Raza’s ‘Saurashtra’ a seminal masterwork: Christie’s

New Delhi, June 12 (IANS) Eminent painter Syed Haider Raza’s ‘Saurashtra’, which fetched a record $3.4 million (over Rs.16 crore) at a Christie’s auction in London, is a ‘seminal masterwork’ and the price record is seen as a revival of classic modern art as a viable collection and investment proposition post the recession, says the auction house.

‘Raza is an extremely important founding member of the Progressive Artists’ Group and a leading senior artist. ‘Saurashtra’ is a seminal masterwork, the largest work of his to be offered and among the most important in his entire oeuvre,’ Hugo Wiehe, Christie’s International head of Indian and Southeast Asian art, told IANS in an e-mail from London.

The 1983 work went under the hammer for the record price at the auction of South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art at Christie’s Thursday.

The sale broke the 88-year-old’s previous price record of $2.5 million for his work ‘La Terre’ at an auction in London June 30, 2008. Sources at Christie’s say the record indicated that buyers were keen to pay for modern masterpieces from India.

‘We look to select the best works to present at auction and we source primarily from private collections. This is without question a masterpiece and we are delighted to achieve this success for Raza and Indian art,’ Wiehe said.

‘Saurashtra’, painted in acrylic on canvas and signed and dated ‘Raza,’83’ on the lower right is a 200 cm X 300 cm composition in bright colours and cubic shapes that emanate from the artist’s trademark ‘bindu’ or the dot to morph into bigger and complex shapes.

‘Bindu is a symbolic for a seed and has its origin in tantrik art,’ Wiehe said.

Raza says the ‘bindu’ is a symbol from his childhood, ‘representing school memory’.

‘As a child, I was not a brilliant student and was restless. My teacher Nandalal would draw a black dot on the wall of my school in Madhya Pradesh and told me focus on it after school hours. The dot frightened me but stayed in my memory,’ the artist had told IANS on the eve of his birthday in February.

The ‘bindu’ returned in his art as the ‘seed of all shapes and forms’ later in Paris and became his signature.

The artist, however, is pragmatic about ‘art as business’.

‘It is an error to see art as an investment. One must look at it as an act of love. But if it becomes an instrument for investment, there is nothing I can do about it,’ he had said.

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