Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Economic Times : Indian art sale slumps at Sotheby's

Good news from Christies', but not from Sotheby's

IANS[ FRIDAY, MAY 25, 2007

LONDON: Indian art sale slumped at Sotheby's where more than 38 works were withdrawn in the 166 lots of contemporary art. Those works called off included the cover Gaitonde and the Tyeb Mehta as also Raza, Husain, Anjolie Ela Menon and others as the works went unsold.

Lot 42, a 1956 Oil on board done by the late F.N.Souza, found the highest taker at 264,000 pounds. Only six works were able to muster past the 100,000-pound mark as works found no takers and the auction proved to be a market disaster in more ways than one.

Lot 44 was another Souza which was a landscape that fetched 216,000 pounds from an estimate of 180,000-220,000 pounds ($ 360,288-440,352). Lot 45 which was oil on board, and another cubist landscape by Souza estimated at 50,000-70,000 pound ($ 100,080- 140,112) sold for 102,000.

Lot 89 S.H.Raza's Red Bindu rose from an estimate of 40,000-60,000 pounds ($80,064-120,096) and sold for 108,000 pounds.

Anjolie Ela Menon's work was withdrawn. Ganesh Pyne's performed pathetically. Jogen Chowdhury's Nude did a mundane 24,000 pounds from an estimate 20,000-30,000 BP ($40,032- 60,048).

Lot 95, Bikash Bhattacharya's Red Balloon fetched 102,000 pounds from an estimate of 60,000-80,000 pounds ($ 120,096-160,128). The last work to cross the 100,000 pound mark was Lot 118, Rameshwar Broota's Unidentified Soldier which sold for 108,000 pounds from an estimate of 20,000-30,000 pounds ($40,032-60,048). Krishen Khanna's work Thou Sayest So just fell short of the 100,000-pound mark as it sold for 96,000 pounds.

According to dealers and buyers in the room, the sale was lacklustre and found no momentum, specially with the witdrawal of Gaitonde and Tyeb Mehta's works among many others.

The slump could be attributed to India's taxes on cash transactions, the capital tax and the income tax tightened in the financial budget of 2007.

The auction clearly reflected the importance of sustainability, taste, performance, criticality, and architecture of monetary networking amidst the atmospherics of the art market.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

DNA : Fancy prices don’t matter: Raza

US$ 1.4 million...but only 3% to the artist!

Shubha Shetty-Saha
Tuesday, May 22, 2007 22:02 IST

Veteran artist Syed Haider Raza’s 1985 work ‘La Terre’ has fetched a whopping 720,000 pounds($1.4 million), creating a record of sorts at Christie’s recent Modern and Contemporary Art auction in London. Surprisingly, when After Hours contacted Raza in Paris, he was unaware of the price that his painting sold for.

He expressed delight at the amount and he said, “ ‘La Terre’? It’s a good painting, very good painting, I am glad it has fetched that kind of a price.”

He, however, quickly added, “However, these fancy prices don’t matter to us because they don’t reach the painter anyway.”

Raza is very happy nevertheless. “These are the good results of 55 years of hardwork. It’s only since last two years that I am seeing good results for art. I remember in 1982, one of my paintings was auctioned for mere 7,000 pounds at the Royal Academy in London. From there to here it feels good,” he said.

Interestingly, only three percent of the selling price comes to the painter. “But I am a modest man and I am not a businessman, so these things don’t matter anymore. I have sold some paintings for even as less as 40,000 euros. I am happy though that my paintings are fetching good amounts,” he said.

Raza and his wife are currently working on a tribute to the late poetess Amrita Shergil. The Indo-French cultural association to be held in Gordio in France on July 13 will be attended by many eminent people from India, including artist Tyeb Mehta and theatre personality Alyque Padamsee amongst others.

“It will be an association highlighting all Indian art forms, including poetry, dance, sculpture etc. I am so passionate about this that I plan to carry on the work for 90 more years till the end of the century,” says the ever optimistic 85 year old.

The Economic Times : Raza tops Christies' Indian art auction with $1.4 mn

London, May 22:

Famed artist Syed Haider Raza's 1985 work "La Terre" trumped the Christie's Modern and Contemporary Indian Art Auction here, fetching 720,000 pounds ($1.4 million).
This work of art at Lot 7 was estimated at 400,000-600,000 pounds. Out of the 105 lots offered, 85 sold at the auction Monday evening. In terms of value, the sale mopped up 4.47 million pounds ($8.8 million).

The catalogue cover Lot 21, Vasudev Gaitonde's untitled work of 1968, a sage green composition in the abstracted idiom saw a realisation of 490,400 pounds from an estimate of 450,000-550,000 pounds.
Gaitonde's second highest place was followed by Francis Newton Souza whose Lot 9, "Landscape with Planet" went for 311,200 pounds with its estimate at 200,000-300,000 pounds. In a rare twin combine, Lot 29 and Lot 33 achieved the same price - 156,000 pounds. Lot 29 was Jagdish Swaminathan's "Untitled (from the Bird, Tree and Mountain Series)", created in 1985. It had an estimate of 130,000-180,000 pounds. Lot 33 was Tyeb Mehta's 1961 untitled nude that got 156,000 pounds, much higher than its estimate of 40,000-60,000 pounds. Tyeb's early works are not as powerful as his later "Kali" or "Mahishasura" series. M.F. Husain, 92, flew from Dubai to London to watch the sale. Somewhat satisfied to get a lower place on auction sales, his 1960 work untitled circa at Lot 25 went for 132,000 pounds from an estimate of 100,000-150,000 pounds.

The first world record at an auction was set for India's Duchamp Subodh Gupta whose Lot 106, an untitled 2005 work, went for 108,000 pounds from an estimated 40,000-50,000 pounds. Young contemporary artists Subodh Gupta, Justin Ponmany and Talha Rathore also achieved record prices in the sale. Christie's now looks forward to its Asian Contemporary Art sale in Hong Kong May 27 and the Modern and Contemporary Indian Art sale in September in New York. "The Indian market is correcting and consolidating itself," said a collector and trader in the auction room who felt the auction didn't have too much to boast about.

--- IANS

Central Chronicle : CHRISTIES' : Indian art pieces auctioned for $8.809 mn

London, May 22:

Indian artists never had it so good, an auction of modern and contemporary Indian art here including those by masters like MF Husain, Francis Newton Souza and Tyeb Mehta, has fetched a fabulous $8.809 million.

The auction was held by the Christie's on Monday evening and the highest price of 720,000 pounds went for Syed Haider Raza's La Terre (1985). A masterpiece of colour and composition, 85-year-old Raza seamlessly merges his horizontal bands with elegant obliques in what is considered one of the finest examples of painting in his oeuvre.

Premier abstractionist Vasudeo S Gaitonde's untitled piece crafted in 1968 fetched 490,000 pounds while Souza's Landscape with Planet, a superb artwork (1962) went under the hammer for 311,200 pounds. Husain's untitled masterpiece of 1960 was sold for 132,000 pounds. Akbar Padamsee's untitled work of 1978 received the fourth highest price of 204,000 pounds followed by 156,000 pounds for Jagdish Swaminathan's artwork from the 'Bird, Tree and Mountain series' drawn in 1985.

Mehta's 1961 untitled artwork fetched 156,000 pounds while Souza's 1960 masterpiece was sold for 132,000 pounds. A Landscape drawn by Ram Kumar in 1995 went under the hammer for 114,000 pounds.

The auction hall was packed and buzzing with numerous private and trade clients including many from India for the sale. The success of this auction is a testament to Christie's understanding of the market and the finely curated and great selectivity in the works offered for sale.

92-year-old Husain graced the auction with his presence as he watched his own works and works by his progressive contemporaries Gaitonde, Tyeb Mehta achieve exceptional prices.

