Souza's 'Red Road' Highlight Of Sotheby's May Sale

Monday 14th of April 2008
Francis Newton Souza's 'The Red Road', estimated at 250,000-350,000 pounds (approx. $495,000-$695,000), is one of the key highlights of Sotheby's Indian sale to be held May 2 here.

The sale will present 120 lots of exceptional quality tracing the course of Indian art over the last century. It will encompass important works by key figures of the Modern Indian Art movement like Souza and Akbar Padamsee through to contemporary names like Subodh Gupta, Bharti Kher and Jitish Kallat.

Also up for grab are 11 rare works from the collection of the late William and Mildred Archer, two remarkable scholars who played a fundamental role in bringing Indian art to the fore. The sale is expected to bring in over 2.4 million pounds.

Souza's 'Red Road' was a gift to his wife Maria in 1962 - a period widely acknowledged as the artist's most successful - and was later bequeathed by Maria to the present owner. The painting was exhibited at the Hayward Gallery in 1989. This brilliant work has a red road curving over hills and straight across paddy fields.

Two works by Akbar Padamsee are other highlights of the Modern section. Padamsee's style and subject matter alternate between primary and tertiary colours and between the human figure and the landscape, all of which are demonstrated in the works on offer.

The artist's Untitled oil depicts a nude and dates from 1956. It is estimated at 150,000-200,000 pounds and is being sold by a European collector. Second by Padamsee is an Untitled archetypal landscape scene estimated at 150,000-250,000 pounds - the result of a series of experiments juxtaposing colours and exploring textures.

The star of the Contemporary highlights of the sale is an Untitled canvas by Subodh Gupta, who triumphed in Sotheby's international sales of Contemporary Art in both London and New York earlier this year.

Dating from 2005, the Untitled oil on canvas is being sold by a European collector and is estimated at 70,000-100,000 pounds. It makes reference to luggage and travel, a symbol of the great changes being seen in India today and in particular the polarities of traditional and modern India, of urban and rural India and between the rich and the poor.

The international reputation of Gupta's wife Bharti Kher has grown considerably in recent years and she will be represented in the sale by a striking aluminium panel encrusted with bindis entitled 'Missing'.

Like Gupta, Kher takes her inspiration from a wide range of images and artefacts from her daily life and surroundings. Over the past few years she has appropriated the bindi - a traditional dot Hindu women apply on the forehead - in various colours and forms to create complex works that are visually mesmerizing, technically time consuming and conceptually multi-layered.

The morphing of the traditional significance of the bindi from a symbol of latent religious meaning to a mass produced object that has increasingly become a global commodity, is an interesting aspect of Kher's work.

'Missing', executed in 2006, is expected to fetch 30,000-40,000 pounds.

Jitish Kallat is another artist who is at the forefront of the Indian contemporary art scene and his work is from a series collectively titled 'Humiliation Tax'. Each mixed media canvas in the series is dominated by the centralised image of a young underprivileged child, symbolic of the most vulnerable and impoverished members of Indian society.

Executed in 2005, 'Humiliation Tax-II' is estimated at 25,000-35,000 pounds.

A striking diptych by Thukral & Tagra entitled 'Stop Think Go' also looks set to be hotly contested. Dating from 2006, the acrylic and oil on canvas was part of Thukral & Tagra's first exhibition in New York that addressed the problem of HIV and AIDS in India.

Estimated at 30,000-40,000 pounds, the colourful, large-scale painting shows couples of all genders sleeping amid Thukral & Tagra's signature devices.

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