Art Seen Through A Wide Angle Lens

Written by Suneet Chopra | Updated: Nov 16 2003, 05:30am hrs
The auction of contemporary art organised by Osians and curated by Neville Tuli, slated for 27 November at the Experimental Theatre at Nariman Point in Mumbai, has a number of sections. Lots 1 to 15 fall into the group of First Impressions, lots 16 to 35 are portraits, lots 36 to 87, the female form, lots 88 to 115, the human figure, lots 116 to 135, urban and industrial art, lots 136 to 151 are largely animal studies, lots 152 to 168, flower studies and landscapes, lots 169 to 180, folk and mythic themes, lots 181-196, a sort of magical realism and fantasy, lots 197 to 218, recontextualising figuration and a wider base, and lots 219-245 basically different levels of abstraction.

There are no less than close to 200 artists in the auction, which is a formidable collection to say the least. But as is often the case with mega-events like this, buyers are often much more thinly spread than the works up for sale.

Even so, it is an effort that must be noted. Of course, all the blue-chip names are there. There are three lots of Zainul Abedin, two of J Sultan Ali, two of KH Ara, two each of Ram Kinkar Baij and Sadanand Bakre, one of NS Bendre, three of Nandalal Bose, three of Sunil Das, one each of Chittaprasad and Jogen Choudhury, two of HA Gade, one each of VS Gaitonde, Jehangir Sabavala, Gopal Ghosh, Ganesh Haloi, Somenath Hore, Qamarul Hassan, Krishen Khanna, and Isha Mohammad, two of MF Husain, Akbar Padamsee and Gaganendranath Tagore, three of Jamini Roy, and no less than four each of FN Souza and Sailoz Mookerjee. So it is evident that artists to suit every taste have been included in the auction.

Among the up and coming ones we have Manu Parekh, Arpana Caur, Shamshad Husain, Veer Munshi, Hema and Chintan Upadhyay, Chittrovanu Mazumdar, Rekha Rodwittuja, Surendran Nair, Paresh Maity, Deepak Sinde, Ved Nayar, Gogi Saroj Pal, Shuvaprasanna and Sakti Burman, to name only a few. What interests one, however, is the section entitled, The Urban and Industrial, with Pain and Awe, lots 16 to 35. This genre of art, although it can trace its history back to the eighteenth century, and is quite prominent in the art of 19th century Europe and the US, is relatively uncommon in our contemporary art.

Also, I find this section interesting as the works are generally authentic, the artists young and the theme in keeping with the times. It also has relevance for the future, and as such, is good investment. Tuli has assembled a number of artists like Ruksana Pathan, Natraj Sharma, Meera Devidayal, Rekha Rao, Srilekha Sikander, KP Reji, Aditya Basak, Anjana Mehra, Owasis Husain, Suryakanta Lokhande, Jaideep Mehrotra, Samir Aich, Vasudevan Akhittam, and Paresh Maity.

But I missed two serious artists of this genre, Nalini Malani and Apoorva Desai. This, of course, does give one the impression that the auction has not been made as representative as it could have been.

Of the works in this section Vasudevan Akhittams Twilight Hour expected to fetch between Rs 85,000 to Rs 1.25 lakh, Samir Aichs work of the Motorbike series expected to sell at between Rs 75,000 - Rs 1.25 lakh, Surya Kant Lokhandes untitled work in the range of Rs 60,000 to Rs 1 lakh, Anjana Mehras, At the Click of a Button We Can in the range of Rs 80,000 to Rs 1.25 lakh, SriLekha Sikanders Red Lights Flashing in the range of Rs 80,000 to Rs 1.25 lakh, Rekha Raos Mumbai Central in the range of Rs 75,000 to Rs 1.25 lakh and Ruksana Pathans Requiem of the Innocent expected to fetch between Rs 50,000 and Rs 75,000, are the most interesting as the investment from the angle of the out of the ordinary.

However, I find, from the prices expected by the organisers of the auction, that their expectations are a little on the high side. I would have reduced the highest expectation by at least 25 per cent to 30 per cent. This is important as not only are there too many works up for sale, those of the leading artists are not really important ones.

Also, young artists generally do not command the prices the auctioneers expect. But despite this, good works are bound to find buyers.