Christie’s annual summer auction of South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art comprises 77 lots, almost entirely from private collections from Europe, India, Asia, US and Australia. Following India’s participation and Pakistan’s debut at this year’s Venice Biennale, this year’s auction will celebrate art from both countries.
The auction is led by the striking Falling Figure with Bird painted in 2002 by Tyeb Mehta (1925-2009). This compelling composition manifests the sense of angst, helplessness and fear that Mehta felt at the societal violence and tragedy he experienced in the aftermath of partition. This image draws its power from a cinematic sense of suspense, freezing the action in an eternal moment of helpless free fall. Both deeply personal and politically poignant, this virtuoso painting distils complex psychological and metaphysical notions of suffering and trauma with the economy of line, form and colour characteristic of Mehta’s work. Here, the entwined avian and human figures draw perhaps from literary characters like Icarus or Phaethon, who failed in their quests of flight and union with divinity (estimate: £1,500,000-2,000,000).