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The Masters of Art

To mark their first auction in India,international auction house,Christie’s,opens a treasure trove of modern classics,leading with the personal collection of late pioneering gallerists Kekoo and Khorshed Gandhy.

December 8, 2013 3:00:51 am

It’s a story of a young man from the ’40s,whose love for art led him to use his frame selling shop,a mere godown on Princess Street,Mumbai,as a platform for “emerging” artists. From that revolutionary space emerged modern masters such as MF Husain,Tyeb Mehta,VS Gaitonde,Bhupen Khakar and SH Raza. The owner of that space,Kekoo Gandhy has come to be regarded as a pioneer in promoting Indian modern art. Even though he passed away last year,Gandhy’s story,and subsequently the story of India’s modern art,is one to be told and retold. In this case,it comes from 52 rare (even unseen) works by artist-friends procured from his Bandra residence — an untitled by Gaitonde made shortly after he left JJ School of Art in 1949,or a 1967 intimate Gandhy family portrait by Husain. These works and more will lead the International auction house Christie’s first Indian sale on December 19 in Mumbai. Thirty-three out of a total of 83 lots to be auctioned are currently on display at Delhi’s The Taj Mahal Hotel,till December 9.

A milestone for the Indian art circuit as well as for Christie’s,the collection,sourced especially for India,pays homage to 100 years of Indian art through nine artists —from the “national art treasures” such as Rabindranath Tagore,Nandalal Bose,Jamini Roy and Amrita Sher-Gil,to The Bombay Group,to contemporaries such as Arpita Singh,Vivan Sundaram and Jitish Kallat. The biggest part,however,comes from Gandhy’s private collection. “He happened to be the first person I met in India,” admits Hugo Weihe,International Director of Asian Art of Christie’s,adding,“We were planning to work with Gandhy’s collection and when the family asked me if we would like to show his works,everything for the India sale fell in place. Through his life story,we’re able to unfold the story of modern Indian art.”

The collection runs like a historical narrative in chronological order — starting with a young Gaitonde’s miniature-esque pastoral landscape from 1949 (estimated Rs 8 Lakh-Rs 12 Lakh),and moving on to Raza’s Matheran (1976,Rs 1 crore-Rs 1.5 crore),Mehta’s famous Falling Figure (Rs 3 crore-Rs 5 crore) and Roy’s untitled ‘head of a woman’,a minimalistic modern (Rs 2 lakh-3 lakh). The collection touches upon contemporaries as well — Kallat’s R.S.V.P. (Repondez s’il vous plait) dated 2002-03 (Rs 15 lakh-20 lakh),Manjit Bawa’s 2004 untitled (Rs 2 crore-Rs 3 crore) and Singh’s 1996 untitled (Rs 25 lakh-Rs 30 lakh). But then it steps back to pre-Independence,with Rabindranath,Abanindranath and Gaganendranath Tagore whose works span the ’20s and the ’30s,and Sher-Gil’s untitled painting from her days in Paris,dated 1932,among others. The highlight of the sale,however,is Mehta’s Mahishsura (1994),depicting two figures of “good and evil” in mortal combat,estimated at a whopping Rs 7.5 crore – Rs 9.5 crore.

Next year,Christie’s will see 12 new auctions,one of them being the second outing in India. “This is a big deal for us and,honestly,my dream come true. We hope that awareness grows and auctions are a good public way to do that. We hope to collaborate more and also plan to look at more categories of art,” says Weihe.

Christie’s next project already has them joining hands with India Art Fair 2014,along with a Delhi office by next year. For now,the exhibition,will continue in Mumbai from December 17 onwards,until the hammer comes down on December 19 at Mumbai’s The Taj Palace hotel.

The works are on display at The Taj Mahal Hotel,Man Singh Road,till December 9. Entry is free. Contact 6665336

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