Yamini Mehta, director, Modern and Contemporary Indian Art, Christie's said 'after today's success, we look forward to Christie's Asian Contemporary Art sale in Hong Kong on May 27 and the Modern and Contemporary Indian Art sale in September in New York.'

The Telegraph : When bubbles breathe the gallery art

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Call it a bubble if you will but eastern India will soon have its first art auction house in Calcutta. What’s more, unlike the existing auction houses in Delhi and Mumbai, this sale room will have space of its own. Following the example of the upscale Christie’s and Sotheby’s, here the works of contemporary Indian artists will be sold instead of those by masters dead and gone.

Emami of cosmetics fame has tied up with Chisel — parent body of Aakriti Art Gallery of Hungerford Street — to launch this venture. The gallery will look after the auction house to be launched in four to five months, and in the first year Emami is initially making an outlay of Rs 30-50 crore.

Says Vikram Bachawat, director, Aakriti gallery: “Calcutta has a lot of scope because VAT (value-added tax) does not exist in Bengal. In every other state buyers have to pay 12.5 per cent VAT on every purchase of art.” Under a high court ruling, painting and sculpture are classified as handicraft which is exempted from VAT.

The auction house to be located in the Emami building (a glass tower designed by Mumbai-based architect Hafeez Contractor, though indistinguishable from other such transparent stacks) on EM Bypass will cover 14,000 sq ft (8,000 sq ft on the first floor and the rest on the ground floor). The space comprising two huge empty halls to be linked by a staircase is not ready yet, but going by the rate at which work is progressing it will be done soon. Sculpture and installations will mainly be displayed on the groundfloor. In the second stage of this project, a publishing house will be launched here.

Osian’s and the online Saffron are two of the better-known Indian art auction houses, but they don’t have space of their own. Saffron does not need any for it exists only in the cyberspace, although the income it generates is very, very real.

In Calcutta, art work will go under the hammer either in December or January 2008. Bachawat expects computer professionals, NRIs and people from big business houses to be his clients. They can keep an eye on transactions and even bid through the Internet.

EmamiChisel will push Bengal artists who are ignored in Mumbai and Delhi. “We will auction the works of mostly living artists,” says Bachawat. Besides employing experts, most of the authentication will be done by the artists themselves. So long as the sale room and the gallery can sustain themselves, the men behind it will be happy.

R.S. Agarwal, chairman of Emami says: “We are testing waters. After one or two years we can go into it in a big way. It all depends on the success of the project.” Although he has been, of late, acquiring a lot of art work, he is quite honest about his lack of knowledge. The paintings in his Southern Avenue flat are not really of the first water.

This auction house can be seen as a part of the current galleries galore phenomenon which the city is witnessing. Galleries are springing up unchecked, somewhat like fungus. Select galleries are advertising in slick (though not the really prestigious ones) foreign art magazines. But that, sadly, does not indicate that Indian contemporary art has arrived on the international scene. It is like Bollywood pretending it has a global presence.

The prices of paintings have reached such astronomical heights that they are beyond the reach of even young IT professionals, share market brokers and bankers, some of whom get seven-figure salaries. Of late they have been setting up private funds, each of them pooling in about Rs 25,000 to a lakh with which they buy a work of an artist considered hot.

Of course, before touching anything they keep a tab on market trends for which they regularly visit galleries. Since art has been appreciating beyond one’s wildest dreams, they resell these after a couple of months for a good profit. Indeed, this has little to do with love of art. In such an environment is an imminent bust inevitable?

The Economic Times : Cause & Effect


[ SATURDAY, MAY 19, 2007

Indian art, on a global fast track today, is increasingly offering a shoulder to charity. Art-for-a-cause is establishing itself as a movement by roping in the glitterati who love to dabble in social concerns over sketches, chiffon and, well, champagne.

And take it from the horse's mouth, United Breweries' chairman Vijay Mallya, arguably the ambassador of the Indian cocktail circuit. "Indian art has never seen such good days before. Ten years ago, I bought a Tyeb Mehta for just Rs 5 lakh. Today, Indian art is up on international auction houses like Sotheby's and Christie's,” he says. The liquor baron, who is now working with artist Subodh Gupta for India on Canvas - II at the behest of Khushii Foundation, feels a bullish art market is giving that much needed push to charity projects.

Khushii — an NGO founded by Kapil Dev — had organised an auction of 100 paintings in November 2006, under the title of India on Canvas - I, which saw a host of celebrities working in tandem with major artists. The auction that raised Rs 15 crore, saw the highest bid of Rs 95 lakh for a Tina Ambani and Jogen Chowdhury painting.

Other celebrity-artist teams that lit up India on Canvas - I were Union finance minister P Chidambaram and Anjolie Ela Menon; Amitabh Bachchan and Sakti Burman, Ratan Tata and Laxman Sreshtha, Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Krishen Khanna, Renuka Chowdhury and Jayashree Burman among others.

Khushii is organising India on Canvas - II in October in Mumbai. The project will see the likes of Kumar Mangalam Birla team up Anjolie Ela Menon, Dimple Kapadia with Siddharth, ex-chief justice of India YK Sabharwal with Rahim Mirza, Milind Deora with Remen Chopra, Madhur Bhandarkar with Gopi Gajwani and Hafeez Contractor with Alok Bal.

So what are the factors that have cast art in the benevolent mould in the last couple of years? Explains Khushii Foundation patron Tarana Sawhney, "Indian art has caught up internationally. Secondly, artists as a community are known to be charitable. Khushii, through India on Canvas, has made a difference by bringing in eminent Indians from all walks of life to add value to a particular work." While the basic price of a painting is Rs 3 lakh, a celebrity adds 25% value to it, which goes to the artist's kitty.

Increased corporate participation has also given a fillip to art and artists. Recently, ABN Amro, along with Concern India Foundation, organised an exhibition for under-privileged women and children. Says Tina Chatterjee, director of special assignments, Concern India Foundation, "International artists have always supported charity, In India, you could say charity is another retail outlet for artists to showcase their works." She is quick to add that Concern India Foundation has associated itself with art auctions since the last six years "even before art for charity became terribly fashionable. Auction was what we built upon before this was a trend." The NGO has an annual auction every year and held one in Mumbai in February this year.

V Vasantha Kumar, head of marketing & communication of ABN Amro, says the bank had been associated with art events ever since it launched consumer banking in 2002. The fact that Indian art is now creating waves has only helped matters. "This is something that we've been doing as a brand as we need to gift our high net worth clients something beyond financial products. And what can be a better lifestyle experience than art?" he asks.

In March last, Gallery for Indian Art, Damayanti, and NGO Youthreach had organised a similar show for under-privileged children. Here too art and industry rubbed shoulders at a plush ITDC hotel in the presence of minister for women and child welfare Renuka Chowdhury. The event was supported by Pradip Burman of Sanat Industries and brother of Dabur Industries chairman VC Burman, who named it after Paulo Coelho's The Manual of the Warrior of Light.

While agreeing with the idea of auctions for charity, the art fraternity, however, issues a word of caution. Says a renowned artist on condition of anonymity, "Art for cause has become a fad as the art mart in India is on an upswing. But we artists are feeling pressurised by such frequent charity shows. I understand that NGOs are doing such events for a good cause, but there should at least be a gap of two years between auctions."

INDIA'S SHAME : The Financial Express : When artistic license just doesn’t count

After M F Husain, the moral police now considers the paintings of a young art student obscene. Is it time for creative artists to feel insecure?

Posted online: Sunday, May 20, 2007

Chandramohan Srilamantula, an art student of M S University, Vadodara, spent six days behind bars recently. He was locked up because his paintings were found to be “obscene and offensive to religious sentiments”. While such incidents would be unheard of for any other subject (no one is imprisoned for flunking math), art has been in the firing line of traditionalists for quite a while.

