italian Village," by Syed Haider Raza, 1953, oil on board, 39 1/2 by 47 1/2 inches

"Syed Haider Raza, Francis Newton Souza and Akbar Padamsee had a show at Galerie Raymond Creuze in Paris in 1953. For all three this was a crucial and very fomative time. Immersed in the international avant-garde it was their chance to bring their own influences from India to the West but more importantly to determine the direction of Indian Modern Painting. However, this period was not without its challenges especially for the artists who were attempting to establish their identity in the larger art scene. Souza recollects, 'Indian arsts Ram Kumar, Raza, Akbar Padamsee and Laxman Pai were also in Paris at that time. All of us hoped for a cookie from the 'School of Paris,' and a slice of the cake of  'Modern Art,' but the cookie had crumbled and the cake was devoured by then. We did not think we were uninvited guests because those who partook of the 'School of Paris' and baked the 'Modern Art' cake came from different nationalities...And 'Modern Ar itself was an amalgam of Japanese, African, Persian and other influences. So what the hell, we said, we'll tuck in as well. But when Raza, Padamsee and I had our first group show, the art dealer put Trois Hindou peintres on the invitation card. Raza, who was the only one between us who understood French, told the dealer that none of us was really Hindu. So the word was changed to Indian. But when the cards were mailed, the American Embassy telephoned the gallery and angrily asked 'How the hell did these Indians get out of the Reservations?' It is a fact upon my word. Raza and Padamsee are witnesses. So much for our hopes of getting into the 'Modern Art Scene.'" (F.N. Souza, 'What Is Modern or Contemporary or Tribal or Provincial about our Art?' The Times of India, 31 October, 1982, sections 1-11, Christie's catalogue for this sale)

Lot 180, "Untitled, (St. Sebastian)," by FN Souza sold for $255,750 (estimate $220,000 to $280,000) Lot 110, "Italian Village," by Syed Haider Raza sold for $723,750, the top selling lot of the sale (estimate $550,000 to $750,000). Another work by FN Souza, Lot 131, "Pieta," sold for $327,750 ( estimate $250,000 to $350,000), reflecting strong prices for India's most coveted modern artists.

Souza and Raza

Left: Lot 128, "Untitled," by Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, 1973, oil on canvas, 60 by 39 1/4 inches; right: Lot 124, "Untitled," by Syed Haider Raza, 1985, acrylic on canvas, 39 1/2 by 39 1/2 inches; Photo Michele Leight

Detail of Lot 128 by Gaitonde

Detail of Lot 128, "Untitled," by Vasudeio Gaitonde

The text for Lot 128, "Untitled," by Vasudeio Gaitonde, in Christie's catalogue for this sale, includes the following:

"The artist refers to his work as [...] a play of light and color [...] Every painting has a seed which germinates in the next painting. A painting is not limited to one canvas, I go on adding an element and that's how it evolves [...] There is a kind of metamorphosis in every canvas and the metamorphosis never ends." (M. Menezes, "The Meditative Brushstroke" Art India, vol. 3, issue 3, July - September 1998, p. 69)

Lot 128, "Untitled," By Gaitonde sold for $507,750 (with an estimate of $400,000 to $600,000).

Lot 126 by Gaitonde

Lot 126, "Untitled," by Vasudeio Gaitonde, painted in 1960, oil on canvas, 30 1/2 by 38 1/8 inches

Lot 126, "Untitled," by Vasudeio Gaitonde, illustrated above, was painted in 1960. It is a beautiful, optimistic, saturated oil on canvas that evokes the sights, sounds and colors of India. It sold for $315,750, well past its pre-sale estimate of $180,000 to $250,000.

Landscape by Raza

Lot 170, "Untitled (Landscape)," by Syed Haider Raza, 1962, oil on board, 37 3/4 by 80 3/4 inches

 Lot 170, "Untitled (Landscape)," by Syed Haider Raza, a colorful oil on board painted in 1962 sold for $387,750 (estimate $300,000 to $500,000)
, and Lot 127, "Jour Liesse," sold for  $267,750 (estimate $200,000 to $300,000)

"Rajasthani women" by Husain

Lot 129, "Rajasthani Women," by Maqbool Fida Husain, circa early 1960s, oil on canvas, 38 by 38 inches

Unlike Gaitonde, who painted sparingly, meticlously, it is mind-blowing how prolific MF Husain was, and how sophistcated his compositions could be, evidenced by the two stunning paintings illustrated here.  Lot 129, "Rajasthani Women," and Lot 157,  "Wasteland" were both painted in the 1960s, one in muted tones, the other is full-bore yellow and earth tones that captures India's extraordinary light and landscape. It is unusual to see a landscape by Husain without figures - of women - or horses. Lot 129 has an estimate of $60,000 to $80,000. It sold for $50,000.

