Closing of Elegant Design

Elizabeth Prendiville of Saffronart New York covers the results of the popular Elegant Design 24 hour sale.


New York: Tuesday March 25th marked the opening of Elegant Design, Saffronart’s premier vintage interior design sale. The sale was immediately followed by its twin auction, Works on Paper, opening on March 26th. Elegant Design featured 109 important vintage items in interior and decorative art including rugs, silver, and various furniture pieces. Each lot was carefully selected to represent the most pivotal periods in the decorative arts both in India and worldwide. An example of this can be seen in the campaign furniture, depicting the specific needs of the British army in the 18th and 19th century.


Spanning the most pivotal eras in interior design history, each lot also featured a variety of exquisite mediums and materials. The sale featured pieces made from a variety of rare woods such as rosewood, teakwood, mahogany and padauk wood. Graceful, small items such as A Rare Matched Pair of Kutch Silver Tea Cups (Lot 68) and large statement pieces such as An Indian Mother Of Pearl Door (Lot 105) all displayed a variety of excellent aesthetic detail appropriate for any space. Exhibiting equal parts beauty and function, each lot was an exceptional addition for any collection and home.



Due to the wide range of beautiful vintage pieces the sale received extremely positive media coverage from a variety of media publications including Elle India, ArtDaily and DNA India. The top ten valued items from the sale ranged from furniture to silver flatware to lighting fixtures. The highest winning lots included A Magnificent and Rare Art Deco Chandelier (Lot 25) coming in at $18,772 and A Stunning and Highly Important Ebony Sideboard (Lot 33) with a winning value of $9,447. Overall the most popular and sought after items varied greatly in materials, geography and design history. The sale concluded with sixty-six lots sold and a total winning value of $176,469. It is clear from the warm reception and enthusiasm for these beautiful items that vintage design and décor is still a lovely and timeless edition to any buyer’s collection.


To learn more about some of the items featured in Elegant Design visit Campaign Furniture: Historical Function and Design and click here for a full analysis of the overall sale.

What’s with the Fascination with Paper?

Kanika Pruthi delves into the world of paper works in anticipation of Saffronart’s upcoming auction of Works on Paper

New York: March is a bustling time for us at Saffronart as we gear towards two auctions this month. Our upcoming Works on Paper sale will feature a collection of artworks on paper by modern and contemporary Indian artists. The focus on paper works enables connoisseurs and collectors to view a group of works in multiple contexts, which may otherwise elude their attention or take a back seat given the simplicity of the medium.

The use of paper in the arts of India has a long documented history.  Paper came to India from China via the famed Silk Route. Indian miniature tradition is the only available surviving evidence of the widespread use of this material in the arts from the sub-continent. The humble medium went on to become an integral part of the genesis and development of the modern and contemporary Indian art movement. Raja Ravi Varma, considered by many as the first Indian modern painter, developed an artistic style which has come to be associated with beginning of the modernist art movement. His grand canvases adorned with mythological themes and royal portraits played a vital role in shaping early modern Indian visuality. The assimilation of his iconic images in the popular culture of India was possible through the dissemination of his works to a wider audience. This was made possible through the intervention of printing press which reproduced his works as oleographs for mass circulation. The medium of paper made it possible for ordinary people to partake in the modern art movement in an unprecedented manner.

The early 20th century gave rise to the Bengal School of Art, the first revivalist nationalist art movement of India. The artistic enquiry and fervor at the turn of the century gave momentum to other art movements and independent artist initiatives over the proceeding decades, which have come to form the canon of modern Indian art. Art works on paper from different movements and artists abound and provide rich documentation of the trajectory of Indian art. Works in this sale cover the oeuvre of some of the seminal artists and artistic movement of the 20th century in India.

Gaganendranath Tagore, Untitled, 1907, Watercolor on paper

Gaganendranath Tagore, Untitled, 1907, Watercolor on paper

The continued use of paper as a medium of choice can be attributed to its ready availability, ease of usage and adaptability to different techniques and other mediums. As the group of paper works in the upcoming auction demonstrates, paper has lent its surface to ink, tempera, gouache, watercolor, pencil, acrylic, oil, pastel etc. In many cases it is indispensible to the technique employed by the artist, like in the case of lithographs, photography and select mixed media works.