Why is art the subject of such virulent attacks? Who decides what is obscene? Does art offend religious sentiments? Attacks on art are not new. They cut across nationalities and races. Religious beliefs have got offended over some issue or the other. And they seem to be doing so with increasing rapidity. “In India’s contemporary art history, there have been cases of paintings being labeled obscene,” says artist Ghulam Sheikh, “but today, the emphasis is on religion and how certain paintings hurt the religious sentiments of people.”

If traditional Indian art is to be tracked, it isn’t as if there is an absence of nudity in it. “People who vandalise art do have adequate knowledge of India’s classical art,” says photographer Ram Rahman. “It is full of bare-breasted goddesses and nude gods. The panchmukhi shivling, lajja gauris (naked goddesses) and the terracotta deities are famously erotic. And who can forget the sculptures of Khajuraho, Konark or Ajanta. Ask these people whether they will tear down these sculptures.”

M F Husain, who is being considered for India’s highest public honour, the Bharat Ratna, is ironically living in exile. And it’s not an exile decreed by the justice system of the land, but a ‘voluntary’ one, forced by the ‘extra-constitutional’ bodies offended by his Bharatmata (Mother India) painting of 2006. This is an artist who has been honoured by the nation with the Padma Bhushan in 1973 and the Padma Vibhushan in 1989. He has been a member of the Indian Parliament, yet, the State has about 900 cases filed against him in the country. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and associated groups, all self-proclaimed spokespersons for the Hindus, have also declared themselves to be offended by his paintings.

The leader of the opposition in Parliament, and former deputy prime minister LK Advani said in a meeting that “the BJP could not support unlimited personal freedom of an artist to hurt religious sentiments.” As expected, the artist community has taken the opposite viewpoint. “As far as Husain’s paintings are concerned, I don’t think there is any obscenity in it,” says artist Akbar Padamsee. Painter Krishen Khanna, a childhood friend of Husain says: “I called him (Husain) and expressed my regret at what was happening. He said, ‘they are just some misguided individuals. Leave all this, let’s talk about painting.”

Not as high-profile as Husain perhaps, but artists nevertheless, Sanjeev Khandekar and Vaishali Narkar also faced censorship of a kind. In August 2006, they had put up an art show entitled ‘Tits, Clits n Elephant Dicks’ at the Jehangir Art Gallery in Mumbai. The police ordered that the exhibits be covered with black cloth as they were, yes, you guessed it, obscene.

Which brings us to the tired old question—what is obscene and does art become so, intentionally or otherwise? Padamsee cites his experience of facing such a charge. “In 1954, the police ordered that I remove a painting that was in a show. The painting had the image of a man and a woman, with the man’s hand on the woman’s breast. The police said that according to the Section 292 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the painting is obscene. I said the painting isn’t obscene and that I wouldn’t remove it. They arrested me and put me behind bars. I was released on bail, but the case was dismissed after nine months. The ruling was that Section 292 cannot be applied to artists exhibiting in art galleries.”

That art is not merely decoration, but an agent of provocation, a tool to take humankind forward, has been pointed out as many times by its defenders as it has been opposed by those who claim their morality to be outraged. “Art always tries to push the boundaries, which cannot be done if everything is judged by extremists,” says artist Vivan Sundaram, who, incidentally, is from the same Vadodara university that is currently in the eye of the storm. Recalling his days in the university, Sundaram says, “There are no boundaries or limitations for students to create art. It can be about gays, dalits or anything. They have all the right and freedom to express their creativity.”

The wheels of justice may grind slow, but they do seem to come out more often on the side of the righteous. Over the years, a number of such cases have been dismissed—from that early Padamsee, to exhibitions after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, to struggles by Anant Pathwardhan to show his films on Doordarshan. They have won each time. But why does the artist still feel the lack of support from the State?

with inputs from Dhiren Dukhu

INDIA'S SHAME : New York Times : At a University in India, New Attacks on an Old Style: Erotic Art

Published: May 19, 2007

NEW DELHI, May 18 — It’s a heady time for Indian contemporary art. Never before has it fetched such extravagant prices and acclaim abroad. Never before have Indians at home been so prosperous as to support a proliferation of galleries, exhibitions and even investment funds devoted to art.

But art and its inevitable transgressions continue to provoke fury in Hindu nationalist quarters, leading stalwarts to shut down an exhibition, drive an artist out of the country or, in the latest case, send a young art student to jail for a final-exam project deemed offensive. The student’s arrest has prompted protests from prominent artists across the country and dominated newspaper headlines in recent days.

The tempest began on May 9 when a lawyer accompanied by police officers and television news crews marched into the art department at the respected Maharaja Sayajirao University, a state-run institution in Vadodara, in western Gujarat state. (Gujarat’s elected government is led by the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.)

The lawyer, Niraj Jain, based locally and affiliated with the party, said he was aggrieved by several works exhibited on a wall in the department library, including a painting — or rather a digital enlargement of a painted work — depicting a female form wielding weapons in her many arms, evoking a goddess from the Hindu pantheon, and giving birth. It was the final-year art project by Chandramohan, a graduate student who goes by one name.

The university, at the urging of Mr. Jain, persuaded the police to arrest the student and put him in jail. His crime, the city police commissioner, P. C. Thakur, said, was “deliberately offending religious sentiments.”

In response Chandramohan’s fellow students swiftly cobbled together material from the art history department archives and mounted an exhibition to underline the obvious: that even ancient Indian art is replete with explicitly erotic forms.

What came next seems to have startled the art world as much as the arrest did. The university’s vice chancellor, Manoj Soni, demanded an apology from the acting dean of the art department and ordered that the protest exhibition be closed.

The acting dean, Shivaji Panikkar, refused and was suspended. The administration took down the protest exhibition and then sealed the art history archives. “They want to control how we interpret our past,” said Parul Dave Mukherji, a former art history professor at the university who was on campus that week grading final exams.

Mr. Soni has offered no public explanation and has declined several requests for a comment. In a statement the university called the works “highly deplorable.”

Chandramohan was released on bail on Monday after five days’ imprisonment and has gone into hiding. He could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Jain, whose police complaint set off the art school crisis, said he was proud of his campaign. He described the student’s artwork as an attack on Indian culture. “I cannot tolerate any insult to our culture and to our god and goddesses,” he said in a telephone interview. He said he was also offended by a student painting in which a figure of Jesus was placed before a toilet.

It is not the first time artistic expression in this country has been squelched by state institutions. In Mumbai, India’s commercial capital, a court charged M. F. Husain, perhaps India’s most famous contemporary painter, with obscenity because of a painting he made of a goddess in the nude. Mr. Husain now lives in self-imposed exile in Dubai. Because he had not appeared for court hearings, the court recently issued a notice directing that his property in Mumbai be seized. (The Supreme Court has issued a stay.)

India is rarely lacking for paradox, and one of the most striking is that the puritanism of today’s Hindu radicals coexists with a long tradition of graphic sexual iconography. Hindu temple carvings often feature elaborate scenes of copulation. Among the best-known examples, at Khajuraho, in central India, was invoked this week in newspaper commentaries skewering what was referred to as the moral police brigade.

Writing in the Tuesday issue of The Indian Express, a national daily, Peter Ronald de Souza, a senior fellow at the Center for the Study of Developing Societies, a research organization here, said of the Hindu activists who forced the student’s arrest:

“It tells us not just they do not fear the wrath of the law, and that they believe censorship is acceptable in the service of a cause, but also they are certain that their actions would meet with social approval. So did the Taliban.”

His commentary was headlined, “Will They Blow Up Khajuraho?”

In a protest on Monday night here in New Delhi, prominent artists, curators and art teachers condemned the attack on the student’s work as a violation of basic freedom. “India is descending into a dark prison of the imagination,” warned Ram Rahman, a Delhi-based artist who took part.

