Kishore Singh predicts that Manjit Bawa’s prices will continue to rise as Indian art recovers from its recession. Bawas death two years ago coincided with that drop in prices but this year his rise into the pantheon of Indian Modernists seems inevitable:
Bawa was the Punjab-born artist who became a darling of Delhi’s party circuit with his maverick ways. He booked himself into the Ambassador Hotel in central Delhi and turned it into a studio-adda, sending a frisson of excitement, and gossip tinged with malice, through the capital’s strict protocol- and hierarchy-driven society. That he dared to do it as an artist who in a sense took on the modernist establishment, celebrating his Indian roots, was more provocative. He took stories from the Panchatantra and Mahabharata and used figures from the fables — men and women, gods and heroes, beasts and demons — to turn them into objects of fantasy. But the renditions were simple, his use of rich, flat fields of colour were initially disparagingly compared with popsicles, yet it was this figurative mythology that became his hallmark style and, for most, a discussion point.
Where Tyeb Mehta’s somewhat similar journey and equally mythologised use of a central, minimal figure was defined by pent-up strength and violence, Bawa’s exuded a serenity that arose from his own gentle personality. Where it is sometimes difficult to live with a work by F N Souza, Bawa’s is ideal to begin the day with. As the quintessential myth-maker, his canvases are storyboards that cut across generations in their appeal. And now biographer and author of the new book on Bawa lays in place a foundation of intellectualisation as well.
Statistics and the Myth-Maker (Business Standard)