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Artist in Focus : Manjit Bawa

In this section for D’s Art Takes, we pick one artist to showcase their work and creative journey so far. Today, we look at the Indian artist, Manjit Bawa.

Manjit Bawa : The Journey as Artist

Manjit Bawa (b. 1941; d.2008) was an Indian artist born in Dhrui, Punjab. Bawa studied at the College of Art in New Delhi from 1958-1962, under two Masters of Modern Indian art, Somnath Hore and Abani Sen. Inspired by Sen, his mentor, Bawa’s creative vocabulary remained predominantly figurative throughout his career. Rigorously trained, the artist would often make upto 50 sketches a day during his years as a student.

Bawa’s travel to London upon graduating gave him unparalleled international exposure at a young stage in his career. He studied at the London School of Painting, while also working in the city as a silkscreen printmaker. It was around this time that Bawa did his first solo exhibitions in London and Spain.

The artist’s return to India reflected the changes in his art around 1972. His subject matter moved from the European to Indian classical and mythological. His signature palette included yellows, reds and blues, with a flat background of a single colour appearing in a vast number of his works. Sufism was a constant theme in his oeuvre and Lord Krishna and the flute were recurring motifs.

Commercial Success

Bawa’s paintings represented Indian art on an international platform through exhibitions and biennials. London’s Royal Academy of Arts and Washington’s Hirshhorn Museum featured works by the artist. Not only is his art critically acclaimed amongst academics and scholars, it had also seen success in the commercial art market. In 2017, Bawa’s Untitled (Krishna & Cow) sold at Christie’s New York for a record breaking Rs. 5 crore. In early 2018, the artist set another personal record when his Untitled work depicting the Vishnu on a bed of snakes sold for Rs. 7.78 crore in an online sale on AstaGuru.

More recently, in October 2018, with the liquidation of the Abraaj Group art collection, another work of Bawa’s sold for £476,750 (about Rs. 14 crore) at a Bonhams auction. For achieving the price it did, this painting became the star lot of the sale.

To learn more about your favourite artist and their creative journey, visit Artist in Focus.

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