Sotheby's has brought out selected art from four important collections of South Asian modern and contemporary art including a cache of wooden toys crafted by the late M.F. Husain for its Sept 10 auction in New York.
The works have been sourced from the private archives of Abe and Jan Weisblat; Manuela and Cleveland Fuller, a US diplomatic family posted in India in the 1960s; the late June and John Lewis Collection and the Guyar Family Collection.
The collection, comprising art works between 1950s and 1980s, is estimated between $3.1 million and $4.5 million, Sotheby's said.
The Weisblat collection, the most important collection of Indian art to appear in an Indian auction since the sale of the Herwitz collection of 2000.
The lots which will go under the hammer will be led by the early modernists like Ram Kumar, M.F. Husain and S.H. Raza, whose works were some of the the earliest to have sold abroad to private archivists.
Priyanka Mathew, head of sale of modern and contemporary art at Sotheby's, said the sale hosted works that were fresh to the market and were of exceptional provenance.
The highlight of the Weisblat collection is a disparate selection of works by M.F. Husain which includes a untitled 1960s canvas from "The Three Muses, Maya Series" (estimated at $700,000) and wooden toys which the artist designed while working at the Fantasy Furniture Shop.
Collector Abe Weisblat moved to India with his wife Jan Hallett after he received a Ford Foundation fellowship to study in Bombay in 1953. Abe's insightful reports from Bombay led the Ford Foundation to hire him. He moved to the Council on Economic and Cultural Affairs, a small organization funded by John D. Rockefeller III, which in its early years funded Asian artists to travel out.
Abe identified the artists and in course befriended influential Indian modernists. It marked the beginning of his large collection of Indian art.
The family of Manuela and Cleveland Fuller spent more than 20 years in South Asia as members of US diplomatic corps. They struck enduring friendships with Jahangir Sabavala, M.F. Husain and Laxman Shreshtha.
An untitled canvas of night life in Bombay by Laxman Shrestha acquired in 1963 is the highlight of the collection.
The diplomatic family of Manuela and Cleveland Fuller spent more than 20 years in South Asia. The Fullers struck enduring friendships with Jahangir Sabavala, M.F. Husain and Laxman Shreshtha.
Also featured in this collection is "Untitled" (Bombay Night) by Laxman Shreshtha (estimated $15/20,000), originally acquired directly from the artist in Kathmandu in 1963.
June and John Lewis, who came to India in 1959, had befriended collectors Tom and Martha Keehn, as well as Lakshmi Jain, the co-founder of the Indian Cooperative Union, all of whom had played a significant role in the development of Indian art.
The late Lewis, in the 1970s invested in Indian modern art, buying from galleries and artists while the Guyer Family, owners of a departmental store in the US, acquired a large collection of Indian art in the 1950s.