Inside ARTIANA’s Upcoming South Asian Art Online Sale

Published June 4, 2019 (widewalls.ch) in Widewalls Editorial: Collector’s Tip

Lavesh Jagasia (founder of ARTIANA ) standing in front of M.F. Husain’s ‘Kathak Dance Performance at the Maharaja Darbar’ (1989)

If you are a Widewalls reader, by now you know that your go-to auction house when it comes to Modern and Contemporary South Asian art is ARTIANA. This young, yet relatable Dubai-based venture is now preparing yet another sale dedicated to the masters of the Indian subcontinent and their works in a splendid variety of media.

M.F. Husain – Mera Piya Ghar Aaya Ho Ramji, 1996. Acrylic on canvas, 32 x 43 in. (81.3 x 109.2 cm.)

Here we are talking about some of the biggest names of the region, including Maqbool Fida HusainSayed Haider RazaFrancis Newton Souza and the Progressive Artists’ Group. Highlights of the sale belong to Raza’s 1974 painting Composition (estimate US$ 14,000 – 20,000), but also Husain’s rare Raj series – from it, the sale will offer Kathak Dance Performance at the Maharaja Darbar (US$ 350,000 – 550,000) and Andy Warhol versus Marilyn Monroe (US$ 250,000 – 350,000). Make sure you also do not miss Souza’s La Place Town Square (US$ 150,000 – 250,000) and calligraphies by Jamil Naqsh.

The South Asian Art auction will take place online from June 13 (6 pm) through June 17 (9 pm) UAE time.

As usual, ARTIANA will apply its No Buyer’s Premium policy (what you bid is what you pay) and will allow its buyers to “Bid Now and Pay Later”, thanks to FlexiPay. More on this can be heard from ARTIANA’s own Lavesh Jagasia, who talks to Widewalls about what makes this sale remarkable and what the buyers can expect.

The South Asia Art Auction of June 2019

Widewalls: What can you tell us about M.F. Husain’s “Raj” series, whose “Kathak Dance Performance at the Maharaja Darbar” painting is the star lot of this auction? Why is this work seminal?

Lavesh Jagasia: M.F. Husain painted images from the colonial period in India in the late 1980s. This series of paintings which we came to know as the Raj series, is the artist’s memories of the British rule in erstwhile India. This work is seminal as it was painted when Husain first worked on this series and created fine works during the period.

Husain grew up with this imagery and chose to portray the lighthearted moments of the British rule rather than the somber. This satirization and refusal to historicize subjects gave him the freedom to portray the confluence of cultures in a humorous but nonetheless edgy way and distinguished his art from other artistic attempts to portray the specific time period. Furthermore, the lot highlights an important aspect of Husain as an artist – that is his portrayal of India’s varied artistic tradition as a continuum. By focusing on Kathak, a form of Indian Classical dance, and juxtaposing it with the subject of the Raj we can clearly see Husain’s interest in merging dance, visual art, and history in his work.

Widewalls: What about “Andy Warhol versus Marilyn Monroe”? Could this be considered a nod to Western art?

LJ: Besides his own surroundings, M.F. Husain was updated on international trends and icons of Western Art. In this particular image from The Lost Continent series, he acknowledges the impact of big personalities and their iconography in the popularization of the arts, and in his own unique visual language expresses his take on it as an artist of the world.

In this painting, besides paying tribute to another great artist, Husain delves into the commercialization of the arts through Andy Warhol’s fascination with Marilyn Monroe and his usage of screen-prints to extend the reach of his art. The work, both inquisitive and allegorical, poses questions to the onlooker regarding the popularity of Warhol’s art; either due to his commercial printing method or the usage of a popular icon that made it sought after. Aptly titled, Andy Warhol versus Marilyn Monroe, Husain explores the relationships between consumerism, fame, and sensationalism in this piece.

Widewalls: The sale will also offer calligraphies of the recently deceased Jamil Naqsh. Will the artist’s market soar after his death, in your opinion? What has your experience on such cases been so far?

LJ: Yes, we are offering 3 lots from this series, each lot comprising of 4 calligraphy works by Jamil Naqsh from his Painted Word exhibition of 2013. The works composed of Islamic calligraphies, use words and phrases with profound religious meaning in the Muslim faith, rendered in the late artist’s unique and modern style.

Typically the expectation which has also been our experience is that the prices do move up as the works tend to become rarer due to the demise of the artist. A sudden increase in prices usually only happens when an artist dies unexpectedly, in other cases of artists who passed away due to old age, this has already been factored in by the art market hence the firming up of prices of their artworks happens gradually over a period of time.

Maqbool Fida Husain – Andy Warhol versus Marilyn Monroe, 2005. Oil on canvas, 72 x 90 in. ( 182.9 x 228.6 cm.)

Why You Should Buy With ARTIANA

Widewalls: What does the FlexiPay bring to your buyers?

