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Auction watch | Masterpieces of Indian modernist art go under the hammer

VS Gaitonde, Ram Kumar, Bhupen Khakhar and others are the highlights of an upcoming Sotheby’s auction

A painting by Bhupen Khakhar.
A painting by Bhupen Khakhar.

The name of V.S. Gaitonde is revered in the annals of modern Indian art, but it shot out like a meteor in the firmament of the industry in 2013. That year, an abstract oil on canvas by the artist fetched 20.5 crore at a Christie’s auction in India. It was followed by a much publicized retrospective at the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum in New York. Since then, Gaitonde’s work has featured in auctions regularly, though the ones appearing in a forthcoming Sotheby’s sale bear special significance.

The paintings in this lot come from the collection of Dutch husband-wife duo Gunnar and Inger Hansen. Gunnar worked with Larsen & Toubro, one of the biggest businesses in independent India, for over 20 years. During this time, the couple became close friends with influential gallerists like Kali Pundole and Kekoo Gandhy.

“They were invited to all the opening shows of the exhibitions of artists and were able to buy this wonderful selection of paintings before many other people were able to see them," says Ishrat Kanga, head of Sotheby’s London Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art Sale. “It is not just the gallerists that they were friends with—they met the artists too at the private views, notably Ram Kumar, whose painting in the sale is illustrated in the catalogue with a letter from the artist."

Apart from Gaitonde, the sale will feature paintings by artists like Bhupen Khakhar (pictured), Ram Kumar and Krishen Khanna— some of them come from the estate of Patwant Singh, the late writer.

The entire sale is on public exhibition till 29 September at Sotheby’s, 34-35 New Bond Street, W1A 2AA. The auction will take place at 6.30pm IST. Register on to bid. —SG

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