"Wasteland" by Husain

Lot 157, "Wasteland," by Maqbool Fida Husain, 1963, oil on board, 48 by 24 inches; Photo Carter B. Horsley

Detail of Lot 157 "Wasteland"

Detail of Lot 157, "Wasteland," by Maqbool Fida Husain; Photo by Michele Leight

In a detail from "Wasteland," illustrated above, the rigorously impastoed surface evokes Van Gogh , especially his fields of sunflowers:

"In this unique abstract painting, Husain combines canvas and wood panel as a substrate reflecting the dry and harsh texture of the desert. ' These rare abstract experiments by Husain were in part an answer to his then citics who were prepared to consign him to history for not keeping up with the avant-garde movements of the time. In spirit, they are closest to the works of S. H. Raza, who was attempting to capture in abstraction his childhood memories of the central Indian plains. While Raza continued to become (and remain) an abstract painter, Husain soon reverted to his interest in the human figure [A. Jhaveri and R. Dean, M.F.Husain: Early Masterpieces 1950s - 70s, London, 2006, unpaginated)

Lot 157, "Wasteland," has an estimate of $120,000 to $180,000. It sold for $147,750.

The Three Graces by Sadequain

Lot 134, "Untitled (The Three Graces), by Sadequain, 1982, oil pastel scraped on hardboard 48 1/2 by 96 1/4 inches

"One of Pakistan's most celebrated artists, Sadequain came from a family of calligraphers. Describing himself primarily as a figurative painter who infused his works with allegorical significance, Sadequain was considered the epitome of the Romantic bohemian. Well versed in the Indo-Persian literature of Ghalib, Faiz and Iqbal along with the syncretic histories of Hellenistic Greece, Rome and Pakistan the arist often included mythology and poetry in his paintings." (Christie's catalogue for this sale)

The heavily cross-hatched surface is as compelling as the composition. The three progagonists bearing food and drink may have been inspired from exotic, Pre-Raphaelite maidens, or Greek goddesses, or perhaps those wonderful, generic, mythological heroines that are part of every culture:

"In this painting, Sadequain utilizes an idiosyncratic version of the Muslim tughra or calligraphic signature, together with his interpretation of the European avant-garde art. Rendered in his distinc narrative style, the painting refers to the greek goddeses of beauty, mirth and elegance." (Christie's catalogue for this sale)

Lot 134 has an estimate of $70,000 to $90,000. It sold for $87,500.

"Dumbai to Mumbai" by Gupta

Front: Lot 172,  "Dubai to Mumbai (Vehicle for Seven Seas)," by Subodh Gupta, 2003, cast aluminium and bronze, 35 5/8 by 35 3/8 inches

Lot 172, Dubai to Mumbai (Vehicle for Seven Seas)," by Subodh Gupta, illustrated above, captures the necessity and the pathos of people forced to leave their homes in search of work. The migrant worker in India is often identified by luggage like this, but each nation has its migrant workers, and their distinctive luggage. Airports, train stations, docks and borders are the common denominator in their mass migrations. Subodh Gupta was born and raised in Bihar, a state with a disproportionate number of migrant workers, because of poverty and therefore a shortage of jobs:

"Consisting of a series of aluminium and bronze cast replicas of airport trolleys and the kind of luggage Indian migrant workers bring back to India, symbolizing the materialistic fruit of their labor. From an early age, he (Subodh Gupta) witnessed the quiet tragedy of the migrant worker's journey to and from their homeland in search of prosperity. ' It is not the train, it is not the ship that it our enemy, but rather the money that compels our husbands to migrate to other lands.'" (Lament from the Bihari folk musical Bidsia, The Migrant, as cited in Subodh Gupta: Gandhi's Three Monkeys, exhibition catalogue, New York, 2008, p. 101" (Christies catalogue for this sale)

Lot 172 has an estimate of $70,000 to $90,000. It sold for $87,500.

South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art Achieved $5,096,125.

Deepanjana Klein, Head of Sale, South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art, New York commented: “The South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art sale realized solid results for Progressive Artists’ Group masters such as Syed Haider Raza and Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, as well as the contemporary artist Bharti Kher.  The market also recognized Sri Lanka’s most celebrated 20th century artist George Keyt, alongside fellow ’43 Group artists Ivan Peries and George Claessen, whose painting of Le Sourie achieved a world auction record of $27,500.  A world auction record was also set for Mohammad Kibria’s Untitled.”