Though not charged with any offense, Mr. Panikkar, the art department dean, has also gone into hiding. Friends have warned him that opposing Hindu radical groups in Gujarat state is inviting trouble — and not necessarily protection from the police — he explained in a cellphone interview on Tuesday night.

Wearily chronicling the chain of events, Mr. Panikkar said he had refused to apologize for the student’s artwork out of “principles and conviction.” He said he was “baffled” by the university administration’s crusade against a student project.

Asked how long he had taught on this campus, he suddenly broke down in tears. He said he was an alumnus of Maharaja Sayajirao University and had been a professor of art history there for 27 years. “I can’t bear it,” he said, weeping. “My life and blood is here. My institution, which I love so much.”

The Economic Times : Bonhams art auction gets an Indian shade


[ FRIDAY, MAY 18, 2007

KOLKATA: Famed UK auctioneer Bonhams is heading for another sale of Indian art in London on May 21. The auction of Indian lots is pegged at a total estimated value of £2,305,900-3,107,500. The spread of Indian lots is somewhat close to 139. There are additional 13 Pakistani lots, taking the total number up to 152.

Among the high value lots is the 60s Husain work ‘Two Women with Elephants’, which is estimated at £1,50,000-2,00,000. The painting is from a private German collection. In step is the Tyeb Mehta’s ‘Thrown Bull’ from the Nuffield College, Oxford collection which also shows an estimate of £1,50,000-2,00,000. Another Nuffield College collection is FN Souza’s 1961 Italian townscape which is valued in the range of £120,000-180,000.

At the same time, another Souza titled Caribbean Palms, painted in 1968, carries a price tag of £1,20,000-1,50,000. Bonhams, which is famous for its Souzas, has yet another major work by the artist, a 1957 Head. The work is from a private UK collection and originally from Gallery One and reflects an estimate of £1,20,000-1,50,000. The 1970 ‘Jagdish Swaminathan Mountain and Bird’ is placed at an estimate of £150,000-1,80,000.

In the medium value lots is MF Husain’s 1960s ‘Figure’, which is estimated at £50,000-70,000 while B Prabha’s ‘Girl Standing By A Hut’ is valued at £25,000-35,000. Included in the basket of lots are also two Sadanand K Bakre landscapes from a private UK collection which are slotted at estimates of £25,000-30,000 and £20,000-30,000. Sourced again from private UK collections are a large Jamini Roy piece titled Musicians priced at £30,000-40,000 and KK Hebbar’s ‘Himalayan Landscape’, which is estimated in the band of £25,000-35,000.

According to Claire Penhallurick, head of Indian and Islamic art at Bonhams, the auction underscores the auction house’s emphasis on works from private UK sources. “The auction has a very good selection of works, numbering 21, by Jamini Roy. There are also some interesting earlier works, before the more familiar modernist Progressives, by Hebbar and Langhammer,” Ms Penhallurick said.

She went on to add that four lots by Bakre, including the two mentioned above, “whose works have appeared almost exclusively at Bonhams sales, is a hitherto strangely under-appreciated member of the Progressives”. Summing up, Ms Penhallurick said: “The sale also features a group of Souza drawings which attract interest by being more affordable than a lot of paintings. In the entire package are also an unusual group of early works by Husain which form an interesting comparison with later examples.” : modern & contemporary indian art auctions return to christie's london


Christie’s marked an exceptional year in the contemporary art market, with Modern and Contemporary Indian art becoming one of the art market’s fastest growing areas. As market leader in the field, Christie’s is pleased to announce the return of Modern & Contemporary Indian Art sales to London on 21 May 2007. Showcasing the scope of Modern & Contemporary Indian Art from established through to up-and-coming artists, the sale includes important works by masters of the field such as the revered Syed Haider Raza, Francis Newton Souza, Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, Maqbool Fida Husain, Tyeb Mehta and Akbar Padamsee. The sale of 105 lots is estimated to fetch in the region of £4 million, with estimates ranging from £1,000 to over £450,000.

“The incredible growth of Indian Art over the past five years has seen Christie’s annual sale totals increase from $600,000 in 2000 to $42 million worldwide in 2006. After an eight-year hiatus, during which the Modern Indian sales were expanded to New York, Hong Kong and the emerging market of Dubai, Christie's has now added London, a city that is home to many Indians and lovers of Indian art,” says Yamini Mehta, Christie’s Director of Modern and Contemporary Indian Art.

A superb selection of works from one of the masters of modern Indian art, Francis Newton Souza (b. 1924), offers a wonderful opportunity to established collectors looking to enhance their collections or those just starting out. An artist who combines great intellect with raw emotion, Souza looked to Western Modernism for inspiration on how to radicalize and shock the South Asian art world, founding the legendary Bombay Progressive Artists Group (PAG) in 1947, the year of India's independence.

Amongst the sale highlights is a masterpiece by one of India's premier abstractionists, Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, which is untitled and painted in 1968 in striking hues of emerald and pale blues (estimate: £450,000-550,000). Gaitonde began his career by meticulously creating works in the vein of Indian miniature paintings. Later in his oeuvre, he was influenced by Paul Klee, Zen Buddhism and Chinese calligraphy

Leading the selection of works by Indian painter and founder-member of the Progressive Artists’ Group, Syed Haider Raza (b. 1922), is the seminal painting, La Terre from 1985 (estimate: £400,000-600,000) which is offered from a European collection and has been published in Geeti Sen's book, Bindu. A masterpiece of colour and composition, Raza seamlessly merges his horizontal bands with elegant obliques in what is considered one of the finest examples of painting in his oeuvre.

Drawing inspiration from a wide range of sources, whether it is Justin Ponmany employing the means of holograms as prettifying foils for the alleys of Mumbai or Subodh Gupta capturing everyday India from the vantage of mass market goods , the contemporary section of the sale features works from some of the most sought-after upcoming artists. Also on offer are works from acclaimed Pakistani artists Talha Rathore and Nusra Latif Qureshi who form the vanguard of the contemporary miniaturists from Pakistan and have been widely exhibited internationally.

INDIA'S SHAME : NDTV : Saffron tinge haunts Baroda art institute - More Artists speak out

The attack by BJP activists on the Fine Arts Faculty of Baroda's MS University is part of a growing evidence that the institute is being sucked into the communally charged climate of Narendra Modi's Gujarat.

Until not long ago, the faculty and the world famous artists it produced seemed like a self-contained liberal and cosmopolitan universe. Their lives and their work intertwined with the life of Baroda.

''I always thought that Gujarat is a civilised place and they let people be even if they differ 'from them. At least that is the Gujarat I knew when I came in the 1950s to teach in the institution,'' said KG Subramanyam, Founding Faculty, Fine Arts, MS University.

Generations of artists in India have looked at KG Subramanyam with both awe and regard as one of the founding teachers of an arts school that challenged and subverted long prevailing dogmas in Indian art.

Producing work that drew on tradition but was contemporary and cutting edge reflected in the works of internationally acclaimed artists like Bhupen Khakkar, Vivian Sundaram and many others.

Great irony

But now, 50 illustrious years later, Subramanyam looks on as the faculty he established is challenged by dogma of another kind.

The great irony is that such attacks draw legitimacy by claiming art as elitist and culturally delinked. But as old timers say the faculty of fine arts was from the very beginning linked to the organic life of Baroda.

Indrapramit Roy was a Calcutta boy when he came here to study. But like many others he ended up staying on as a teacher.

Among the many things he picked up was Garba, Gujarat's traditional dance.

''Everyone was encouraged to dance. That was the attempt that art should be related not only to environment but also to cultural context in which it belongs,'' said Prof Indrapramit Roy, Faculty, Fine Arts.

But as the context began to change in Gujarat, artists could hardly remain insulated.

