ARTIANA – Highlights – Lot 10 – Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art – Online Auction – No Buyer’s Premium – 13-17 June 2019

Films had long been a part of M.F. Husain’s preoccupation as an artist and one of the main sources of material and inspiration for his works. His exposure to the cinema had started early in his career after getting his start in painting cinema hoardings. This has influenced his art in the same manner as his experiences with literature and mythology did. Even the technique of depicting different scenes and symbology or juxtaposing apparently unconnected or even contrary elements in a single frame can be attributed to this influence to some extent. 

The current lot titled ‘Mera Piya Ghar Aaya Ho Ramji’ was painted in 1996, based on scenes from the hit song ‘Mera Piya Ghar Aaya’ in the Bollywood film ‘Yaraana,’ released in 1995. The film starring actress Madhuri Dixit became popular for this hit song, which was inspired by a Punjabi song of the same title written by 18-century poet Baba Bulleh Shah. In this painting, Husain presumably depicts Madhuri and another woman dancing to the same song, while Lord Ganesha, patron of arts joins them.

Madhuri is one of Husain’s muses; his fascination with the actress started after watching her performance in the film, ‘Hum Aapke Hain Koun!’ (1994) which the artist watched for a total of 67 times. His fondness for Madhuri led him to create a series of painting based on her and her films, including the present lot. In 2000, Husain debuted ‘Gaja Gamini’ starring the actress which was intended as a tribute to womanhood and to Dixit herself.  

Husain’s gift of celebrating both the profound and the banal encompassed varied art forms including popular cinema. Aside from ‘Gaja Gamini’, Husain also directed the experimental film ‘Through the Eyes of a Painter’ (1967) and ‘Meenaxi: A Tale of Three Cities’ (2004). His obsession with cinema was palpable and continued until his death in 2011.

Auction Catalogue – South Asian Art – ‘Modern and Contemporary – 13-17 June 2019

ARTIANA – Highlights – Lot 40 – Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art – Online Auction – No Buyer’s Premium – 13-17 June 2019

Throughout his long artistic career, M.F. Husain exposed the moral dilemmas of his nation using imaginative structures and images steeped in awareness of art history. Part of this prolific journey was the exploration of themes and subjects reflecting on the changing society and cultural landscape.

From 1991 onwards, the narrative elements in Husain’s work became prominent. He started digressing from his old repertoire of symbols after recognizing that it was no longer adequate to express his artistic concerns as he became a citizen and artist of the world. Husain accommodated trends and turned his gaze towards the contemporary image-dominated scene of America.

Coming from a period of time when a lot of famous artists have indulged in acquiring muses from the world of cinema, like Marilyn Monroe, who became Andy Warhol’s muse and a global favorite to be featured in various forms and mediums of art. Husain made public his obsession with his muse, Bollywood star Madhuri Dixit, and created a string of works on her which was akin to what Andy Warhol did with the image of Marilyn Monroe. But more than the similarities and the perceived effect of bridging art and cinema, Husain also delved into Warhol’s depiction of celebrity culture. Warhol who is almost synonymous with American pop culture focused his artistic concerns to brands and products that were part of the mass consumerism phenomena. 

In Andy Warhol versus Marilyn Monroe (2005), Warhol’s figure was depicted in a dominant stance yet at the same time clinging on to the image of Marilyn Monroe fading into the background and out of the frame. Husain’s brilliant colors envelop the space with symbolic and expressive values, and his distinct human forms transform the narrative on the painting surface into an intimate experience fusing contemporary imagery and poetic use of allegory and metaphor which serves as the core of this work. His lines depict motion, energizing his pictorial space in a whopping 6 x 7.5 ft. canvas, part of a 21-part series titled “The Lost Continent” reflecting Husain’s thought about lost human values.

Husain made use of Andy Warhol’s fascination on Marilyn Monroe in his explorations on the relationships between consumer society, fame, and sensationalism. Reflecting on the multiple images of Marilyn Monroe done by the artist, he breathes life to an icon and at the same time made a poignant allegory against consumerism. Through Warhol’s lens and in turn the popular culture, he referred to a society in which individuals were seen as mere products rather than human beings.

