Internationally well-known auction house Saffronart has been chosen yet again by government investigative agency, the Enforcement Directorate, to auction the seized private art collection of fugitive Nirav Modi. Last March, the Income Tax Dept. had auctioned off another seized collection of Nirav Modi's paintings through this auction house which fetched the government Rs 54.84 crore. This year the auction will be live on February 27, 2020 and online on March 3-4, 2020.
These auctions will feature 15 artworks by significant and contemporary Indian artists, as well as a selection of luxury watches, handbags and cars. Of course the art is the real treasure. There's a 1935 Amrita Sher-Gil masterpiece, which has never been auctioned before at an estimated price of Rs 12 - 18 crores, a significant oil canvas by M F Husain from his Mahabharata series, estimated at Rs.12-18 crore! There's also a serene blue painting by V S Gaitonde, estimated price at Rs.7-9 crore, plus a vivid depiction of Krishna by Manjit Bawa estimated at Rs.3-5 crore. So, does one appreciate Nirav Modi's taste for exclusive art or condemn him as a fugitive of this country? The jury is still out! Either way, those with deep pockets might wish to turn their attention to picking up rare treasures…
AMRITA SHER-GIL: Even though Amrita Sher-Gil' s early paintings had a western influence, from 1937 onwards, after her meeting with Karl Khandalawala, she discovered Indian traditional art and relocated to Lahore where she organised her first exhibition. "The Lemon Sellers" 36x22 inches oil on canvas painted in 1935 and today estimated between Rs 12- 18 crores is from that period. Orange is predominant in the background contrasting with the dark bodies of the two lemon sellers. Stark, yet lyrical, her lines and anatomy are to be appreciated. Note flower in ear of lemon seller! Composition is uncluttered and graphic. A few days before her first exhibition, she passed on after a brief illness.
M F HUSAIN: Enough is already known about M F Husain. At this auction one gets to see a 1972 work, called "The battle of the Ganga and Jamuna" from the Mahabharata series in oil at an estimated price of Rs.12-18 crore. This single canvas is divided into two parts, the red background for Ganga and the blue for Jamuna. Both sides are bifurcated by a slanted blue vertical line. Vertical figures dominate this part of the canvas with 'Ganga’ sprawled vertically next to the figure. Towards the right, the blue and white figures are in confrontation. Drama of the battle is best brought out with busy bold strokes and vivid colour. Limbs, torsos are strewn across the ‘battlefield’. ‘Jamuna’ is inscribed between the two figures.
MANJIT BAWA: Manjit Bawa’s works always have that neat finished peaceful quality and he has a great fondness for the colour red. Even in this painting, of Krishna and the lion, red dominates the canvas with Lord Krishna sitting serenely near the lion. Interplay of white figures against the red, is eye-catching. Light blue is soothingly applied to Lord Krishna and the stylised hair is so typical of Manjit. All his works are untitled. They emit tranquillity. Like the artist once said, “You don't have to understand art to understand my work.”
V S GAITONDE: One of our most sought-after painters of the modern era in India, his blue abstract oil painting from 1972 is estimated at Rs.7-9 crore. Not many might remember that his first painting was sold for Rs.1500! Master of the abstract, this blue serene abstract work with faint vertical lines is far removed and distant from his other burning red masterpieces that one is used to seeing. This painting is light as if it's not there at all! The landscape is barren, the smooth colour application hides the turmoil within. Vertical and horizontal lines usually dominate his earthy red canvases with the burning sun imbibed from his retina onto the canvas!
On seeing the works, one must admit Modi had a connoisseur’s eye for art.