Its 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,Gandhys story,and subsequently the story of Indias 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 Christies 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 Delhis The Taj Mahal Hotel,till December 9.
A milestone for the Indian art circuit as well as for Christies,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 Gandhys private collection. He happened to be the first person I met in India, admits Hugo Weihe,International Director of Asian Art of Christies,adding,We were planning to work with Gandhys 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,were able to unfold the story of modern Indian art.
The collection runs like a historical narrative in chronological order starting with a young Gaitondes miniature-esque pastoral landscape from 1949 (estimated Rs 8 Lakh-Rs 12 Lakh),and moving on to Razas Matheran (1976,Rs 1 crore-Rs 1.5 crore),Mehtas famous Falling Figure (Rs 3 crore-Rs 5 crore) and Roys untitled head of a woman,a minimalistic modern (Rs 2 lakh-3 lakh). The collection touches upon contemporaries as well Kallats R.S.V.P. (Repondez sil vous plait) dated 2002-03 (Rs 15 lakh-20 lakh),Manjit Bawas 2004 untitled (Rs 2 crore-Rs 3 crore) and Singhs 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-Gils untitled painting from her days in Paris,dated 1932,among others. The highlight of the sale,however,is Mehtas 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,Christies 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.
Christies 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 Mumbais 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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