LJ: There are multiple benefits buyers can get through our FlexiPay – ‘Bid Now Pay Later’ scheme as long as the clients have been pre-approved for this facility.

  1. All items offered in our auctions are eligible for deferred or installment payments under the installment scheme, which allows buyers to pay for artwork in installments ranging from 3 months to 24 months at a service charge of 1 percent a month, subject to paying a minimum 20 percent of the price as a down payment.
  2. Buyers have access to a higher Loan-To-Value (LTV) ratio of up to 80% of our lower estimate value as compared with up to 60% of our appraised value on all external art assets with the arrangement fee of 2% of the advance amount waived for Buyers at our auctions.
  3. Charges for evaluation, storage, and the conservator’s inspection report are complimentary for all ARTIANA clients.

Widewalls: How would you describe the process of gathering masterpieces of South Asian Art for an auction like this? What are the challenges? What is a must?

LJ: The biggest challenge is putting together a good selection of works for the catalogue, this is a combination of a treasure hunt and provenance checking on the shortlisted entries.

Another challenge is explaining to the prospective consignor that our one-sided 20% commission, which is deducted from the Winning Bid price is in effect actually less than them paying a lower sellers commission, and the auction houses then charging an additional 20-30% as Buyer’s Premium. In our case, the total transaction cost is reduced to almost half in comparison to our competitors. The usual response we hear is that the Buyer’s Premium is being paid by the Buyer for which we have to then explain that it still is part of the total price paid and usually all additional costs are factored in by prospective Buyers and their Bids are placed accordingly.

Whilst authenticity and quality are key to the items being offered, one has to make these works available at fair estimates, simultaneously meeting the sellers’ expectations.

Widewalls: What’s next for ARTIANA?

LJ: After our launch in March 2016, ARTIANA experienced a steady increase in sell-through rates through the years by maintaining our bi-annual South Asian sales and cementing our presence in the South Asian auction calendar.

With our expanding client base and continued diversification across collecting categories, clients can look forward to rare pieces and a wide range of artworks in our future auctions. After our inaugural international sale, Art Beyond Borders last March, we are planning to launch sales of Rugs and Carpets, Prints and Multiples, followed by an African Art auction in the latter part of the year.

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

F.N. Souza (1924 -2002 ) – ‘La Place Town Square’ – 1955 – 24 x 30 in. (61 x 76.2 cm.) – oil on board – Lot 35

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.

S. H. Raza ( 1922-2016) – ‘Kundalini’ – 2002 – 15.75 x 15.75 in. (40 x 40 cm.) – acrylic on canvas – Lot 24

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 announces Upcoming Online Auction of Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art – No Buyer’s Premium – 13-17 June 2019

Mr. Lavesh Jagasia, founder and managing director of ARTIANA, standing in front of M.F. Husain’s ‘Kathak Dance Performance at the Maharaja Darbar’ (1989) – the cover lot of the auction house’s upcoming South Asian Art auction in June.

ARTIANA, UAE’s first home-grown auction house for art and luxury collectibles, is offering 50 artworks from the Indian subcontinent in their South Asian Art auction on June 13 to June 17. Showcasing a broad and inclusive range of fine works in various media such as oils, acrylics and paper works, the auction features work by masters and leading contemporary artists from the region including M. F. Husain, S.H. Raza, F.N. Souza, and Jogen Chowdhury among others.

Leading the auction is a work from M.F. Husain’s rare Raj series – ‘Kathak Dance Performance at the Maharaja Darbar’ painted in 1989 with impeccable provenance; and another from the seminal Lost Continent series titled ‘Andy Warhol versus Marilyn Monroe’ (2005), a large work reflecting the artist’s thoughts about lost human values. 

M.F. Husain (1915-2011) – ‘Andy Warhol versus Marilyn Monroe’ – 2005 – 72 x 90 in. ( 182.9 x 228.6 cm.) – Oil on canvas – Lot 40

The collection also includes exceptional paintings by members of the Progressive Artists’ Group and their associates, providing a glimpse of the formative period in the development of Indian modern art. These include S.H. Raza’s 1974 painting, Composition, which is part of the culmination of the artist’s period of experimentation before the Bindu; an exceptional work by F. N. Souza from 1955, the apex of his artistic career, titled ‘La Place Town Square‘; and Ram Kumar’s semi-abstracted landscapes

S.H. Raza (1922-2016) – ‘Composition’ – 1974 – 16 x 10.5 in. (40.6 x 26.7 cm.) – oil on canvas
Ram Kumar (1924 -2018) – Untitled – 33 x 52 in. (84 x 132 cm.) – acrylic on canvas

ARTIANA will also offer one signature subject painting and 3 lots of calligraphies by the British based Pakistani artist Jamil Naqsh (who passed away recently); a sculpture from eminent artist Krishen Khanna, and a unique installation by Zarina Hashmi.