Communal riots

As riots engulfed the city in 2002, Ghulam Mohd Shaikh, among the most senior and respected artists in the city, received threatening calls and was forced to leave Baroda for several months.

Artist BV Suresh said that the attack on the faculty does not surprise him. He sees it as part of the ongoing legacy of post Godhra Gujarat.

A legacy he tried to grapple with through an installation that showed a burnt bread. It was a direct and pointed comment on the burning of the Best Bakery in riot-scarred Baroda.

''We are questioned by people who live in our building. Doodhala, sabziwla they ask us what's happening. We need to tell our side of the story. So important to have posters in Gujarati,'' said a citizen.

And yet the disturbing reality remains that as people from across the country descend on Baroda in support of the students, within the city one man is gaining stature.

Niraj Jain, till some time ago, was just another advocate and member of the VHP. He tried contesting a municipal election on a BJP ticket but lost.

''We have got 30 SMSes from Mumbai. People have sent 7,000 emails in support. Three mails are from London. Not just BJP, even the Congress leaders are calling,'' he said.

Today he knows he has hit a jackpot.

INDIA'S SHAME : Indian Express : Will they blow up Khajuraho?

Peter Ronald DeSouza

Posted online: Tuesday, May 15, 2007 at 0000 hrs

A society that fails to protect its freedoms will be denuded of its life force. The vandalism at MS University in Baroda is yet another portent
The essence of a free society is its ability to encourage dissent against all authority — political, academic, religious or cultural. On May 11, the television pictures from the University of Baroda showed us the face of tyranny. That Sangh Parivar goons who stormed and vandalised the exhibition of art work put up by a student at the Faculty of Fine Arts of the MS University at Baroda, could then speak with such confidence to television cameras is shocking. It tells us not just that they do not fear the wrath of the law, and that they believe censorship is acceptable in the service of a cause, but also that they are certain that their actions would meet with social approval. So did the Taliban.

There are five aspects of the episode that need our immediate attention. It should not be seen as an isolated incident, posing no challenge to our robust culture of freedom, but should instead be regarded as yet another example, together with the threats against M.F. Husain and Shilpa Shetty, of a growing fanaticism. The vandals seem emboldened by our collective inertia. As all vandals always are.

The first aspect, therefore, that should merit our attention is to recognise that the vandalism took place not just in the university but in the classroom or art studio. This is disturbing because a university is a sacred place where, according to convention, even the police do not enter unless permitted by the vice chancellor. In a university it is the classroom, or the art studio in this case, which is the sanctum sanctorum. Here even another teacher does not enter when a class is in progress, because it is the place where a teacher and her student together explore the universe of knowledge. This relationship of teacher and student is inviolable. Interference in the classroom, by another who has no legal basis to be there, is a violation of the freedom of the teacher and the student. If this is violated with impunity then that society is truly damned. Imagine interfering with Dronacharya.

The second aspect of concern is the arrest of the student. His only crime was to create works of art that were objectionable to the vandals. Where in the Constitution is creating a work of art, which is to be judged by teachers in the fine arts faculty of a university, a crime? Where in the Constitution is it acceptable to keep an artist in jail for four days just because he has submitted his work for evaluation by his teachers? Are not the real violaters of the Constitution, the vandals and the police?

The third aspect is the suspension by the university of the acting dean of the faculty for permitting, against the vice-chancellor’s instructions, a protest exhibition by students mounted in response to the arrest — an exhibition of art erotica in the Indian tradition. If peaceful protest is proscribed in a university, and an exhibition of Indian art erotica banned, then are we not moving towards a society where Khajuraho and Konark may be blown up by mortars because they are considered objectionable, where the Kama Sutra will be banned because it is too explicit? The dean was right in ignoring the VC’s order. The VC was wrong to give such an order. He has no place in a university. In fact by his order he has earned a place among the vandals.

The fourth aspect is the role of the pro-VC, who along with the university engineer, personally removed the art exhibits and sealed the department. This is deplorable. It is indeed a sad day when a pro-VC, entrusted with the duty of protecting the university and nurturing the next generation of artists, acts as a member of the vandal brigade. How far have we fallen? The enemy of freedom now seems to be within us.

The fifth aspect concerns the actions of the police. This is the most alarming aspect. While one rotten university administration can be isolated and contained by a healthy society, and one faulty order reversed by a vigilant academic community, how does one deal with the lawless guardians of the law? Only the other custodians of the Constitution can stop the grim slide into what the former attorney general termed the talibanisation of the Indian mind.

The governor, as visitor of the university, must, in the strongest possible terms, reprimand and censure the vice chancellor and pro-vice chancellor. The governor must summon the director general of police and seek from him an explanation for the police action. The Supreme Court must do what it did in the case of the non-implementation of the ICDS scheme, and summon suo moto all the directors general of police, of all the states, and instruct them to curb such vandalism that is growing across the country. It is from the new frontiers which the artist scales that new ideas come. The artist must be protected. The artist must be honoured. We must do it for our own sake.

The writer is senior fellow, CSDS, Delhi

INDIA'S SHAME : Kolkata Newsline : Art in Arms - Jogen speaks out


Pragya Paramita

If art at its best is more often than not consummated through abstraction, the reality facing the artist is grim. Chandramohan got jailed, his supporters gagged and the idea of the art being a seamless expression of the artist’s mind infringed.

The ripples of Baroda - where art student Chandramohan was first, manhandled, and then jailed, for his alleged ‘offensive’ paintings of nude divinities - has reached Kolkata. The city, considered often as the storehouse of art and artistic talent in the country, joined other Indian cities on Monday in raising its voice against a gross violation of the artist’s license to create.

It is not just the arrest of Chandramohan, and the subsequent suspension of the acting dean of the Fine Arts faculty of Baroda University, Professor Shivaji Panikkar who stood up for the artist, which has shocked the artist and academic fraternity of Kolkata. What has them fuming is the “lack of apathy of the university authorities”, be it in the delay in securing the release of the student or in expecting an apology from both the student and the Dean. “A university is supposed to be a place of learning, a place for the exchange of ideas, where one can give free reign to their imagination. It is incomprehensible how the university authorities could do this,” stated historian Janaki Nair of the Centre for Study of Social Sciences (CSSS).

It is ironic that when the protest in Kolkata at the Academy of Fine Arts premises was on, news filtered in that twenty more students were arrested in Baroda for protesting against the incident.

The frequency with which artists have been targeted in India by the ‘moral police’ for hurting religious sentiments has added thunder to the voices of protest in Kolkata. While the current controversy may have triggered the protests, the gathering objected to the ‘moral policing’ on creativity in general. “From established artists like MF Hussain and Bhupen Kakkar to younger artists like Chandramohan, all are now answerable to the moral brigade,” complained one of the artists present at the venue.

Artist Jogen Chowdhury felt that the clampdown on artistic creativity being experienced in India has less to do with safeguarding religious sentiments but more to do with “pleasing governments”. “The protestors don’t understand art or, for that matter, the Hindu religion. I think there was more freedom 20-30 years ago, when there was less of these cases of forcible censorship,” Chowdhury mentioned.

The problem, Chowdhury mentioned, started with the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992. “Since then certain elements in society have displayed extreme reactions whenever anything to do with religion or religious iconography has come up,” he added.

Says historian Tapati Guha Thakurta of CSSS: “Hussain has been targeted more for his religious background than anything else. He painted in privacy and those who brought the paintings out in the open should be held accountable. If anything is considered offensive then the way to deal with it is through discussion and debates. Certainly not through extreme methods.”

“People have to understand the difference between something meant for religious worship and something that has been created for artistic purpose. Paintings are not meant for worship,” mentioned Nair, who was one of the signatories on a petition condemning the incident.

