Time stands still at Raza’s Tapovan
Christie’s unveils a preview of Indian masters before NY auction
What went on in the heads of the masters before they developed their individual grammar and style? What was the mad tousle of ideas playing on? Well the Christie’s preview of South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art showcased some rare early works of auction favourites and some who were gradually climbing up the stakes.
The auction will be taking place in New York in March but a preview coincided with the India Art Fair to enhance our image as a South Asian hub of creativity, according to Nishad Avari, Specialist and Head of Sales. “We expect all of these to be picked up as more names from India find their niche,” he told us.
The sale includes over 70 lots and is expected to realise in excess of $10 million featuring modern masterpieces by celebrated artists Syed Haider Raza, Tyeb Mehta and Vasudeo S.Gaitonde alongside works by contemporary artists.
Leading the sale is a masterpiece by Syed Haider Raza, Tapovan, painted in 1972 (estimate on request).
This largescale canvas is one of the most significant works in the artist’s oeuvre. It belongs to a key period in Raza’s career when he began to integrate vital elements of his cultural heritage into his paintings.
Tapovan, meaning forest of meditation, is a triumph of Raza’s mastery of landscape, his expressionistic use of colour and his spiritual and symbolic engagement with nature.
The painting invokes a deep sense of the nature and the night by fusing abstract, symbolic forms into a powerful and mystic expression of the mood and atmosphere of the Indian nightscape.
Rooted in Raza’s childhood memories of growing up in small and densely forested villages, the painting is an evocative expression of the rich and strong sensory life inherent in the deep, pervasive darkness of the Indian night and foreshadows his later geometric abstractions.
Another highlight is Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, Untitled, painted in 1980 (estimate: $2,200,000 – 2,800,000). A testament to his technique, this painting showcases Gaitonde’s scrupulous manipulation and mixture of different opacities of paint on canvas, exemplifying his skill at multi-layered paintings, filled with complexity,
straddling the duality between density and weightlessness, between form and formlessness, producing tension between the translucent surface and almost primordial background.
Also featured is Tyeb Mehta, Two Figures, painted in 1994 (estimate: $1,200,000 – 1,800,000). Here the artist perfectly balances the interplay between figure, gesture, colour, space and structure. This serves as a wonderful transition between Mehta’s diagonal works and his later variations on the theme of the Mother Goddess. Depicting a fragmented body, Two Figures gradually reveals different layers of inspiration and obsession, charting the trajectory of the artist’s iconography and imagery.
The accomplished style and serenity of line evident in this painting testify to Mehta’s lifelong artistic journey.
“It has been extremely exciting to see the auction come together to include significant works by the top artists in the field. Raza’s seminal Tapovan is a work at the apex of his artistic career; Gaitonde’s Untitled of 1980 superbly demonstrates the artist’s richly layered surfaces; and Mehta’s Two Figures is a significant example of the artist’s iconography and imagery.
The sale also presents a comprehensive selection spanning modern masters interspersed with an excellent selection of works by contemporary artists,” added Avari.
The auction additionally includes important works by Maqbool Fida Husain, F N Souza, Akbar Padamsee, Jehangir Sabavala, Bhupen Khakhar and Gaganendranath Tagore, along with a well curated selection of contemporary works by artists such as Subodh Gupta and Ranjani Shettar, both of whom have exhibitions opening at international museums in 2018. All works included in the sale will be on view at Christie’s New York beginning March 16.
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