Raja Ravi Varma's celestial nymph 'Tillottama', M F Hussain's 'Nayika' and S H Raza's rarely seen 'Ville Provenale' will be some of the Indian art masterpieces to go under the hammer at the Sotheby's upcoming 'Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art' sale on March 19 in New York. The sale will also feature modern masterworks by leading artists including Bikash Bhattacharjee, Ganesh Pyne among over 70 lots that are expected to fetch an estimated total of $4.7-6.6 million. Following in the footsteps of Untitled (Damayanti), sold last season for a remarkable price of $1.7 million, Ravi Varma's Tillottama carries a pre-sale estimate of $400-600,000, the organisers said. Painted circa 1896, the luminescent portrait of Tillottama, a celestial nymph from Hindu mythology, is characteristic of the artist's oeuvre; by combining western Academic Realism with markedly Indian subjects, and unexpected combinations of colours, Ravi Varma's works of art remain timeless and uniquely his. Leading this seasons sale, S H Raza's 'Ville Provenale' (1952) will make its first public appearance after it was first exhibited at the 1956 Venice Biennale. Depicting a traditional French village, the painting in oil reflects the influence of Paul Cezanne and Vincent Van Gogh's colour structure and formalism on Raza's work. A total of 18 highlights from the sale will first be exhibited at The Oberoi in New Delhi on February 22-23. "Building upon significant prices achieved last March for Maqbool Fida Husain and Raja Ravi Varma, we have curated this seasons auction with treasures by top artists alongside 19th and 20th-century photography by the greats in their field.
This seasons exhibition will bring these exceptional highlights to Delhi, offering a rare opportunity to view these masterworks which hail from private collections from around the world in person," Anu Ghosh-Mazumdar, Head of the Indian, Himalayan & Southeast Asian Art Department in New York, said. Among other important works will be Bikash Bhattacharjee's Untitled (Rooftops) work from 1972. Estimated to fetch $120-180,000, the painting comes from an early cityscape series showcasing his hometown of Calcutta. The stark contrast between light and dark, the use of empty space and the absence of humanity combine to create a mystical environment that seems to only exist in the artist's mind. Ganesh Pyne's 'Light and the Effigy', estimated to get a price of $80-120,000, embodies his stylistic obsession with performativity and death. The exhibition will also feature a group of 19th and 20th-century photography with images from pioneers of the medium like Raghubir Singh and Margaret Bourke-White.