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India’s iconic masters and contemporary artists in spotlight
Followed by the significant Amaya Collection sale, its first ever Indian art’s Evening Auction, Sotheby’s has now sourced a very impressive line-up of works - many of them fresh to the art market and also with great provenances - for its upcoming Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art auction in London.

The event to be held on 11th June will include two magnificent artworks by late Maqbool Fida Husain (1913-2011), offered at any auction for the first time in the centenary year of his birth – one of them from a former Indian Ambassador’s collection. His 1961 oil on canvas work ‘Jhoola’ (price estimate: £220,000-250,000), acquired directly from the legendary artist during the 1960s, is a perfect example of his unique blend of post-Impressionist and post-Independence painting. The auction includes exciting works by the likes of late Bhupen Khakhar, Jehangir Sabavala and senior master Krishen Khanna apart from significant works by top contemporary artists like Jitish Kallat - a lightbox installation (piece estimate: £80,000-120,000). It comprises a series of images of rotis, eaten away to imitate the different phases of the moon. This alludes to both the earning of daily bread and the fast of Ramadan, the conclusion of which relies upon the sighting of the new moon.

The contemporary section includes an exceptional diptych by Thukral and Tagra among others. Further highlighting the works on offer, a press release reveals, “Indian Sculpture in the modern era is honored through the iconic works of Chintamoni Kar, Prodosh Das Gupta and Sarbari Roy Choudhury. These artists explored the ideals of ‘Modernism’ in their works by experimenting with unconventional material and using the rural landscape and the tribal regions as inspiration. “Highlights from the modern section include a stunning work by Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, titled ‘Painting No.1’, and an Untitled canvas by SH Raza, painted just before his venture into Bindu series. In addition, there is an outstanding work by Francis Newton Souza (Christ on Palm Sunday), a moving and emotional Pieta by Krishen Khanna from 1978.”

Done in 1972, Khakhar’s 'Air, Steam and Speed' (price estimate: £100,000-150,000), makes its appearance on the market for the first time in over 30 years from an English collection. Sabavala’s Untitled of 1977 is coming to auction for the first time (price estimate of £100,000-150,000). His oeuvre is unique amongst Indian artists practicing during the Modernist era. The sky and sea dominate the subject matter of his canvases from this period.

Simultaneously, at Christie's auction house (London) some of the most cutting edge and dynamic contemporary artists drawn from across the Asian subcontinent will witness their exquisite artworks being part a major sale along with those of the several renowned modern masters. It’s led by VS Gaitonde’s untitled work, also among the largest canvases ever by him to be presented at any auction, dating from the period of mid-1960s. The piece is from this recognized as the celebrated yet reclusive artist's peak artistic phase. From a credible collection, and on offer just a year before a show of art by the Indian artist at New York’s Guggenheim Museum, it’s estimated in the range of £500,000-700,000. ‘Rome’ by Francis Newton Souza (estimated at £40,000-60,000) acquired from Gallery One is also the one to watch out for. The sale includes a vast selection of pieces by MF Husain. An apt tribute to mark the centenary of the late artist’s birth, the showcase belongs to the key periods of his oeuvre. His ‘Ganga Jamuna’ (1971) from the Bhownagary Family Collection is estimated in the rage of £400,000-600,000. Jehangir 'Jean' Bhownagary, incidentally, was the government's film advisor-producer of 'Through the Eyes of a Painter', the artist's award-winning film in 1967.

Throwing spotlight on other talented artists, whose works feature in the event, a press release states: ‘Generations of Indians have grown up on the comic-book images of the Amar Chitra Katha and the New York-based artist Chitra Ganesh has created a complete series, in an edition of five, based on these stories which take mythological scenes from Indian legend as their inspiration. These witty, highly colored, pop-art images are estimated at £8,000-12,000 (for all 21 works). A pair of photographs by Yamini Nayar is typical of her work which documents the miniature installations built in her studio from raw and found materials, (estimate: £2,500-3,500 sold as a pair). A rare example of photography by renowned artist Subodh Gupta captures a crowded train station- a quintessential element of Indian culture (estimate: £2,000-3,000).”

Gupta’s iconic airport trollies (estimate: £70,000-90,000) will also feature alongside works by acclaimed contemporary Indian artists including Jitish Kallat (‘Rickshawpolis’; estimate: £60,000-90,000), and Ravinder Reddy (‘golded head of a woman’; estimate: £25,000-35,000). The scope of this sale, which forms part of Christie's 'Indian Art Week' in London aimed at building on its success of New York sales held in March 2013, makes it one of the major events involving South Asian Modern & Contemporary Art in recent times. Works by George Keyt, the Sri Lankan modern master, are considered among the outstanding pieces by him. These include ‘Gopika Vastra Paharana’ (estimate: £40,000-60,000) and ‘Courtship’ (£25,000-35,000). This well documented selection is on offer for sale courtesy Rene Margies and Matthias Servais, the European collectors, among Keyt’s close friends.

What makes both events memorable and important ones is the diversity of works executed by some of India’s iconic masters and contemporary artists who have attained international acclaim for their versatility.