"The Art of Nandalal Bose, Abanindranath Tagore and Rabindranath Tagore: The Supratik Bose Collection"


Lot 1, Bull Fighter," by Nandalal Bose, signed in Bengali and bearing the personal seal of the artist; further bearing Visvabharati Kalabhavan and artist labels, 'Original Painting of Nandalal Bose Santiniketan, Birbhum West Bengal, India, 1937 Bull Fighter' (on the reverse), tempera on paper, 25 by 23 1/2 inches; executed in 1937; Commissioned by Mohandas K. Gandhi for the Indian National Congress Party meeting 1938, Haripura

Christies catalogue for the sale, "The Art of Nandalal Bose, Abanindranath Tagore and Rabindranath Tagore: The Supratik Bose Collection" includes a wonderful photograph (that can be viewed in its e catalogue online) of Rabindranath Tagore with the painter Nandalal Bose and other art students at Santineketan,the art school founded by Tagore in Bengal, and an essay "Immortal, Without Fear" and interview with Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen. Excerpts are included below. Illustrated above is Lot 1, "Bull Fighter," by Nandalal Bose, commissioned by Mohandas Gandhi for the Indian National Congress Pary meeting in Haripura in 1938, with as estimate of $ 30,000 to $50,000. It sold for $147,750, well above its high estimate:


"When Indian economist Amartya Sen was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1998, he chose lines from a poem by the beloved Rabindranath Tagore to open his dinner speech. He wasn't the first to have done so. Fifeen years earlier, the Indian physicist, Subramanyan Chandrasekhar, quoted the same poem, perhaps best known in Modern In

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls […]
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

"For Sen, a professor of economics and philosophy at Harvard University, citing Tagore’s poem invoked a Nobel tradition that began with Tagore himself, the first non-European to win the prize. But it was also uniquely appropriate to his personal history. A friend of his mother’s, Tagore gave Sen his first name and founded the school where Sen spent his most formative years."

"Tagore died when Sen was a young child, but, as he notes below, he was fortunate to have other great teachers along the way, formally and informally — like the esteemed painter, Nandalal Bose, who was a neighbor and close friend of Sen’s family. Amid the divisive discourse driving much of Indian politics today, he notes below, the lessons of open-mindedness and global inclusivity taught by educators like Tagore and Bose are as instructive today as they were in his and his nation’s youth. Christie’s caught up with Sen by phone, who shared his thoughts about their legacy."

Caitanya and Haridas by Bose

Lot 16, "Untitled (Caitanya and Haridas)," by Nandalal Bose, watercolor on paper, 9 3/4 by 6 3/4 inches, circa 1940s


Lot 33, "Unitled (Siva-Simantini)," by Abindranath Tagore, watercolor and wash on card, excuted circa 1920s

You’ve written that Patha Bhavana, the school founded by Rabindranath Tagore, was where your educational attitudes were formed. In what sense?

Well, I think [it was] the basic idea behind the school — of having international knowledge and a global outlook be present in a big way, without undermining the valuable elements in national and local culture, civilization and intellectual traditions. And also the focus on reasoning, the focus on freedom, are important parts of the commitment that Tagore had, which I think I benefitted from." (Christies catalogue for this sale)

Record prices were achived for Abanindranath Tagore's (Lot 33), "Untitled (Siva-Simantini), illustrated above, a water color wash painted on card which sold for $555,750 (estimate $40,000 to $60,000), a world auction record for th artist, and Lot 24, Rabindranath Tagore's "Where the Mind Is Without Fear," an ink on paper, which sold for $363,750 (estimate $100,000 to $150,000), illustrated at the top of this review.

"The Art of Nandalal Bose, Abanindranath Tagore and Rabindranath Tagore: The Supratik Bose Collection" achieved $2,927,000.

Hugo Weihe, International Director of Asian Art and International Specialist Head, South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art Department, New York said:
"The sale of  The Art of Nandalal Bose, Abanindranath Tagore, and Rabindranath Tagore marked an incredible chapter for Indian modernism. We were gratified by the global attention this collection garnered, which resulted in a sell-through rate of 99% by value, with the remaining three lots selling immediately after the sale. We will always be deeply honored to have been entrusted by Supratik Bose to handle this extraordinary collection."

Supratik Bose said: "Well over four decades ago when I brought the collection from India very few in America knew about the art of Nandalal Bose, Abindranath Tagore, and Rabindranath Tagore. I am very pleased that after today's auction at Christie's they are far better known internationally."

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