NEW YORK – For desi art and culture aficionados, there’s nothing quite like the month of September in New York. Art auctions abound with the onset of the Asia Week. Literature and dance festivals make an impact drawing in thousands of spectators; and the city and its suburbs reverberates with myriad celebrations of Hindu festivals in cool evenings, with commercial pockets of ‘Little India’ across the Tristate decorated in style to herald in yet another auspicious fall season.
Leading the pack of art auctions this week, on September 11, is Christie’s South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art sale, which is led by a monumental painting by Sayed Haider Raza, La Terre, painted in 1977.
This seminal painting represents a triumph in Raza’s long engagement with nature and the genre of the landscape. Alongside a group of exceptional early works by members of the influential Progressive Artists’ Group, the Christie’s sale features important paintings by pioneers of modernism in South Asia such as George Keyt, Abdur Rahman Chughtai, Zainul Abedin, Shakir Ali and Mohammad Kibria.
Highlights include Francis Newton Souza’s imposing 1958 portrait, Head in a Landscape, and Bikash Bhattacharjee’s captivating surreal studio scene from 1970 titled The Visitors. Important works by Jehangir Sabavala, Akbar Padamsee and Arpita Singh and a strong selection of works by the most sought-after contemporary artists from the region like Zarina, Mrinalini Mukherjee, Jitish Kallat, Muhammad Imran Qureshi and Subodh Gupta round out the catalogue.
The sale concludes with a special section featuring works donated to Columbia University Press by artists, galleries and collectors to raise funds for their project, The Library of Bengali Literature. These include paintings, sculptures and prints by Jamini Roy, Chittaprosad Bhattacharya, Jogen Chowdhury, Rina Banerjee, Raqs Media Collective, Rana Begum, Naeem Mohaiemen, Tayeba Begum Lipi and Ayesha Sultana among others.
This past weekend, Christie’s hosted the lectures “The Tiruvenkadu Master & 10,000 Pearls Adorn a Bronze” by Vidya Dehejia and Barbara Stoler Miller, Professor of Indian and South Asian Art, Columbia University; and “Global Bengal: 1,000 Years of Texts & Moving…” by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, University Professor in the Humanities, Columbia University, to set off the auction.
Concurrently, the Sotheby’s Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art Online auction this week presents a fantastic opportunity to acquire affordable paintings and prints by some of the most important artists from the Indian subcontinent, from the early 20th century to present times.
Among the diverse array of works on offer are a rare chromolithograph by Nandalal Bose, oil paintings by Francis Newton Souza from the 1960s and works by Sayed Haider Raza, including an early, 1940s watercolor and a 1980s acrylic.
Other offerings include property with the fabled Chester and Davida Herwitz provenance, and paintings by artists from Bengal, ranging from masters such as Zainul Abedin – the father of Modern art from Bangladesh – and Manishi Dey, to popular artists from our own times – Paresh Maity and Rabin Mondal.
Also in the sale are works by GR Santosh and Krishna Reddy, as well as contemporary works by Seher Shah and Thukral & Tagra. With prices ranging from $1,000 to $30,000, this is the perfect opportunity for both new and established buyers to explore collecting in this genre.
The much awaited annual Jaipur Literature Festival – described as “the greatest literary show on Earth” – returns to New York, on September 18, featuring internationally acclaimed authors and thinkers in a range of provocative panels and debates, at the Asia Society. This year’s edition of JLF New York, from the organizers of the Jaipur Literature Festival, includes the launch of William Dalrymple’s latest book, The Anarchy, on the rise and significance of the East India Company.
Intriguing panels include one on ‘Food, Memory, and Culture’, where Chandrahas Choudhary, Krishnendu Ray, Chair of the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies at NYU, and iconic food critic Adam Platt would be seen in conversation with Ligaya Mishan. The premise of the panel is that taste buds carry receptors of memory and food is an intangible trigger of feelings and emotions, internal states of the mind and body. The complex relationship between food, memory, and narrative has been invoked by writers in literature across the world.
A highlight of the festival this year is a talk with actress Manisha Koirala, in conversation with Sanjoy K. Roy. It’s likely to be a sold-out affair, with the actress likely to share the highs and lows of her life, her career, relationships, and her battle with ovarian cancer.
Roy, the Managing Director of Teamwork Arts, will also introduce popular writer William Dalrymple, who will talk about his new book ‘The Anarchy’, on the East India Company. ‘The Anarchy’ charts how one of the world’s most magnificent empires disintegrated and how it came to be replaced by a dangerously unregulated private company.
For those inclined to watch and enjoy Indian dance, the Indo-American Arts Council brings plenty of diverse fare over three days, September 14-16th, at their annual 11th Annual Erasing Borders Dance Festival. The festival includes a dance concert, workshops, and discussions on Indian dance forms.
Performers and panelists at the dance festival this year include Radhe Jaggi, Parijat Desai, Krishnakshi Kashyap, the Vishwakiran Nambi Dance Company, IndianRaga, Nolini Barretto, Aparna Ramaswamy, and Tamar Rogoff.
Rogoff will lead a workshop on narrative dance, at the festival. As artistic director of Tamar Rogoff Performance Projects, she does inclusive, multidisciplinary, multigenerational, and site-specific performance and film. She has developed body scripting, an experiential approach that informs her lifelong teaching and choreographic process.
(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him on Twitter @SujeetRajan1)