In a few hours from now, taking into account the time difference, Sotheby’s will be presenting the iconic Amrita Sher-Gil self-protrait for auction in New York on 18th March. With a pre-sale estimate of $1.2/1.8 million, the Self- Portrait has been up on view since 10th March This is big news for art collectors, in view that Sher Gil’s art has been hailed as National Treasure and cannot be taken out of India. This is only the third time that her work has appeared on the international market. Of the total 172 paintings that have Amrita Sher-Gil painted in her short life, and which have been documented, 95 are in the permanent collection of museums and institutions within India, notably the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi. There may be less than 25 paintings in free circulation outside of India. Yamini Mehta, International Head of Department, Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art has gone on record to say, “This is a once in a generation auction event.”
This canvas by Amrita’, Untitled (Self- Portrait) was painted when she was 19 years old and gifted to Ervin Baktay during a visit to Europe in 1933. Baktay had encouraged her to study in Paris at the Ecole des Beaux Arts at 16. The artist painted herself as a demure coquette with a spark in her eyes and bright red lips that symbolize her burgeoning womanhood. This painting was part of a series of self-portraits in varying guises. Sher-Gil returned to India a year later and after touring the country, she developed a personal style of painting that melded the palette and architecture of Mughal and Pahari miniature paintings with the painterly styles of the Post Impressionists and the Flemish Old Masters.
Priyanka Mathew, Head of Sales, Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art, commented: “Amrita Sher Gil is an icon – a trailblazer and a heroic figure in Indian history. I have been inspired by her as an artist and as a woman living on her own terms capturing the zeitgeist in Europe and coming back to India to forge a new style of painting. I am deeply moved to be the auctioneer for this rare and historic Self-Portrait which I will look back on as one of the highlights of my career.”
Two very significant private collections will also be featured in the sale including an important group of works by Nobel Poet Laureate and Indian National Treasure, Rabindranath Tagore, from the collection of Anil Kumar Chanda and Ranee Chanda who were both close associates of the artist. The auction will also include remarkable paintings belonging to a private German family collection led by Vasudeo S. Gaitonde’s sublime sunset red Untitledpainting from 1963 (est. $1.5/2 million). In addition, the sale includes important works by Jehangir Sabavala, Krishen Khanna, Ram Kumar, Francis Newton Souza, Maqbool Fida Husain, Sudhir Patwardhan and Jagdish Swaminathan as well as a dynamic selection of works by leading contemporary artists such as Zarina Hashmi, Jitish Kallat and Subodh Gupta.