Whilst undertaking an art valuation in South London, on behalf of a local solicitor and representatives of a deceased’s estate, Jonathan Roberts (Culvertons’ general valuer) identified a small abstract landscape, painted in oils, to be the work of Syed Haider Raza (1922 – ). This work of art by India’s foremost contemporary artist definitely needed further investigation.
Syed Raza was born in Barbaria in the Mandla district of Madhya Pradesh in central India. He developed a love of drawing at the age of 12, and after completing his higher education he embarked upon a lifelong artistic journey, attending art schools in Nagpur and Bombay. His early expressionistic watercolours, fluently executed and, in contrast to his contemporaries, inspired by the landscapes and townscapes of his homeland rather than figurative subjects, showed no indication of being influenced by European realism which had dominated Indian art for such a long time.
In 1946 Raza was given a solo exhibition in Bombay (Mumbai), and a year after, his continual divergence from the mainstream European tradition culminated in the co-founding of the then-radical Bombay Progressive Arts Group with Krishnaji Howlaji Ara and Francis Newton Souza in 1947. One year after the group’s first exhibition Syed returned to studies, attending the E’cole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, a city that was to become his home for many years. It was from this vantage point that he witnessed the growth of India’s capitalistic ideals.
Over the last two decades collectors, investors and India’s young entrepreneurial elite have been increasingly active within the global art market, acquiring the very best modern Indian art when it appears for sale. Works by Teyeb Mehta, V.S Gaitconde, M.F Hussain, Amrita Shergil, and especially Syed Haider Raza himself, make up the top ten highest values achieved at auction – ‘Saurashtra’, acrylic on canvas by him sold in 2010 for £2,393,250, a record for a modern Indian artist.
However in recent years many highly-valued works of art have undergone a downward correction compared with the extreme highs seen in the previous decade. Selective buying by collectors rather than investors are now more prevalent within this current stabilizing market. Many collectors who already possess works by India’s artistic vanguard are, for reasons of affordability, investment, and desire to change their collection‘s artistic direction, finding their focus and funds are now also drawn to new upcoming contemporary Indian artists’ work. These factors are prompting owners and auction houses wishing to sell high value paintings to be realistic when giving estimates for upcoming sales – those who do not take heed of the current market can be left with major unsold works; auction results can readily be viewed online, an artwork that re-appears at auction after previously failing to sell can struggle to re-gain its fresh to the market appeal and the confidence of potential buyers.
The major London salerooms once dominated their poorer cousins in the provinces, but with the advent of the internet the playing field has somewhat leveled off. Culvertons regularly work alongside provincial auction rooms with great success, arranging transportation, consignment, and lower-than-normal commission rates on behalf of their clients. However, occasionally an antique or work of art such as this small landscape by Syed Haider Raza needs to be seen to have the backing of one of the world‘s leading auction rooms and be offered within a specialised and well publicised sale to generate the best results for the beneficiaries of the estate, which was in this case a charity which had close ties to the deceased.
Over a period of a year, we at Culvertons worked alongside the specialists within Christie’s Indian and South East Asian Department, first establishing the painting’s open market value for inheritance tax purposes. Once HMRC had accepted our findings, we worked together to facilitate its shipment to New York, to meet the deadline for Christie’s next auction. Every one’s hard work and efforts on behalf of the beneficiaries paid off – last September Syed Haider Raza’s small untitled landscape discovered by a Culvertons’ valuer in a South London flat sold for $24,000.00.
Assessing the value of works of art is a task for specialists, and to facilitate prudent decision making, coupled with possible future reductions in inheritance tax and financial protection premiums, older valuations and currently-held notions of worth may need to be revised. Culvertons invite inquiries from collectors, estate representatives, and individuals, offering their services, advice, and help where and whenever possible.
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Culvertons provide valuation, restoration, conservation and probate services, throughout central & southern England, principally in Surrey, Sussex, Kent & Hampshire, and including London.We pride ourselves on our customer service and strong ethical working practices, striving to ensure these are demonstrated in all aspects of the work we do.
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