Auction Catalogue – South Asian Art – ‘Modern and Contemporary – 13-17 June 2019

ARTIANA – Highlights – Lot 20 – Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art – Online Auction – No Buyer’s Premium – 13-17 June 2019

M.F. Husain (1915-2011)- Untitled – painted circa mid 1960s – 17 x 37.25 in. (43.2 x 94.9 cm.) – oil on canvas – Lot 20

M.F. Husain’s endless quest for his cultural roots and his open-minded willingness to absorb diverse influences has made him almost synonymous with modern Indian art. He began his career by painting billboards for feature films and making furniture designs and toys, to earn a living. When he took up painting as an art form, however, he returned time and again to themes of blended folk, tribal and mythological art to create vibrantly contemporary, living art forms. Husain’s paintings reflect his love of India and his knowledge of rural life. He depicted the icons of Indian culture, through the ages, seeking to capture the quintessence of his subject. 

He employed an impasto technique to create texture in the present lot. The faces are monumental, simplified in a modernist manner and depicted in a roughly-hewn way. “Husain’s men and women, outwardly simple and unsophisticated, are highly conscious beings. They are conscious of being channels through which life runs its course. Very often they are caught listening and intent upon that flood within them, tense because of what they hear, with eyes of solemn curiosity and a mantle of silence around them. Even in groups, sitting or standing together, these men and women are supremely solitary. They do not communicate with each other. They remain locked in binding compassion, in a unity of color and composition divided by a wondrously understanding line.” (S. S. Kapur, Husain, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi 1961, p. v.)

Auction Catalogue – South Asian Art – ‘Modern and Contemporary – 13-17 June 2019

ARTIANA – Highlights – Lot 35 – Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art – Online Auction – No Buyer’s Premium – 13-17 June 2019

One of India’s greatest modernists, Francis Newton Souza catapulted to fame in post-war London in the 1950s. The present lot, painted in 1955, belongs to this iconic period of the artist’s career expressing his feelings and anxieties of the postwar era and reflecting on his own personal anguish.

The subject matter of La Place Town Square, is rather traditional compared to Souza’s other works, it is a typical French town with rustic buildings and a well depicted in an earthy palette. With hints of cubism and thick dark outlines, the hallmark of his work in this period, the houses appeared boxy while the well in the forefront gives the picture a sense of depth. The barren tree with spines for leaves depicted alongside uninviting windowless houses creates an atmosphere that is desolate, cold and unwelcoming reflecting perhaps the initial reaction to his works when he arrived in London a few years before. Looming above the townscape is Souza’s signature rendering of the sky, brooding and stormy conveying a sense of gloom. 

“The graphic power of Souza’s lines produces simplified and bold images, while the thick oil paints applied liberally to the board or canvas, with swift strokes, give his work a sense of vitality and movement…Cityscapes, constructed from fragmented images and memories, are also important subjects and perhaps suggestive of Souza’s cosmopolitan life and frequent traveling.” (FN Souza: Icons of a Modern World, All Too Human, Tate London, 28 February – 27 August 2018, Exhibition Catalogue, p. 20)

Auction Catalogue – South Asian Art – ‘Modern and Contemporary – 13-17 June 2019

ARTIANA – Highlights – Lot 24 – Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art – Online Auction – No Buyer’s Premium – 13-17 June 2019

S.H. Raza is considered one of the best colorist of his time. He made use of western plastic techniques and combined it with an aesthetic that is truly Indian to come up with a visual language that truly was his own.

Sayed Haider Raza began to conceive and express nature and its elements in terms of geometric patterns and primary colors rooted from deep spiritual motif by the 1970s. Since then, the elements and symbols associated with ancient Indic iconography frequently appeared in his paintings.

