|Mahishasura - Tyeb Mehta|
THE SEASON of auctions in contemporary Indian art starts in London in June and the three main auction houses, Christie’s Sotheby’s and Bonhams, have major sales coming up in the first half of the month.
The highlight of the Christie’s auction of South Asian modern and contemporary art on June 11 is Tyeb Mehta’s Mahishasura, 1996, the most important painting from this groundbreaking series, estimated to sell for between £1.2 million and £1.8 million. A painting, Untitled (Figure on Rickshaw), by Mehta, who passed away in 2009, was sold for record price of £1.973 million at the Christie’s auction in London in June in 2011.
Mehta’s Mahishasura was the first Indian contemporary painting to have crossed the million-dollar barrier in 2005 when it was sold for nearly $1.6 million.
The Indian modern and contemporary artists do not command high prices in auctions compared to European artists — Norwegian artist Edvard Munch’s iconic pastel drawing, The Scream, made history in May as it was auctioned for $119.9 million by Sotheby’s in New York.
The Christie’s auction is also offering Cinq Sens, 1958, a quintessential work by M.F. Husain, which was formerly in the collection of the world renowned Italian filmmaker Roberto Rossellini and his Indian wife Sonali Dasgupta. The painting, estimated to sell for £400,000 - 500,000, was a gift from Husain to his friend, Rossellini, who left India with newfound love, awareness and creative consciousness. “Christie’s is delighted to be offering the seminal painting, Mahishasura, by Tyeb Mehta; one of the artist’s best and most iconic works to come to auction,” Yamini Mehta, director of South Asian modern and contemporary art at Christie’s, said.
“Heavily inspired by ancient mythology and Hindu literature, Mahishasura recounts the legend whereby the Brahmin demon-king Rambha produces an invincible son through his union with a she-buffalo,” Christie’s said.
The auction house also compared the Tyeb Mehta painting with Picasso’s Guernica. “Mehta fuses ancient imagery with simplicity of form, colour and line, resulting in powerfully modern works full of fresh vitality. Stylistic devices evident in the present work — such as the simultaneity of perspective and figures, the juxtaposition of linear and volumed representation, and varying frontal and profiled angles of vision — conjure images of Pablo Picasso’s pivotal work, Guernica. Just as Mehta was inspired by the bull, Picasso also regularly depicted multiple forms of the bull and most often the mythological creature, the Minotaur,” the auction house explained.
(As printed in The Asian Age )
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