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Akbar Padamsee’s fade to grey

Christie's South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art sale features a crucial transition in the work of the modernist

’Rooftops’ (1959) by Akbar Padamsee.
’Rooftops’ (1959) by Akbar Padamsee.

In 1959, after returning from his second trip to Paris at the age of 31, Akbar Padamsee decided to eliminate colour from his palette, restricting himself to shades of grey. Monochromatic works from the year that followed, referred to as the artist’s “Grey Period", were exhibited at Mumbai’s Jehangir Art Gallery in 1960, widely praised for their scale and composition.

Three paintings from Padamsee’s Grey Period, including Rooftops (1959), a significant work that marks his transition from colour to monochrome, will feature in the Christie’s South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art sale in New York, as part of their Asian Art Week. The subdued tones in his panoramic composition signal Padamsee’s departure from colour, and the onset of a new phase.

Works from Padamsee’s Grey Period have elicited record-breaking bids in the past—in 2011, a reclining black and white nude was sold for 6.3 crore at a Sotheby’s auction, and in 2016, Padamsee’s monochromatic Greek Landscape fetched 19.9 crore, becoming the most expensive painting sold by the artist.

The upcoming auction will include works by other Indian modernists and contemporary artists, including S.H. Raza, F.N. Souza, Nasreen Mohamedi, Tyeb Mehta and Ram Kumar. Some key pieces include V.S. Gaitonde’s early abstract works, Raza’s stark townscape Paysage and Souza’s politically charged portrait of a working class family.

The Christie’s South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art sale is open for viewing from 7-11 September at the Rockefeller Centre in New York. The auction will take place on 12 September.

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