With an M?F Husain canvas from 1969 hung next to a magnificent abstract work from V?S Gaitonde completed in the same year, it is not difficult to see why it is worth taking a detour from Dubai’s usual art circuit to visit the newly opened Sovereign Gallery in Jumeirah Lake Towers.
Since last week, two adjacent office spaces on the fourth floor of one of the many towers lining Sheikh Zayed Road has been home to a collection of masterpieces from the pioneers of Indian modernism. Husain and Gaitonde are joined by S?H Raza, Ram Kumar, Akbar Padamsee and Tyeb Mehta.
Each of the six paintings has a story; Vieilles Maisons ŕ Paris, the oil on canvas from Raza, for example, was painted in 1958, went to the Venice Biennale in 1959 and still has the labels at the back from the prestigious event. The Gaitonde has already been sold to a very famous institution for an undisclosed sum – and the same painting actually passed through the gallerist’s hands in the 1990s as well as through his father’s in the 1960s, as did the piece by Husain. “I consider it a coincidence for having the good fortune to exhibit them once again at the start of their new journey,” says Dadiba Pundole, whose father Kali founded the famous 50-year-old Pundole Art Gallery in Mumbai.
The decision to open the Dubai gallery came after Pundole had been dealing art in the city for four years and realised the potential of the metropolis. “A lot of early material from India was bought by expats and is now in the West so I thought there was huge potential in the UAE. This is also a strategic point where even Indians can come and visit very easily due to its proximity.”
Although small in size, the exhibition is big on numbers. Prices range from US$350,000 to $2.8 million (Dh1.3m to Dh10.3m) and according to Pundole, the Indian art market is currently valued at $400m. “The best way to look at these figures is to gauge them and then harness the growth potential. At Sovereign, our aim is simply to make Indian art more available and accessible to collectors in the Middle East.”
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