Through their protest, the artists and academicians also attempted to bring to focus the position of nudes in Indian art. Nudes, they emphasised, have been an intrinsic part of Indian paintings since ancient times and the recent hoopla over it does not have any historical basis. “Moreover what is even more shocking is that this is the 60th of Indian Independence. It is a shame that we seem to be progressing in the wrong direction,” summed up artist Dipali Bhattacharjee.

INDIA'S SHAME : NDTV : Vadodara: Students, faculty to hold meet

After the culture police, it's now the turn of students, artists and citizens to have their say in Vadodara.

The sharp reaction is in response to the arrest of art student Chandramohan by the police five days ago after he produced art works that the BJP and Sangh Parivar activists claimed were obscene.

The dean of the MS University has also been suspended.

Chandramohan has now been granted bail.

The students and faculty of the fine arts department will hold a public meeting in the city to express their solidarity with Chandramohan.

Students are also expected to organise a demonstration in the university campus.

Challenging norms

The faculty of fine arts at Baroda, established in 1951, was the first art school in India to offer degree and post graduate courses.

The work produced here very soon made a mark. It was considered provocative not for its themes but for the way it challenged the prevailing norms in the Indian art world.

But provocative turned controversial when one of it's most celebrated artist Bhupen Khakkar's work was brought down at no less than the esteemed National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi.

''Bhupen's work dealt with male nudity with homo-erotic relationships between men. The NGMA felt it was too hot for them to handle and went ahead and removed it,'' said Indrapramit Roy, artist and faculty member.

Art bullies

Another victim of the NGMA is artist Surendran Nair. In 2000, the BJP government's cultural secretary took offence to his work, removing it from the gallery.

''In my case also, it was depicting nudity. They felt that the figure standing on top of the Ashoka pillar was disrespectful to the sanctity of the national emblem.

''It is all about somebody's view against somebody else's view, privileging one interpretation over another. This is how fascist elements function,'' said Nair.

But now, the moral police has come home. The attacks are no longer just confined to gallery exhibitions, the VHP has attacked what the faculty says was a purely academic, internal display of student work.

INDIA'S SHAME : HindustanTimes : Painting the art world red

May 13, 2007

The outrageous arrest of Chandramohan, a final-year fine arts student at the Maharaja Sayajirao University, Baroda, on May 9, has confirmed that the only right that is taken seriously in India today is the right to take offence. The right to take offence is not a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution, but all the same, it is the most easily enforced of all rights. All you need is a local demagogue with a taste for publicity, a few rampaging goons, policemen who favour the violent over the reasonable, and a lower judiciary that is reluctant to defy the mob.

Chandramohan, who was taken into custody by the Baroda police without a proper warrant, after he had been roughed up by a gang of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) activists, has been charged with public obscenity and an attempt to incite communal disharmony. The images to which such turbulent opposition has been mounted show a woman, perhaps a goddess, birthing a man (which is no more fearful than the Lajja-gouri of Hindu sacred art), and a crucifix with a penis (this, an obvious homage to Robert Mapplethorpe). Both images retrieve the passionate human dramas that lie at the core of sacred narratives. Both images insist upon the artist’s right to revisit inherited lore, to reinvent images and narratives, to integrate the sacred as an element of secular experience.

The treatment meted out to this young artist follows a pattern of violations against cultural freedom in India over the last two decades. The programmatic persecution of MF Husain is the most visible of these violations. But many artists, writers, film-makers, scholars and other cultural practitioners have suffered the attentions of the State, of pressure groups, and of informal alliances between these forces: Anand Patwardhan, Surendran Nair, Sheba Chhachhi, Rekha Rodwittiya, to name just four. Galleries, research institutes and bookstores have been attacked, paintings and manuscripts have been burned, concerts have been disrupted, and films refused screenings, all in the name of the right to take offence.

The group is everything, even if it is a fiction or a fraction; the individual is nothing. Paradoxically, in a Republic built to safeguard individual rights, one can bargain with the State and even force State action (or secure State inaction) by citing the sensitivities of a group. But one cannot make the same effective claim on behalf of an individual’s cultural freedom. Thus, for example, Laine’s study of Shivaji was banned instantly when Maratha organisations agitated against it. But Anand Patwardhan must fight legal battles for years before Doordarshan agrees to screen one of his critical documentaries.

Champions of the right to take offence assume that they alone have the right to speak of certain issues, that their imagination has primacy over that of others. Thus, for instance, the VHP assumes that Hindu icons can exist only as objects in a Hindutva discourse. This explicitly denies the right of other discourses to construct them in different ways, as the objects of scholarship, of art, of good-natured humour, or of open-ended faith.

This explains the grimly ironic turn of events following Chandramohan’s arrest, when the self-appointed custodians of Hindu culture demanded the closure of an exhibition showing the vital role of the erotic in Hindu sacred art. On 11 May, in silent protest, some of Chandramohan’s fellow students put up an exhibition of reproductions of images drawn from across 2500 years of Indian art. These included the Gudimallam Shiva, perhaps the earliest known Shiva image, which combines the lingam with an anthropomorphic form of the deity; a Kushan mukha-linga or masked lingam; Lajja-gouris from Ellora and Orissa, resplendent in their fecund nakedness; erotic statuary from Modhera, Konark and Khajuraho; as well as Raga-mala paintings from Rajasthan. All these images, which rank among the finest produced through the centuries in the subcontinent, celebrate the sensuous and the passionate dimensions of existence — which, in the Hindu world-view, are inseparably twinned with the austere and the contemplative.

This treasure of Hindu sacred art did not win the favour of the establishment, which ordered the exhibition hall to be sealed. It appears that the champions of a resurgent Hindu identity are acutely embarrassed by the presence of the erotic at the centre of Hindu sacred art. As they may well be, for the roots of Hindutva do not lie in Hinduism. Rather, they lie in a crude mixture of German romanticism, Victorian puritanism and Nazi methodology. What happens next, we wonder? Will the champions of Hindutva go around the country chipping away at temple murals, breaking down monuments, whitewashing wall paintings, and burning manuscripts and folios? Perhaps they will not stop until they have forced the unpredictable richness of Hindu culture to conform to their own tunnel vision of life, art, image and narrative.

The first move in the establishment of a fascist system is thought-policing, the curtailment of the liberal imagination. We see this in the breaching of the sanctity of academia, with goons ransacking the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune, in January 2004, or police entering the M S University campus last week.

And physical attack or arrest has become the first response to any criticism or departure from convention. If anyone had a problem with Chandramohan’s images, for instance, surely they could have resorted to the old-fashioned option of talking to the artist? But conversation has long ago vanished from the menu of problem-solving devices, as India turns into an illiberal democracy.

Periodic elections do not, by themselves guarantee a liberal democracy; they only guarantee periodic changes of government. A true democracy demands constant revitalisation of the spirit of openness, generosity and liberality of opinion. Democracy is not an achieved set of laws or a manual of instructions; it is a work in progress. It is a space that allows diverse imaginations to interact, it is a community of conversations. Given the direction in which we are heading, can we recover democracy as a community of conversations, rather than as a space segmented and partitioned by communitarian claims? Can we allow for the interplay of diverse imaginations, with none exerting a monopolistic claim on experience? Can we productively reconstitute the same objects in different discourses, without inviting assault on our civic and cultural freedoms? Can we preserve nuance, detail and polychromy in our accounts of ourselves – as complex selves in a complex society – without being coerced into subscription towards one group identity or another by colour-blind demagogues? Can we protect the right to artistic truth and the right to critique?

And indeed, why must the artist be called upon to defend his or her work, while the agitator goes free? The legal onus of proving that an art-work can cause offence should weigh down the agitator. After all, there is a strong structural similarity among all these incidents: while the great public has no problem, a lunatic fringe that claims to speak for the majority monopolises public space, and claims the right to scrutinise the work of cultural practitioners. The crisis is manufactured, not from spontaneous feeling, but in a motivated and well-planned fashion.

