Art News & Views

Art's eye-view

An Indian summer

M F Husain to be sold at Bonham's

With the lull having set in, the only frisson worth reporting this summer is the buzz around the June auctions. At a homegrown level, Saffronart's modern and contemporary art sale (June 16-17) has a sense of déjà vu about it: seen it, done it. The usual suspects are all there, bar none, from the masters who are keeping the flag flying in terms of valuations to the younger artists who these days contribute their presence more than their worth to any auction. It's a quick recce of the complete Indian art pantheon, and the estimates are riding low, providing an attractive psychological entry point for first-timers. (Slightly unusual: a bronze sculpture of Rumi by artist Krishen Khanna, reserve price Rs 4-5 lakh.)

F N Souza to be sold at 

In London, where all the action seems to be, not accounting of course for some little volcano ash, Bonham's will kick-start the season with a mixed bag of Middle Eastern and South Asian art (June 2), with Jehangir Sabavala being touted as a masterpiece, and works from M F Husain to Paresh Maity available, though the pick is Iranian art, including works by Farhad Moshiri and Nasrollah Afjehei.

Christie's has done its homework and picked some excellent art, with June 9 devoted to 152 works from the F N Souza estate, a bonanza for his collectors, who will look to it to fill in gaps, since it attempts to represent his work across his working life. This will be followed, a day later, by its modern and contemporary offering with a choice that has been well-sourced. It's nice to see a superb Tyeb Mehta; also, both Saffronart and Christie's have works by the rarely-seen V S Gaitonde for sale. (New York is the next port of call for Christie's buyers of Indian modern art.)

The master calls

  Rabindranath Tagore's work at

The excitement at Sotheby's (June 15) is built around twelve works by Rabindranath Tagore that the Dartington Hall Trust has consigned for auction at an estimated value of 250,000 sterling pounds. They will, no doubt, attract serious collectors for whom the importance of his modernist drawings and paintings lies in their importance in acting as a catalyst for other artists rather than just merit alone. By now, attempts to scuttle auctions that feature anything associated with our national icons have reached a laughable scale. (Going by the shrillness of such clamour, anyone possessing a first edition of Gandhiji's My Experiments with Truth or Gurudev's Gitanjali should hand it over to the nearest government archive or trust as fodder for nationalistically inclined silverfish rather than be cherished by those whose personal property it is and who will care for such works for generations to come.)

If the government so wants, it certainly has the resources to bid for and bring the Tagores back to India, but to what larger purpose? There are enough works by the master that can be seen at Santiniketan, and the current show at the National Gallery of Modern Art (The Master's Strokes) has seventy drawings and paintings up in the Old Wing, which makes a trip to the capital worthwhile for anyone with an interest in Rabindranath the artist who began painting late in his sixties and, undeterred by the pale washes of the Bengal School to which his nephews Abanindranath and Gagendranath subscribed, cleared the way for the modern art movement in the country.

(PS: Am I the only one who finds something common in the long, melancholic faces painted by both Amrita Sher-Gil and Rabindranath Tagore, at roughly the same time, but painting in different parts of the country?)

Securing collections

Dove with green peas by Picasso 

The heist of works by Picasso and Matisse works from the Paris Museum of Modern Art brings to mind the absence of adequate security measures at our arts institutions. In recent years we have noticed the thefts of Tagore's Nobel medal from Santiniketan, and a daring break-in at a prominent art college in New Delhi from which works of important artists disappeared. Almost certainly, works from some museums and archives will be found unaccounted, or missing, if anyone takes the trouble to check inventories. But the question that begs itself is how well guarded our premium institutions whether under state or private management or corporate offices that have subscribed to modern art, are.

We have not yet seen the kind of eccentric art collectors who will go to any lengths, including concealing stolen or at least dubiously acquired works. This might be because selling (or buying) a work as well documented as those in, say, the National Gallery of Modern Art, would be pretty nigh impossible. But surely it would be altogether less tricky to peddle the treasures that are reasonably unprotected in corporate offices, or hotels which is why organisations must take the effort to adequately document their collections with professional assistance rather than just an in-house inventory, and seek adequate insurance based on real value, instead of undervaluing such assets. After all, it's only a matter of time before we catch up with the West on such bad habits as making off with the best modern art without paying for it!

Kishore Singh

These views are personal and do not reflect those of
the organisation with which the writer is associated.



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art etc. news & views is a monthly magazine published from India in order to promote art and culture. It intends to raise awareness about art all around India and the world. The magazine covers art exhibitions, auction highlights, market trends, art happenings besides Antique, Collectibles, Fashion, Jewellery, Vintage, Furniture, Film, Music and Culture.