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Sher-Gil goes, Husains unsold

Dated: 02-02-2007
Source: The Times of India
Writer/Contributed by: Times News Network

The Osian's art auction on Wednesday evening was marked by some high bids but also a few surprises, A misty, abstract work of the master V S Gaitonde topped the sales, selling for Rs 5.7 crore, an amount the late reclusive artist would no doubt have himself found incredible. However, many of Gaitonde's contemporaries, the great progressives like M F Husain, Akbar Padamsee and K H Ara didn't sell; even the robust F N Souza, whose works have been much sought after in the last two years at international and domestic auctions alike, sold tamely, for a little more than the lower estimate pegged by the auction house.
A black-and-white Ramkumar from the artist's Benares series went unsold, as did a K C Subramanyam and two Jogen Choudhurys. The Raza bindus, however, did well. Most surprising, two charming sketches from Husain's 1941 nursery series, one of which has friendly witch on a broomstick looking down on a cheerful cat, didn't attract any buyers. The old pencil sketches on brown paper were drawn when the artist worked for a firm that made nursery furniture and wooden toys.
On the other hand, the Tagores sold well-another surprise since in previous auctions they haven't really attracted too much business despite being national art treasures-which means that only on Indian can buy the work. This time, three works by Rabindranath Tagore sold for good prices, the highest being Rs 26 lakh for one of his trademark representations of a female head cowled in a sari. All three Tagores were bought by Sangita Kathiwada, owner of a south Mumbai boutique. A dark, sombre watercolour by Gangendranath Tagore, the very first lot in the auction, was bought for Rs 14 lakh by Swati Piramal of Nicholas Piramal India Limited.
There were several other national art treasures that were put up for auction, not all of which sold. Jamini Roy, whose portrait of Cezanne and self-portrait went unsold (though a sketch of Roy by Satyajit Ray sold for Rs 6.5 lakh paired with another Ray sketch of Rabindranath Tagore) and Nand Lal Bose, both of whose works went unsold. Sailoz Mookherjea's 'Cave Gate' went for Rs 16 lakh.
The highlight of the evening was the sale of a national art treasure 'Girls in Conversation' (Rs 3.75 crore, bought by industrialist Kamal Morarka) by Amrita Sheer-Gil's. Another highlight was the sale of A R Chughtai's luminous' Radha and Krishna Playing Holi' miniature (Rs 1.7 crore, bought by Kamal Morarka), for which there was hectic bidding and a luminous 'Krishna' by Ustad Allah Buksh (Rs 27 lakh). Chughtai and Buksh both of whose work drew inspiration from the Hindu pantheon, are now art treasures of Pakistan, which was born during their lifetime.
The auction was marked by a high number of phone bids and the entrance of new international buyers. A number of works of sculpture were also featured, including those by Sankho Chaudhuri and Meera Mukherjee, almost all of which sold. Also well represented at the auction were Bikas Bhattacharjee and Somnath Hore, both of whom passed away last year.
New highs were established for artists such as Chughtai, Manjit Bawa, Shanti Dave, Satish Gujral, G R Santosh, Prodosh Dasgupta and Bharti Kher. Shanti Dave especially was in demand. The total sales amounted to Rs 39.8 crore.

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