AstaGuru's upcoming Modern Indian Art Auction will debut landmark masterpieces
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AstaGuru's upcoming Modern Indian Art Auction will debut landmark masterpieces
M. F. Husain, Untitled, 1972. Oil on canvas, 68 x 96 in.. Opening Bid: ₹ 2,85,00,000

MUMBAI.- This September, AstaGuru will present an impressive selection of iconic masterpieces by some of India’s most distinguished artists in its upcoming Modern Indian Art Online Auction. The online auction will be held on 8 – 9 September 2021 and will feature 50 lots including works by modern masters such as M F Husain, S H Raza, Krishen Khanna, Bhupen Khakhar, F N Souza, Anjolie Ela Menon, K K Hebbar, Ganesh Pyne, Jamini Roy, and many more. This well-curated collection includes several important works from prolific periods in the artists’ careers, many of which come from significant collections within India and abroad.

Speaking about the collection, Sneha Gautam, Vice President- Client Relations, AstaGuru, said, “The demand for modern Indian art has increased exponentially in the last year, the Indian art auction market having its strongest year ever. The Indian auction market witnessed the highest turnover to date with the demand for the Moderns increasing by over 65% from the previous financial year. This further substantiates the great potential in the Indian art market, and while seasoned collectors continue to expand and enrich their collections, new bidders are constantly seeking to acquire works at every price point. This has inspired AstaGuru to curate an auction that presents the best that modern Indian art has to offer at varied price points where budding collectors can acquire quality works to commence their journeys, while at the same time allows seasoned buyers to acquire a masterpiece that defines Indian modernism.”

Making its auction debut and leading the sale, is M F Husain’s oil on canvas work from the year 1972, a highly significant work, originally from the Pitti family collection. Throughout his career, Husain formed strong relationships with several art connoisseurs and enjoyed the patronage of several collectors in India and abroad. He developed a close bond with Mr. Pitti who commissioned several masterpieces from the artist. Husain remained in close contact with Mr. Pitti for over three decades and even frequented his family property in Hyderabad where he’d spend large amounts of time and even created several works.

In the presented lot (Lot 28), Husain creates an iconic, anti-war painting as a response to the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, which resulted with the India - Pakistan conflict. The shrouded identities of the political masters can be deciphered as the primary adversaries, Indira Gandhi - the Indian Prime Minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto - Leader of West Pakistan and Mujibur Rahman - Leader of Bangladesh Resistance Movement, who later became the first Provisional President and the first elected Prime Minister of Bangladesh. The diagonal figure rendered levitating, almost suggesting a brooding sense of abandonment represents the war tone and wounded Indian Sub-Continent. Through this rare and important work, the artist showcases a rare glimpse into his political intellect, yet he stays true to his fundamental approach towards creating art that of being a humanist. Featured in the documentary ‘A Painter of Our Time’ directed by Santi P Chaudhury, the work indeed is an important creation from the master’s oeuvre and will be offered for the first time at auction with an estimate of INR 3 – 4 crores (US$ 416,667 – 555,556).

Among the key highlights from the auction are extremely significant works from S H Raza’s illustrious career as one of the most important 20th-century painters in India’s history. These works celebrate Raza’s visual vocabulary and traverse his trajectory as a celebrated colourist, from his preoccupation with expressionism in the early 1970s to his transformation in the latter half of the decade, when he encompassed a new artistic direction exploring geometric forms and eventually mastering his “Bindu'' series. The pictorial motif of the Bindu served as the centre of the universe charged with energy, as seen in Lot 37, Raza’s Prakriti, executed in 1997, revels in these explorations with line, form, and the revelation of the Bindu. Estimated at INR 1.8 – 2 crores (US$ 250,000 – 277,778), the presented lot will be offered at an auction for the very first time. Executed in a primarily blue palette with hues of black and green, the work showcases how Raza’s style had completely evolved from his early abstract landscapes and French-influenced style towards spiritual concepts and geometric shapes.

Sitting on the other side of the spectrum is Lot 13, S H Raza’s L’orage, from the year 1973, a significant work created at the peak of his expressionist journey. Estimated at INR 1.3 – 1.4 crores (US$ 180,556 – 194,444), this stunning masterpiece has been published in multiple books and will also be part of the forthcoming edition of the Raza Catalogue Raisonné. It was even invited to be part of the Center Pompidou Paris’ retrospective show on Raza. The auction also features another crucial work (Lot 44) from the artist’s oeuvre titled ‘The Earth’ from 1982 which will be offered at INR 1.5 – 2 crores (US$ 208,333 – 277,778). This extraordinary creation sets the premise for the discovery of the Bindu in Raza’s work and showcases his deep understanding of his motherland. It was a period when he made numerous visits to India in an attempt to rediscover his roots. As seen in this work, these travels heightened his visual sensory and the rich topography of India became an integral part of his colour composition. One can trace the inherent diagram that constructed and held together his Bindu works - the demarcation of the painting into sections that would later transcend as symbols/panels of energy.