In the present work, Raza depicts the ‘Kundalini’ which roughly translates to coiled one in Sanskrit. It is represented as a curled serpent and believed to be the primal force of energy both in the body and the universe. This principle is manifested in this painting by the snake-like coil of painted circles that intersperse and radiates outwards.

In the center is a white bindu enclosed by intertwined nagas, while black and red concentric rings radiate around it. These interlocking forms recall the opposing though balancing forces of yin and yang and reflect on the duality present in the universe –male and female, day and night, light and dark– that sustains the cosmic cycle of life. In the background, he used colors that constitute the visible world; white, red, blue, yellow, and black that also represents the fundamental elements of creation.

Note: This painting will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonne of the artist currently being prepared by A. Macklin.

Auction Catalogue – South Asian Art – ‘Modern and Contemporary’ – 13-17 June 2019

ARTIANA – Highlights – Lot 30 – Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art – Online Auction – No Buyer’s Premium – 13-17 June 2019

Leading ARTIANA’s upcoming South Asian sale is this exquisite work from M.F. Husain‘s Raj Series – ‘Kathak Dance Performance at the Maharaja Darbar’ painted in 1989 with impeccable provenance.

M.F. Husain – ‘Kathak Dance Performance at the Maharaja Darbar’ – 1989 – 40 x 60 in. (101 x 152.4 cm.) – acrylic on canvas – Lot 30

“In the mid-1980s, at the height of his celebrity as India’s most famous and flamboyant modernist and living artist, Maqbool Fida Husain cast his painterly eye back half a century and more, to a time when much of the subcontinent was still under British rule. This sharp – and surprising – (re)turn to India’s recent colonial past resulted in some among the most insightful, and also most playful, of works in different media to emerge from the brush of this prolific and imaginative artist.”1

With regards to his treatment of the British Raj subject, Husain simultaneously mimics two separate styles of British-Indian painting: formal portraiture using prominent imperial emblems and icons, and picturesque that exaggerated exotic elements.2 Husain satirized the confluence of cultures yet he does not historize his subjects; references to historical figures are intentionally oblique and were often fictionalized. 

In a large scale tableau, the Maharaja’s darbar is complexly marked with Husain’s iconography —the dancer and the musicians with their traditional instruments. The titular Maharaja holds court and sits comfortably on his home ground. Sitting beside him is the English governor who is stiffly dressed in a formal military suit, decorated and bearing the symbol of the crown; with him is his Lady seated a little to the back. Historically, a darbar refers to a ruler’s court and later to ceremonial gatherings characterized by pomp and glamor during the British colonial era. It signifies the ruling Maharaja’s demonstrations of loyalty to the crown. Instead of a dismissive attitude towards this practice of paying homage to the colonizer, Husain presented both English Lord and Maharaja side by side, in equal prominence. “His India has much authority and it forms a rather bemused backdrop for the historic mutual incomprehension that the Raj embodied, He situates his presentation of the drama of the colonizer and the colonized within a discourse of equivalence.”3 Interestingly, the tiger motif that is reminiscent of Tipu’s tiger is present. 

Aside from the principal subjects, the entire composition is almost devoid of colors. The kathak performer is the most colorful and dominating feature, highlighting Husain’s choice to portray India’s long artistic tradition as a continuum. Dance, particularly Indian classical dance, was heavily censored during the colonial period. The accumulation of Indian classical dancers into his pictorial tradition juxtaposed with the subject of the British Raj marked Husain’s interest in merging dance, visual art, and history by turning back to earlier indigenous forms of presenting the female body.