M.F. Husain, Untitled, Pen and pencil on paper

M.F. Husain, Untitled, Pen and pencil on paper

Other than their usage, paper works have often time lent themselves to narrate untold stories and unknown episodes. From the 1950s onwards, many modernist painters travelled to Europe to enhance and expand their practice. Paper works produced during their travels give us a glimpse of their experiences and its impact on their art practice. At other times paper works inform us about the development of certain iconography and themes associated with artists- for example the many erotic drawings, nudes and portraits of F.N. Souza or the fissured bodies of Jogen Chowdhury- both of which are featured in the sale. In many cases the image on paper presents a fragment of a bigger work or a series undertaken by the artist- giving the viewer a chance to closely look at the elements of a work at closer proximity and in isolation from the larger narrative. Lot 85, a work by M.F. Husain brings together a collection of small jottings which bring to mind many of the iconic images that have graced his canvases.

Baiju Parthan, Caput Motum-7, 2008, Acrylic and transfers on arches paper

Baiju Parthan, Caput Motum-7, 2008, Acrylic and transfers on arches paper

Contemporary artists in recent years have used paper to produce large scale works as well. It is worth noting how the medium is adapted to their particular technique and artistic discourse.One of the larger works in the upcoming auction is Baiju Parthan’s Caput Motum -7a work teeming with visual tropes, drawing the viewer deeper, eyes wandering in an attempt to decipher the artist’s intention.

Our recent evening sale saw S.H. Raza’s “Haut De Cagnes” setting a record price for a work on paper by an Indian artist. Traditionally seen as a lesser form in the hierarchy of artworks, paper as a genre is claiming its rightful place. Our upcoming sale of Works on Paper further reinforces the significance of this medium and its marked position as an independent collecting category. 

An Interview with V. Ramesh

Indrapramit Roy of Maharaja Sayajirao University, Baroda, in a candid interview with the artist

An exhibition titled “Remembrances of Voices Past” opened at the National Gallery of Modern Art, Bengaluru, on 5th Feb 2014. This one and a half month-long exhibition showcases a decade-long journey of Vedantabatla Ramesh, better known as V. Ramesh. It is a journey covering a period from 2003 to 2013 that is significant in its depth and ambition. It was not a common occurrence till a few years ago to have a show of an artist in his mid-fifties at the National Gallery, especially one as media-shy and self-effacing as Ramesh. Thankfully, things are changing for the better, and that calls for celebration.

I have not known many people who can so readily laugh at themselves and yet produce works of infinite intricacy that are breathtaking in their, if I may say so, spiritual depth. These are very deeply felt works of a person unconcerned with the ways of the art world digging a lonely furrow with a rare conviction.

Born in 1958, V. Ramesh had studied at the Faculty of Fine Arts, Maharaja Sayajirao University (M.S.U.) of Baroda, and spent most of his working life away from major art centres at Vishakhapatnam, where he has been teaching painting for nearly three decades at the Fine Arts Faculty of Andhra University. He works mostly in large format canvas and some small-scale watercolours. Ramesh’s oeuvre has through the years consistently revealed a preoccupation with a meditative terrain. His most recent works deal with women saint-poets from the Bhakti and Sufi traditions, conflating text and image in a mélange of layered narratives mixing painterly delight with contemplative depth. His intricate textures and transparent layering lends the imagery already replete with cultural memory a power that is at once recognizable and yet mysteriously majestic.

This interview was conducted over telephone and e-mail and Ramesh’s responses are precise and short in an almost Zen-like manner, so much so that sometime framing a question takes more space than the answers. Nevertheless, hopefully they will cast some light on the works and ideas of a major artist working in India today.

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Indrapramit: The earliest examples that I have seen in your oeuvre from the late ’80s and early ’90s revolved around the fishing folk from the coastline of your native Vishakhapatnam. The subaltern bodies strained with work had what one noted writer referred to as a ‘matter-of-fact-heroism’. Then, there was a noticeable shift occurring around the late ’90s when your figures started getting more evanescent, and paintings more layered. You experimented with found imagery, text, transparency and generally seemed more interested about the process of painting. How did this change come about?

V.Ramesh: During the mid-nineties, I faced what seemed then to be an existential dilemma. There was a sense of having reached the end of one’s tether. The earlier images of subaltern bodies and the mode of actually using paint no longer excited me, and I could feel perhaps a sense of lassitude and fatigue setting in my work. There was no way out – except perhaps to stop working. I did not stop but started working on small papers with dry pastel. These were very different almost abstract kind of works roughly relating to landscapes. I had a show of these in Baroda and I remember Surendran (Nair) wondering what had happened to my works! But that break was needed.

Indrapramit: You have mentioned elsewhere that for the past so many years your work deals with the idea of transience or impermanence. This is of particular interest to me…

V.Ramesh:As I am never tired of proclaiming, it was a serendipitous visit to Ramanashramam in1998 that acted as a catalyst in changing the direction and nature of my work. I saw a different facet of life and that made me introspect. After that I came back to oils and started working on large scale again. This eventually grew into the show called “A Thousand and One Desires”. I tackled the idea of desire, of greed, of avarice… sentiments that were totally absent in the ashram. You might say I started at the wrong end of the scale but that’s how it was. The nineties and the beginning of the new millennium were very fraught times in this country.

