Works by Sadequain (1937-87), Pakistan's most revered and versatile painter and calligrapher, lead Bonhams Art of Pakistan Sale at Bonhams New Bond Street, London on 24 May 2017. This is the first sale entirely dedicated to Pakistani art to be held by an international auction house.
Tahmina Ghaffar, Bonhams Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art specialist, explains the significance. "This year Pakistan celebrates the 70th anniversary of its Independence. Pakistani heritage is far reaching and untethered. Conceived as a country of refuge and sanctuary, with new residents came new languages, foods and customs. Many of the masters featured in this auction, such as Sadequain, Ali Imam, Bashir Mirza and Shemza were born in what is still India and also travelled overseas. Their influences and references shaped the artistic output of the region and show its international appeal. Similarly, those who hail from Pakistan now live across the world.
Bonhams has been a proud supporter of Pakistani art for a number of years, and this auction is in direct response to the increasing demand from collectors. Long considered secondary perhaps to other regional markets, the art of Pakistan stands independently as an art market of great importance globally."
The sale is led by two works by Sadequain:
Crucifixion, estimated at £60,000-90,000 embodies a classic example of a series of works branded by Sadequain as Mystic Figurations and is characteristic of his sixties style. Awarded the 'Laureate de Paris' at the France Biennale in 1961, Sadequain was receiving international recognition throughout the 1960s. His critical acclaim coincided with his period of particularly heightened self-awareness and Sadequain produced a number of cross hatched self-portraits such as this one. Never before seen at auctiOn and with impeccable provenance, this monumental artwork is a quintessential example of the finest Pakistani artist of all time.
Four Musicians (estimate £35,000-45,000) is one of the works Sadequain amassed for an exhibition in Rouen, France, in 1966 that, in the event, was not held because the ill health of the artist's father caused him to return to Pakistan. Works from this so called 'Lost Exhibition' depict heavily stylised figures in broad sweeping lines, showing the influence of the École de Paris. Sadequain's admiration for Matisse and Picasso is well documented. This particular work can draw parallels with the composition of Picasso's 1907 masterpiece, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon.
Sadequain was born in 1930 in Amroha, in the North Western Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, during the height of British rule. He sought to break with tradition and even under the strict confines of religiously preoccupied leadership in Pakistan, Sadequain was able to challenge this both socially and artistically. Sadequain developed a primarily figurative style that was entirely unique and laden with powerful symbolism that resonated with his fellow Pakistanis. He is credited with being the driving force behind the modern art in Pakistan.
Tahmina Ghaffar said, "Sadequain was a master calligrapher and painter one of the finest and most pivotal Pakistan has ever produced. His works are keenly sought after, and I am expecting a great deal of interest from collectors in the fine works we are offering in this sale."