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Past as Present: Christie’s sale has a new section on classical Indian art

In its third edition, Christie's India sale will offer classical artwork and antiques for the first time.

Written by Divya A | New Delhi | Published: November 1, 2015 12:41:04 pm
A piece by Tyeb Mehta that will be on sale at Christie’s on December 15.

New York-based art auction house Christie’s has just announced its third annual India sale, to be held in Mumbai on December 15. The highlight of this year’s auction is going to be a section dedicated to Classical Indian Art. William Robinson, International Head of World Art, said in a statement, “When we held our first sale in India in 2013, we hoped to include Indian Classical Art in our auctions in the near future. With the necessary licenses now in place, we are excited to be doing this.”

There will be 25 works for sale in this category. One of the most important works on offer here is a buff sandstone figure of the dancing Ganesha. Produced somewhere between 8th and 11th centuries in central India, the piece is estimated to fetch Rs 60-70 lakh. The sculpture section also contains a life-sized early Chola granite ‘dvarapala’ figure, from the collection of noted dancer Yamini Krishnamuthi. This one is estimated to go under the hammer for Rs 1.2 crore. On the other hand, the miniature section includes a group of paintings from the ancestral collections of the Maharajas of Bikaner.

Robinson adds, “As these objects are not able to be exported, but can still be exchanged in India, they will be safeguarded, and through the cataloguing process they will be properly identified and, for the time they are on exhibition, available for all to see and enjoy.”

A sandstone figure of Ganesha.

In this regard, Sonal Singh, Head of Department, South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art, Christie’s India, says, “We have sourced these rare works from licensed antique dealers. Indians based in India, or NRIs having a house in India who wish to keep these works in India, can bid for them, as per rules. Mostly private individuals have expressed interest in these precious works, and we already have a fair idea as to who is going to bid for what.”
Since antique sale require a lot of paperwork and laws regarding their conservation are stringent, Singh says, “All these works are registered with Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), and post the auction, they will need to be re-registered with the ASI in the buyer’s name. Christie’s liability of safeguarding these works will be over as soon as they change hands officially.”

Also featuring works of modern and contemporary South Asian art, the India sale will comprise approximately 80 lots, including pieces by VS Gaitonde, Tyeb Mehta, Ram Kumar, Nasreen Mohamedi, Manjit Bawa and Nandalal Bose.

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