Indrapramit: Every time I encounter your painting I get the feeling that here is an artist contemplating what has almost become an anathema in our brazen times, that you are actually touching upon some very fundamental questions about the nature of life, love, body, lust, spirituality, death and some such profound issues.

V.Ramesh: I look at it as a contemporary human being’s search for the unity underlying the disparate elements of the world. You might call it the reality beyond the surface; a search for truth that lies beneath the ever-accelerating flux of today’s world that became my own quest.

Indrapramit:  Do you feel that the increasing marginalization of painting in the discourse of contemporary art has something to do with your subtle, nuanced and painstaking manner of painting, or do you feel the whole question regarding the role of painting, admittedly the old media, is superfluous?

V.Ramesh: The ability to draw the viewer within, through this state of flux, through its layers of paint and images, to be able to transcend these outwardly seen and perceived phenomena, one has to adopt strategies and improvise modes of expressions. I still believe in the validity of painting – it is a sacrosanct space. The day it does not feel that way I would be the first one to abandon painting.

Indrapramit: How did you get interested in Bhakti poetry and the poets?

V.Ramesh: For quite some time Bhakti or Devotion was singled out as the leitmotif in my work – not merely as an underlying unseen presence, but something that could be felt as an emotional exaltation. In the beginning when I was attempting to find an appropriate language and devising strategies to find an equivalency to this emotional exaltation, I found there were really no immediate precedents. In a way it was convenient to appropriate the voices of these poets and use them in my work.

Indrapramit: You have been teaching since 1985 nearly for 29 nine years. How do you feel it has impacted your work over the decades?

V.Ramesh: Teaching has taught me to be patient, as well as to have a sense of humility and effacement of one’s ego, especially when it comes to presuming that one knows almost everything as a teacher. You realize that is not the case and that is a humbling experience. You are not really filling an empty vessel but mentoring people to find their own voices. So, all these qualities I think have stood me in good stead when it came to my own work.

(Indrapramit Roy is an artist who teaches painting at the Faculty of Fine Arts, MSU of Baroda and knows V.Ramesh since 1989)

Campaign Furniture: Historical Function and Design

Elizabeth Prendiville of Saffronart shares a brief introduction to campaign furniture anticipating the upcoming sale “Elegant Design”.

Upcoming Saffronart Sale "Elegant Design"

Upcoming Saffronart Sale “Elegant Design”


New York: Campaign furniture has a distinct role in history due to its unique blend of beautiful aesthetic and simple usability. Born out of necessity, the construction of these furniture pieces was revolutionary. It can be distinguished by its ability to breakdown and fold into an easy to transport state. This quality is typically constructed with the help of brass hinges or foldable legs and sides, while still maintaining a beautiful and high quality design motif.

A piece from the upcoming Saffronart sale "Elegant Design"

A piece from the upcoming Saffronart sale “Elegant Design”

Historically these pieces were made popular by the British Army in the 18th and 19th century and were typically used by travelers and military officials in the pursuit of colonial efforts. The British Army required pieces that represented the warm luxuries of home, but would not burden or weigh them down while on their campaign. As the call for these “knock-down” styles increased, the finest furniture and luggage makers began to compete over who could make the most opulent pieces while still maintaining a light and malleable design. They ranged from full-scale living furniture to carrying cases for food and toiletry items.

A piece from the upcoming Saffronart sale "Elegant Design"

A piece from the upcoming Saffronart sale “Elegant Design”

This piece of history represents a very distinct time of global expansion including major explorations in the east. “The administrators and armies of the British Empire in the Indian subcontinent were perhaps the largest consumer of campaign furniture leading to high quality local manufacturing of durable, practical and elegant ‘knock-down’ chairs, tables, desks, bookcases and beds” (J and R Guram). Furniture fit for the leaders of the British Army proved to be successful in popular culture and still remains in style today due to its durability and utilitarian beauty. A number of contemporary craftsman still continue this tradition and it is often seen in outdoor furniture, indoor furniture and high end collectible items alike. From an interior design perspective Campaign Furniture offers a balance of graceful antiquity with modern functionality that will continue to be sought after for decades to come. While this design technique began out of necessity, in present day it represents a historical golden age of travel and global expeditions. Campaign furniture will be honored in the upcoming sale “Elegant Design” featuring items such as a desks, tables, luggage and travel accessories. For more information on the sale and the items shown in this article please visit the auction website here.

Jewels at The Oscars

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All images and text from “A Dozen Jewels From The Oscars” by the National Jeweler.

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