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Painting of India’s partition pain

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Christie’s 2019 summer auction will celebrate art from both countries.

Christie’s annual summer auction of South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art in London on June 11 comprises 77 lots, almost entirely from private collections from Europe, India, Asia, the US and Australia.

Following India’s participation in, and Pakistan’s debut at, this year’s Venice Biennale, the Christie’s 2019 summer auction will celebrate art from both countries.

The auction is led by the striking Falling Figure with Bird painted in 2002 by Indian artist Tyeb Mehta (1925-2009), which is expected to fetch up to £2million (about R36.4m).

Credited for triggering an interest in Indian art among contemporary local and international art lovers, Mehta is one of the most famous Indian post-colonial artists. He was aware of the bludgeoning of many innocent individuals when India was divided into two states: India and Pakistan.

Partition displaced between 10 and 12million people along religious lines, creating overwhelming refugee crises and loss of life estimated at between several hundred thousand and 2 million people.

‘Falling Figure with Bird’ by admired Indian artist Tyeb Mehta.

Mehta, who incorporated these disturbing events into his works, is one of the priciest Indian artists ever, with some of his works having been sold for millions of rupees at various auctions.

His Falling Figure with Bird is a compelling composition of the despair and fear that Mehta felt at the tragedy of the partition.

The image freezes the action in a moment of helpless freefall and shows complex psychological notions of suffering and trauma with the economy of line, form and colour characteristic of Mehta’s work. 

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