The collection will be sold through an online auction at www.artiana.com from June 13 (6:00 pm) through June 17th (9:00 pm) UAE time with a No Buyer’s Premium policy in an essentially ‘What You Bid Is What You Pay’ format. FlexiPay which allow buyers to ‘Bid Now Pay Later’ will also be available for eligible clients. (FlexiPay scheme details are available on their website.)

The catalogue can be viewed online, and viewings can be arranged by prior appointment. Collectors may place bids at ARTIANA’s website, or through the mobile app available on both Google Play for Android and the App Store for Apple devices.

For information on how to register and bid, visit their website at www.artiana.com; For assistance and inquiries, call Artiana’s Help Desk at +971 55 815 3030 or write to info@artiana.com

ARTIANA – Highlights – Lot 6 – Art Beyond Borders – African, Middle Eastern and Asian Art – Online Auction – No Buyer’s Premium

Hassan Massoudy is known for his works on paper that integrates both calligraphy and figural representations. His creations are a subtle mix of oriental and occidental art, tradition, and modernity. 

Hassan Massoudy (b.1944) – Untitled – 2008 – 30 x 22 in. (76.2 x 55.9 cm.) – water-based pigments on paper – Lot 6

The present lot, like most of his works, highlight individual letters and words in saturated colors, stretched across the paper. The painting usually contains quotes and phrases from poets and writers from all over the world with the text written on a smaller scale framing the central letter or word, which is used to signify the essence of the message.

Massoudy perpetuates tradition but manages to be free from the constraints by the strict rules that governed the art form. Although Arabic calligraphy is traditionally done in black ink, Massoudy introduced other colors in his work to fully express himself. He further pushed its boundaries by merging it with abstract imagery.

The value of beauty in calligraphy lies in the execution and the perfection of style. Over the years, Massoudy purified and simplified his form while also maintaining a body of work that is inspired by a deep humanistic interest. By joining the ancient tradition of Arabic calligraphy with French plasticity, he continues to make something new but remains deeply rooted in the old.

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

ARTIANA – Highlights – Lot 10 – Art Beyond Borders – African, Middle Eastern and Asian Art – Online Auction – No Buyer’s Premium

Reflective of Iranian history and tradition that incorporated many religions and cultures into its realms, the interaction of cultures and exchange of ideas enabled a vibrant cultural and artistic heritage from which Farah Ossouli draws inspiration for her works. 

Ossouli pioneered the introduction of contemporary themes and ideas into miniature painting. Her modern take on Persian miniatures resembles highly decorated minarets with their geometric and calligraphic designs that tell countless stories. However, her most significant influence is from Iranian poems, which for her is as enduring as human nature. In her works, she portrays stories of love, violence, friendship, and family; themes that are as timeless as in the times of Persian miniature. 

The current lot titled, ‘Waiting’ shows Farah’s thin and precise brushwork in an unbelievably detailed idiom. The woman, portrayed in bright and vibrant colors, is shown through a cutaway with exterior views visible in the facade. Lighting throughout the picture is even while the whole work is divested of shadows. The picture is in a vertical format that is reminiscent of Persian miniatures influenced by Chinese scrolls in the 14th century.

In typical miniatures, there are often panels of text inside the picture area enclosed in a frame. Ossouli replaces the spaces for text with a broader band of color that borders the image, manipulating both the picture area and the scale of the figure. The rest of the work is in dense and detailed design; particularly the background which was achieved through extremely delicate and controlled brushwork, as evident in the details of the plants, the birds and the patterns on the clothes.

Replete in symbolism in a modern retelling of stories, Farah appropriates the language of miniature painting into her work turning it into a contemporary idiom that is both timeless and teeming with history.

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

ARTIANA – Highlights – Lot 14 – Art Beyond Borders – African, Middle Eastern and Asian Art – Online Auction – No Buyer’s Premium

Bakhodir Jalal (b. 1948) – Memory of the Land – 1991 – 47.25 x 35.5 in. (120 x 90 cm.) – Acrylic on canvas – Lot 14

With a career spanning over 40 years, in a period of enormous cultural and historical changes in his native Uzbekistan, Bakhodir Jalal is considered one of the leading figure of art in Central Asia.

He is credited for the reinvigoration of the mural genre and in helping shape a new cultural and artistic landscape. While his influences range from architecture, mosaics, nature, as well as from more formalist elements of Western modernism, Jalal’s art practice is firmly rooted in his national heritage. He produces works that merge various techniques reflecting his country’s ancient traditions, culture, and socio-political climate. 

As with his abstract works, “Memory of the Land” is characterized by its intricate details depicting mythological stories and fantasy worlds from his imagination. He used fluid forms and colors replete with traditional Uzbek ornamentation and textile motifs to express himself. Speaking about the influences on his work, Jalal says, “My father worked in an ikat factory, and those beautiful textiles opened my eyes to color and texture at an early age. I was also inspired by the beauty of the landscape…”

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

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

Sakti Burman (b. 1935) – Untitled – 19.5 x 25.25 in. (49.25 x 64 cm.) – Watercolor on paper – Lot 21

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