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A New Wave of Indian Artists

Indian art is much in demand as the world wakes up to its merit and this is evident by the fact that Christie's, one of the most reputed auction houses in the world, is holding a sale of South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art.

The auction that will be held in London on Wednesday June 11 will offer works from the leading 20th and 21st century artists from India and Pakistan.

However, the pick of the lot will be works by Francis Newton Souza, Tyeb Mehta and Subodh Gupta. While the modern work is represented by Souza and Mehta, the contemporary artists are led by Subodh Gupta.

Yamini Mehta, director, modern and contemporary indian art at Christie's London told Emirates Business: "These offerings by Francis Newton Souza, Tyeb Mehta and Subodh Gupta in the auction display the dazzling breadth and variety in the field of Indian art. Francis Newton Souza's Birth is one of the most exciting and important works by the master to ever come into the market.

"Souza was an intellectual, who founded the Progressive Artists Group in Mumbai that developed International Modernism in India. His work is a significant psychological portrait that is highly autobiographical by including elements of his religious upbringing, his family life and his travels."

Birth, dated 1955 is expected to fetch between Dh4.5 million to Dh6 million at the auction.

This painting exemplifies the artistic essence of Souza and is the property of a private American collection. This painting was submitted for The Guggenheim Painting Award in 1958 and was also part of London Commonwealth Institute of Art's Indian Painting Now touring exhibition in 1965.

In 2005 Souza became the only Indian artist to have a room dedicated to his works at the Tate gallery in Britain.

Yamini Mehta continued: "Another Indian master Tyeb Mehta, is also affiliated with the Indian Progressive Group. Heavily influenced by Francis Bacon and Barnett Newmann, he is perhaps the least prolific of his contemporaries, Souza and Maqbool Fida Husain, and therefore his works are highly sought after by collectors.

"The untitled painting of a rickshaw-puller (a man who pulls a cart with a passenger sitting in the back) sitting on his cart is a poignant and sympathetic portrayal of the common labourer.

"His experiences in Kolkata in the 1980's are indelibly linked to the further development of the rickshaw theme.

"The city is one of the last bastions where rickshaw-pullers still operate in the winding inner-city alleyways bowed by the necessity of their labours."

Tyeb Mehta's painting of the rickshaw-puller is expected to fetch Dh2.1 million to Dh3.6 million. Mehta's iconic Rickshaw series while underscoring the anonymity and isolation of the common labourers also reflect his own disillusionment with the world around him.

The powerful content of Mehta's works is heightened by his unique formal treatment of the canvas. It exemplifies Mehta's post-cubist style - employing minimal lines and opaque masses of colour to create single dominating forms.

Yamini Mehta said: "In the contemporary segment it is Subodh Gupta who is dominating the show.

"Subodh Gupta is one of India's most exciting artists today who has now reached international levels of recognition. Christie's just made a record price for his work last week with a painting that sold for Dh4 million. Featuring on the front cover of Christie's catalogue for the first time, his gleaming untitled work is a mass of the ubiquitous stainless steel vessels featured in everyday life throughout India.

"The work is part of series that serves as social commentary on the dichotomies of wealth and poverty, urban and rural, asceticism and consumerism, as well as caste issues."

Subodh Gupta's untitled work which is made of stainless steel is the star lot amongst the contemporary art offered and is estimated to realise between Dh2.1 million and Dh 3.6 million.

Epitomising his artistic vocabulary, which is firmly rooted in everyday India, this work is made of stainless steel kitchen utensils like milk pails, lunchboxes, glasses, tongs, etc which are familiar to all echelons of Indian society.

Gupta sees these commodities as symbolising India's struggle for an equilibrium between urban and rural; wealth and poverty; socialism and capitalism; low caste and high caste and religion and secularism.

Such rare works don't come by easily and with art becoming a very lucrative investment this is a good time to snap it up before they disappear into a private collection.

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