In the Chandramohan case, the VHP activists knew exactly what they were looking for, entering the display and heading straight for his work. Perhaps it is time to add another minority to India’s social fabric: the vulnerable minority of cultural practitioners.

Ranjit Hoskote is an art critic and curator

INDIA'S SHAME : Daily Times (PAKISTAN): Indian fine arts college under threat

Daily Times Monitor

LAHORE: Chandra Mohan, a student from the Department of Graphics at the Fine Arts College in Baroda continues to be in police custody after he was arrested on Wednesday for allegedly making controversial paintings depicting nude figures and hurting religious sentiments.

Chandra Mohan

The arrest followed the storming of the university premises by a group of outsiders, according to media reports. VHP and BJP activists lead by BJP leader Neeraj Jain stormed into the exhibition hall of the faculty, where Chandra Mohan had displayed his paintings for critical evaluation by his teachers for an internal assessment. They vandalised the paintings and assaulted the students, said a report on NDTV website.

The activists filed an affidavit in a local court alleging that art student Chandra Mohan had hurt their religious sentiments by using the symbolism of the cross in sexually explicit images.

Ironically, when the police arrived they arrested Chandra Mohan even though a faculty official said that the paintings were not being displayed to the public and were part of a display in the college premises for assessment by a team of examiners for a Master’s degree in Fine Arts. Mohan has been charged with sections 153 and 114 as well as sections 295 A and 295 B. He is presently in Central Jail, Baroda and has been denied bail. According to The Indian Express, the Maharaja Sayajirao University’s top brass has refused to get bail for Chandramohan. Instead, they have asked Fine Arts Faculty in-charge Shivaji Panikkar to issue a public apology for the student’s work.

Dean suspended: The university has suspended the dean for refusing to obey the orders for closing a controversial art exhibition, says Press trust of India.

Vice Chancellor Manoj Soni decided to suspend Panikar from all positions with immediate effect for three months and a notice conveying his suspension was pasted at his residence midnight last night, Pro Vice Channcellor S M Joshi said on Saturday.Panikkar was directed not to enter the campus without the permission of University Registrar or Registrar (In charge) unless he notifies them in writing during suspension.

What a real ***hole looks like : Manoj Soni (in white shirt)

Panikkar, who was out of the town, said his suspension was “illegal and condemnable”. He said he would fight his suspension legally.

Protest: The students and staff of the Fine Arts College have condemned the assault on students by outsiders and the arrest on Chandra Mohan.

“In a civilised society any dispute on a controversial depiction or content of a work of art can be dealt with through dialogue and consultation with experts in the field rather than left to self-appointed moral police,” says Gulam Mohammed Sheikh, former teacher of the Faculty of Fine Arts. He says such an instance of assault on a student by outsiders in the university premises is unprecedented in the history of the faculty and must be condemned in no uncertain terms.

The students and staff have organised a dharna and Prof Shivaji Panikker has planned to undertake a hunger strike on the college premises against the assault on the student and callous attitude of the university authorities. A solidarity demonstration of artists, intellectuals and cultural workers from all over India is called on May 14 on the Fine Arts College premises.

“As an alumnus and former teacher of the Faculty of Fine Arts, I fear these developments may imperil the working of an institution which in many ways has formed our lives; and is indeed an integral part of what we are today. I hope all other alumni and teachers as well as concerned artists and intellectuals of the country will come forward to protect it in its moment of crisis when the values it stands for are threatened,” says Sheikh.

Malayasia Sun : Souza, Raza in Sotheby's Indian art sale in London

Malaysia Sun
Friday 11th May, 2007

Auction house Sotheby's London will offer for sale important works by V.S. Gaitonde, F.N. Souza, Tyeb Mehta, M.F. Husain, S.H. Raza, Krishen Khanna and Bikash Bhattacharjee in its annual sale of Indian art May 24.

This will follow Sotheby's successful sale of Indian art in New York earlier this year that exceeded its pre-sale high estimate by more than $2 million and netted $15,007,880 - a record total for a sale of Indian Art by the auction house.

A large proportion of the works in the sale, which include miniatures as well as modern and contemporary paintings, have come from private European, Swiss, US and Canadian collections. The sale is estimated to realise in excess of 2.6 million pounds.

The most important and the highest value work in the sale is Untitled by Gaitonde. It is a stunningly evocative work, indicative of the artist's concerns not with representation but the painted surface itself and is estimated at 300,000-500,000 pounds.

A further highlight of the sale is Untitled, after Titian's Venus of Urbino and Manet's Olympia by Souza.

By aligning himself with the familiarity of Titian's Venus - arguably the most beautiful nude in non-classical Western art - and Manet's Olympia - a controversial work, to say the least, on its unveiling 100 years earlier, Souza sought to forge a new milestone in Indian and European art history.

Souza takes Manet's theme of class distinctions further, referencing in his own work not only to the sexuality and promiscuity evident in Olympia but the domination of India by England. It is estimated at 140,000-180,000 pounds.

An Untitled work by Tyeb Mehta, not quite in the same mood of his Falling Figure or Mahishasura series but an early work by the artist, depicts one of the constants in his work, the bull. In 1959, Mehta left India for England where his paintings were executed in heavily textured colour, applied thickly with a palette knife. It belongs to 1962 and is estimated at 140,000-180,000 pounds.

An important painting by Khanna is another major work to be offered for sale. 'Thou Sayest So'/'Interrogation' (illustrated left) takes its title from the interrogation of Jesus Christ by Pontius Pilate and the phrase 'Thou sayest so' is a direct reference to the Gospel of John, chapter 18 verse 37. It is estimated at 50,000-70,000 pounds.

The sale also features several important canvases by Husain, including Mother Theresa Diptych, which is estimated at 80,000-120,000 pounds. Syed Raza's Red Bindu is another of the sale's highlights.

By the early 1980s, the Bindu, a term used to represent the creative seed from which all life emerges, became a central theme in Raza's work. The painting, which draws on Raza's Indian heritage and his experiences as an artist in France, is estimated at 40,000-60,000 pounds.

Among the contemporary works in the sale, which are represented by artists such as Riyas Komu, Jagannath Panda and Justin Ponmany, one of the most important is Red Balloon by the late Bhattacharjee who translated realism in the style of the Western masters.

The sale will be on view at Sotheby's New Bond Street London salerooms from May 20.

LiveMint : Copal Art’s financial practices face string of new questions

Some Delhi artists complain of bounced checks and artwork that hasn’t been returned for months

Maitreyee Handique
New Delhi
Fri, May 11 2007

The owner of Copal Art gallery, Ajay Seth, who claimed he had raised Rs20 crore from investors for two art funds last year, faces allegations of financial misrepresentation over non-payment for art and multiple cases of bounced cheques.

These accusations against Seth come from several artists and other galleries, raising several troubling questions about the entrepreneur-turned-art-fund manager.

Seth had claimed to pioneer a new type of art fund where investors pooled in money and bought artworks at discounted prices, with specific works actually handed over to individual investors to take home. Seth has also said he is raising a third fund, worth Rs150 crore.

While the amounts involved in these new disputes are relatively small, they come from a variety of unrelated people. The questions about Seth are also coming at a time when more and more concerns are being raised about the lack of regulations in the booming art investment sector in India.
While there is no evidence that one fund owner’s problems are symptomatic of a widespread malaise in Indian art funds, which total about Rs250 crore across at least five separate funds, the “art as investment” business in the country has recently come under serious regulatory and government scrutiny amid questions about valuations and use of cash for such transactions.

