A collection of never-before-seen modern Indian art, including unpublished artworks by artists V.S. Gaitonde and Ram Kumar, will be offered for auction for the first time in London by Sotheby's auction house later this month.
Assembled by the Danish couple Gunnar Hansen and his wife Inger almost half a century ago, the history of the collection is closely tied to that of one of India's leading infrastructure businesses of the 20th century, Larsen & Toubro (L&T), for whom Gunnar worked for over 20 years.
“Gunnar and Inger Hansen's collection is a true hidden gem. All of the paintings offered here have rarely been seen in public, if ever, before,” said Ishrat Kanga, Head of Sotheby's London Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art Sale.
“The pieces were acquired by the Hansens in India in the 1960s and 1970s, soon after leaving the artist's studios and have been treasured by the family for some 40 to 50 years. Enthused by the radical art they discovered in post-independence India, the Hansens assembled a visionary collection that today is a perfect time capsule, demonstrating the depth and quality of abstract and non-objective art which was being created in India at this extraordinary moment in time,” said Kanga.
According to Sotheby's, while working for L&T, Hansen also made a life for himself and his family in India. He and wife Inger moved from Denmark to India in 1953, where their children Marianne, Peter and Torben were born.It was while living in Mumbai, then Bombay, that Hansen acquired his passion for modern Indian painting and was a regular visitor to Gallery Chemould and Pundole Art Gallery, where they met the great Indian modernists - including Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, Ram Kumar and Krishen Khanna - and amassed their superb collection.
The Sotheby's Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art Auction, scheduled for September 29, includes a selection of works from the estate of Bhupen Khakhar, including a painting of one of the artist's closest friends which hung in pride of place in his Baroda drawing room.'Portrait of Shri Shankerbhai V. Patel Near Red Fort', estimated at £260,000-450,000, remained with the artist throughout his life - a sign of the artist's unflinching devotion to the man depicted in the painting. Shankerbhain Patel is said to have been frail, almost or nearly blind, and a widower when Khakhar painted this portrait in 1971 and the artist never fully recovered from his death in 1975. Patel has been immortalised in some of his most important paintings, and this example is of crucial importance within the artist's inimitable body of work.
A further collection to go under the hammer comes from the estate of Patwant Singh, one of India's most important tastemakers and scholars. The works, offered here for the first time and not seen for a generation, paint a vivid portrait of a remarkable individual. They are led by Ram Kumar's 'Ruins', acquired directly from the artist in the 1960s and estimated at £80,000-120,000.
Kanga added: “What is particularly delightful about Patwant's collection is the sense one gets, not only of his personal taste, but also of the value he placed on the objects he surrounded himself with, in his magnificent home. The works speak of a life well-lived.
"It is especially interesting to think of the stories that each of the works in the collection carry with them, having watched over the great and the good of the twentieth century who were regular visitors to Patwant's home.”
The entire collection will go on public display at Sotheby's London headquarters in New Bond Street from September 25.
by Aditi Khanna