Husain’s work on the British Raj “provides both the political and ethical charge that runs through his works and it also distinguishes Husain’s attempts to laugh at the empire from other artistic attempts to do so that had preceded him. He really is the only major artist of his generation to deliver this message (offering) a playful but nonetheless edgy postcolonial lesson in how one might hate and disavow empire in the right way, even while learning how to live with it, mock it and laugh at it properly.”4

Text References: 
1 S. Ramaswamy, Husain’s Raj, Visions of Empire and Nation, Mumbai, 2016, p. 12
2 S. Bagchee, “Augmented Nationalism: The Nomadic Eye of Painter M.F. Husain”, Asianart Online, 1998, accessed April 2019
3 Ibid. 
4 S. Ramaswamy, Op. cit., p. 133,139

Auction Catalogue – South Asian Art – Modern and Contemporary – June 13-17, 2019

ARTIANA – Highlights – Lot 21 – Art Beyond Borders – African, Middle Eastern and Asian Art – Online Auction – No Buyer’s Premium

Sakti Burman is a figurative artist for the most part, but the association of his figures defies the general norms and logic of reality. Apart from his drawings, Sakti paints mostly in three mediums – oil, watercolor, and pastel. While his oils are generally jubilant and vibrant, his watercolors are somewhat restrained which can be attributed to his treatment of space. This technique which developed towards a synthesis of naturalness and the abstract helps him create a minimal yet surreal environment.

“In his watercolors, he transforms vacuity of the space into a divine light of the sky through the treatment of his figurative forms. The second characteristic of his watercolors is the use of texture especially his signature pointillist. But the transparency and subtlety of application of chromatic points bring out a different character in his watercolors. The smudgy display of minute chromatic points intermingling with very tiny yet crafty non-chromatic voids displayed by the whiteness of paper creates a wave that dilutes the naturalness or reality of the environment and transposes the characters in the pictorial field to a different conceptual environment and helps to bring down the divine on the earth and elevate the mundane towards a noble sensation. This nobility is the essence of his expression.” (Mrinal Ghosh, The Divine Desire: Paintings of Sakti Burman, Aakriti Art Gallery, Kolkata, 2015, pg.5)

Auction Catalogue – Art Beyond Borders – March 28 – 31, 2019

ARTIANA – Highlights – Lot 16 – Art Beyond Borders – African, Middle Eastern and Asian Art – Online Auction – No Buyer’s Premium

The paradoxes that exist in the relationship between man and nature lies at the heart of Manu Parekh’s Banaras. As a continuation of the artist’s fascination for the intriguing contradictions that lie within the holy city, issues of mortality and the temporal nature of all existence are referenced in his colorful landscapes. 

On his Banaras inspired paintings, Manu Parekh said, “I had always wanted to create a truly Indian landscape, and in Banaras I found the inspiration and the symbols to create one. A darker landscape, but with patches of brightness; fearful, crowded with uncertainties but full of faith. A landscape with both bright colors and solemnity; teeming with human energy yet with underlying quietude. I was painting, perhaps, the riddle of faith, by simultaneously depicting incompatible experiences.”

A common motif of his Banaras is the ubiquitous temples and shrines. The lights emanating from them provides Parekh the imagery and symbols to create dramatic compositions. To frame a slight change in the mood, he depicts Banaras in different lightings and seasons. Aptly titled, the current piece is Manu Parekh’s depiction of the Banaras landscape in the monsoon season.

Auction Catalogue – Art Beyond Borders – March 28 – 31, 2019

Indian artwork sales rise 21.6% in 2018, SH Raza tops charts with Tapovan

Published January 14, 2019 (moneycontrol.com), by Tasmayee Laha Roy

With the economic outlook for 2019 remaining tentative, the Indian art industry is certain to witness a strong amount of trading

Art works brought India a reason to cheer in 2018 as sales recorded a 21.6 percent rise. According to the Artery India Annual Market Report 2018, out of 1,559 works up for sale in 2018, 1469 fetched Rs 685 crore. In 2017, out of 1,902 Indian artworks that went up for sale across the world, only 1680 got sold clocking sales worth Rs 563 crore.

“2018 has been a strong year, with sales reviving following the previous year’s slump that was recorded in the wake of demonetisation. The turnover also benefited from the comparatively richer quality of work consigned for sale in auction. The private sales domain recorded major activity, with the highest volume of sales in the past four years,” said Arvind Vijaymohan, CEO at Artery India, an art intelligence firm.