Last month, Indian tax authorities raided several galleries, gallery owners and art fund managers, including Copal Art, seeking records of transactions and lists of buyers.
The latest allegations about Seth come after a front-page story in Mint on 23 April that pointed to significant inconsistencies between his statements—about art works that the fund said it had acquired and artists who the fund claimed were involved with the fund—and the statements of the artists themselves, several of whom denied actual involvement with the fund.

Now, several artists, many of whom are trying to make a mark in a very competitive field, told Mint that Seth has not paid them for their works, which include both paintings and sculptures. At least two artists and a Delhi gallery said cheques, written by Seth, have bounced and their attempts to talk to him have often been unsuccessful.

A local bank also confirmed that Seth had issued at least four cheques that were turned down for lack of sufficient funds in his account.

When asked about these complaints, Seth initially said, “If you progress, you have enemies.” “Why don’t the artists whose cheques have bounced come forward?” he asked. On Thursday, Seth was repeatedly contacted by Mint to respond to the other allegations.

He said he was in meetings and couldn’t talk. Meanwhile, some of the artists who had complained to Mint said Seth has called them to promise that he will buy their works and pay back dues.

Hindustan Times : A brush with genius - M F Husain

Kolkata, September 24, 2006
First Published: 00:00 IST

Paintings by Tyeb Mehta and F. N. Souza may command astronomical prices at international auctions, but it is Maqbool Fida Husain’s name that first comes to mind when one thinks of contemporary Indian art. Some hate him, others love him, but no art aficionado has managed to remain indifferent to the self-taught artist who began his career by painting billboards, was one of the founder members of the Progressive Artists Group, and had his first exhibition in 1947.

“I am a creative person and feel that there is no end to creativity. Paintings by Tyeb Mehta and F. N. Souza may command astronomical prices at international auctions, but it is Maqbool Fida Husain’s name that first comes to mind when one thinks of contemporary Indian art. Some hate him, others love him, but no art aficionado has managed to remain indifferent to the self-taught artist who began his career by painting billboards, was one of the founder members of the Progressive Artists Group, and had his first exhibition in 1947.

“I am a creative person and feel that there is no end to creativity. Only 10 per cent of what is inside me has found an expression. Even 10 lives will not be enough for me,” says the artist who turned 91 on September 17.

Husain’s creativity has often landed him in trouble. Like it did earlier this year when he was charged with hurting the religious sentiments of Hindus in a painting depicting the country as a goddess in the nude. This painting was part of the Bharat Mata series he had painted in 1970.

Husain is no stranger to controversy. He has often been charged with being disrespectful to Hindu gods and goddesses in his paintings. In 1996 too, an exhibition of his works in Gandhinagar was vandalised by activists of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal, and there were demonstrations outside his home in Mumbai. Fellow artist Satish Gujral has even gone on record to ask him whether he will be bold enough to treat icons of Islam in the same manner. Though he apologised and withdrew the painting from a charity auction, the experiences have left Husain a bitter man. “India is as much my country but I am deeply hurt that whatever I do or say is twisted to suit individual purposes,” he confessed to an associate in London, where he had gone just before the controversy. Now he is not sure when he will come back. “I have done things that I have believed in. The title of my autobiography, Pandharpur Ka Ek Ladka, sums up my personality. I am a simple man,” he says.

Often accused of being an exhibitionist, has Husain gone a bit too far this time? Away from home, the artist who lists Rembrandt as one of his inspirations, must also be wondering.

Husain’s creativity has often landed him in trouble. Like it did earlier this year when he was charged with hurting the religious sentiments of Hindus in a painting depicting the country as a goddess in the nude. This painting was part of the Bharat Mata series he had painted in 1970.

Husain is no stranger to controversy. He has often been charged with being disrespectful to Hindu gods and goddesses in his paintings. In 1996 too, an exhibition of his works in Gandhinagar was vandalised by activists of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal, and there were demonstrations outside his home in Mumbai. Fellow artist Satish Gujral has even gone on record to ask him whether he will be bold enough to treat icons of Islam in the same manner. Though he apologised and withdrew the painting from a charity auction, the experiences have left Husain a bitter man. “India is as much my country but I am deeply hurt that whatever I do or say is twisted to suit individual purposes,” he confessed to an associate in London, where he had gone just before the controversy. Now he is not sure when he will come back. “I have done things that I have believed in. The title of my autobiography, Pandharpur Ka Ek Ladka, sums up my personality. I am a simple man,” he says.

Often accused of being an exhibitionist, has Husain gone a bit too far this time? Away from home, the artist who lists Rembrandt as one of his inspirations, must also be wondering.

INDIA'S SHAME : Indian Express : MSU V-C seals Fine Arts dept


Express News Service

Vadodara, May 11: Taking moral policing to a new level, Vice-Chancellor of the prestigious Maharaja Sayajirao University (MSU), Manoj Soni, today ordered the fine arts department to be sealed after defiant students put up an exhibition of Indian erotica to protest the arrest of one of their fellow classmates on Wednesday. The fine arts department, known the world over as a cradle for art expression, has never seen interference from any quarters. This is the first time in its 55 years of existence that it finds the BJP and VHP moral police brigade telling it what to do.

Vice-Chancellor Manoj Soni, living up to his reputation as an RSS stooge, took the decision to seal the department after BJP municipal councillors complained about the erotica exhibition. On Wednesday, the BJP and VHP activists roughed up Chandramohan, a fine arts student, as they found his exam works put on display, objectionable. Chandramohan was later arrested by police.

Marking a “black friday” in M S University’s history, the V-C sealed the Fine Arts department’s Regional Documentation Centre, and joined the saffron brigade in removing the exhibition comprising sculptures and photos.

After gagging the faculty, Soni himself ducked all criticism and questions raised about his action by remaining confined to his cabin and not taking any calls.

MSU’s Chancellor Mrinalinini Devi Puar, grand daughter of Sir Sayaji Rao Gaekwad who founded the university, said she was out of town and could not intervene without knowing the facts.

On Friday, instead of students, teachers and MSU senate members, it was BJP councillors and senate members (owing to their saffron affiliations) were the ones who called the shots both at MSU main office and Fine Arts department. Meanwhile, Chandramohan continued to be in judicial custody for the third consecutive day, with no one officially coming to his aid from MSU. Additional Senior Civil Judge M J Parashar on Friday deferred the decision on his bail till Monday in a hearing held in Vadodara local court, where Chandramohan is facing serious offences registered by BJP leader Niraj Jain.

Fresh trouble began on Friday when Fine Arts students were putting up an art exhibition on Indian art erotica around 4.30 pm.

“We are seeing people affiliated to certain political ideology, entering the campus and imposing their narrow viewpoint without knowing that the erotica/shringara/copulation as a part of the nava-rasas exist in traditional practices,” said the Fine Arts student exhibition note. Sculptures, copies of erotica art in the department, photographs of erotica art from Khajuraho and from Geet Govinda were put up by the students.

The news of the art exhibition had BJP councillors like Girish Parekh, Kishen Sheth, Ashok Pandya, Balu Shukla, Kishen Sheth and others trooping down into the University, but before that they had a meeting with the MSU V-C. While abuses were being hurled at the students and female lecturers by BJP councilors, MSU authorities ordered the removal of exhibition, which Shivaji Panikkar, incharge fine arts dean refused, asking for orders in writing.

“We have received representations from several organisations and also society, which has requested us to intervene. It’s a matter of prestige for MSU and Vadodara,” said MSU pro V-C S M Joshi, who with university engineer N N Ojha, syndicate members Mukesh Pandya, S K Agrawal, technology faculty dean Bhuvan Parekh personally removed exhibits and sealed the department.

In a late night development Panikkar was suspended from all the positions with immediate effect for three months. The suspension will be in effect till an inquiry committee, which is yet to be formed does not complete its inquiry, said the notice which was pasted at his residence around 10 pm on Friday. He has been also directed not to enter the campus.