Another important highlight in the sale is Lot 34, an early Landscape, 1963, by Akbar Padamsee, which will be offered at an estimate of INR 1 – 1.5 crores (US$ 138,889 – 208,333). The presented lot was created by the artist during an extremely vital transitional phase when he was exploring different visual expressions, beyond the realm of the human figure and the genre of still-life. These abstract landscapes were created by Padamsee shortly after his famous grey series works and act as the formative ground upon which he went on to build his Metascapes.

Manjit Bawa, Flying, 1978, an early composition by the artist will be appearing at auction after nearly 24 years at an estimate of INR 60 – 70 lakhs (US$ 83,333 – 97,222). The presented lot not only showcases Manjit Bawa’s fascinating artistic evolution but more importantly is firmly attributed w his formative style. Aptly titled ‘Flying’ the protagonist appears to be what may have drifted into the artist’s subconscious in a dream. This rare masterpiece (Lot 42) provides a glimpse into Bawa’s trajectory as an artist and acts as a precursor to several works he created with a similar central figure. Another validating aspect of the work, or rather the importance of its creation for the artist is affirmed with the fact that he selected the same to be adopted as a tapestry artwork.

Lot 31, Krishen Khanna’s Emaus, oil on canvas will be offered at an estimate of INR 60 – 70 lakhs (US$ 83,333 – 97,222).The biblical theme is an important subject in the artist’s oeuvre that the artist revisited several times in his career. It began when his father gifted him a reproduced illustration of Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper when he was a young boy. On seeing the work, Krishen remained engrossed in his attempts to sketch the image. The inclination to capture the rich and varied use of Christian imagery in his works is indeed seminal in nature. This large-scale depiction of Christ at Emmaus has been part of several exhibitions and will be making its auction debut. The auction also features an early Untitled work by Khanna from the 1960s which was originally from the collection of David Hopper. Estimated at INR 30 – 35 lakhs (US$ 41,667 – 48,611), the striking painting(Lot 38) makes for a great acquisition as not many works form the period in the artist’s journey make it to auction.

The auction features an extremely rare Untitled, 1994, painted stoneware ceramic by acclaimed artist Bhupen Khakhar, who is considered an iconoclast for expressing his views on important subject matter from social sectarianism to his own homosexuality. This one-of-a-kind composition (Lot 22) by Khakhar was created in Amsterdam and is painted elaborately on all sides. It will be offered for the first time at auction at an estimate of INR 30 – 35 lakhs (US$ 41,667 – 48,611). Khakhar is a highly revered artist and his paintings have been part of several private and public collections including that of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Lot 32, F N Souza, Homer, 1964, will be part of the collection on offer at an estimate of INR 80 lakhs – 1 crore (US$ 111,111 – 138,889). This exceptional work by one of India’s leading modernists is an important creation in his extensive body of work and features the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, the two epic poems that are the foundational works of ancient Greek literature. The work showcases Souza’s interest in literature, who also wrote for several art journals while he was in Europe.

Other highlights include Anjolie Ela Menon, The Magician’s Story, circa 1995, estimated at INR 30 – 35 lakhs (US$ 41,667 – 48,611). Another key work appearing for the time first at auction is Ganesh Pyne’s Untitled - tempera on canvas creation from the year 2005, estimated at INR 30 – 40 lakhs (US$ 41,667 – 55,556). This unique composition signifies a shift in Pyne's artistic approach. Pyne created works which drew from his own personal experiences and spent a large amount of time creating each masterpiece.

Jamini Roy, Untitled, circa 1950, is a unique and rare work that will appear at auction for the first time. The work’s detailing and scale acclaims Jamini Roy’s stature of being one of India’s most important modern masters and carries an estimate of INR 15 – 20 lakhs (US$ 20,833 - 27,778). The auction will also feature an Untitled, circa 1930 portrait from the limited oeuvre of Hemendranath Mazumdar, who became one of the few Indian artists of the early 20th century to gain monetary as well as critical appreciation for this work. Estimated at INR 15 – 20 lakhs (US$ 20,833 - 27,778), this lot will make its debut at AstaGuru’s Modern Indian Art auction.

The online auction will take place on 8 – 9 September 2021 and the entire auction catalogue can be viewed on AstaGuru’s website,

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