The top artist of 2018, was modern artist SH Raza with 67 artworks of his being sold for Rs 98 crore in the year gone by. Raza’s most expensive artwork sale was done by Christie’s in New York. The acrylic on canvas called Tapovan was sold for Rs 29 crore.

Online drive

Interestingly, online sales brought in more money than offline sale in 2018. While the turnover from online sale of Indian artwork stood at Rs 339 crore that from offline sales was Rs 318 crore. A lot of online auction houses across the world gained from this new wave of online sales in 2018. Out of 716 works offered online, 657 were sold. On the other hand close to 97 per cent of the 843 Indian art work offered on sale offline were sold.

Dubai’s online Indian artwork selling platform Artiana is an example. ARTIANA’s total auction sales in 2018, for their two South Asian Art auctions crossed the USD 3.5 million mark.

“Continued growth and engagement of new clients from within UAE, and India, as well as other parts of the world, including many first-time buyers, were equal contributors to the overall sales. Highest prices were bid for paintings by M.F. Husain‘s Trinity of Mother Teresa ($320,000) and ‘Arjun and Sudarshan Chakra‘ (USD 300,000), works of other artists S.H. Raza and F.N. Souza performed well in the auction confirming the continued demand of modern Indian art,” said Lavesh Jagasia, managing director at Artiana.

2019 outlook 

“With the economic outlook for 2019 remaining tentative, the Indian art industry is certain to witness a strong amount of trading. In the scenario of the market slumping, there is certain to be a high level of distressed acquisitions, that will be conducted in the private sales channel. If the market holds, the surge in prices of the top 16 Modernists will continue its upward ascent, following after the charts from 2013 to current date,” added Vijaymohan.

ARTIANA – Highlights – Lot 35 – Classical, Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art – Online Auction – No Buyer’s Premium

Sayed Haider Raza – Srijan – 2007 – acrylic on canvas – 57.5 x 45 in. (146 x 114.3 cm.) – Lot 35

Srijan, prominent artist S.H. Raza’s seminal work will be up the auction block on December 6-10, 2018 in ARTIANA’s South Asian art sale. The artist, one of India’s best colorists, is best-known for works that are densely geometric; inviting viewers into deep meditation and contemplation. 

The focus of SH Raza’s art over the last decades has been to explore and represent the elements of nature, he used the language of symbols and saturated his canvases in geometric shapes and colors to produce powerful works that are contemplative and spiritual. Merging his background and training, he produced work both with deep Indian vision and French plastic mastery, enfolded in modernism yet with the deep resonance of the past. Raza repeatedly revisited his defining themes creating an extraordinary series of meditative and symbolic paintings.

In this piece, Srijan, which loosely translates to creation, Raza’s geometric vocabulary was apparent. Deeply immersed in ancient Indian cosmological symbolism, he celebrated the process of creation in an expansive interplay of visually disparate images sharing a collective narrative. The painting is divided into sections enclosing principle forms, each with strips of colors and variation of aligned triangles, with a black bindu in the upper center of the canvas. Just below that is a pair of bindu in red and blue representing male and female energies – close but not merging into each other. The colors, like most of his works, are remarkably vibrant with a concentration of red, orange, and earthy browns.

Supporting a central idea, Raza wields his unique visual language to reinforce the gestural idioms and philosophical aesthetics of his work. The painting seems to chronicle a story with the different patterned squares coming together to form the whole construct, with each fragment with its own metaphysical significance. The serpent-like painted circles of kundalini forming an unbroken continuity are the rejuvenation and the cyclical nature of life; the Bindu which is the primordial life-force, in turn, connects to germination which is conveyed with the use of triangular yonis; while the symbols of fire, water, earth, wind and sky embody elements that sustain life. The interconnectedness of the key components of the universe simplified in Raza’s canvas.

Auction Catalogue – South Asian Art ‘Classical, Modern and Contemporary’ – December 6-10, 2018