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Home > Auction >  Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art >  Lot.1 Meera Mukherjee
Zero Hour

LOT 1 Meera Mukherjee
Zero Hour

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Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art





Translation provided by Youdao



Property from a Private German CollectorMeera Mukherjee1923 - 1998Zero HourBronzeThis work is unique12 ¾ x 16 ½ x 5 ¾ in. (32.4 x 41.9 x 14.6 cm.)Acquired directly from the artist, Calcutta, 1978The present owner was a member of the German Diplomatic service, transferred to Calcutta in 1978. The German Consulate General was closely connected with the Max Mueller Bhavan (MMB), the Calcutta branch of the Goethe-Institut which sought cultural cooperation and exchange. While in Calcutta, the current owner was invited to join a colleague from the MMB on a visit to Meera Mukherjee's residence. Mukherjee showed them around, describing her works and sharing recollections from her time in Germany, including the impression made on her by the work of German sculptor, Ernst Barlach. Upon seeing Zero Hour and hearing Mukherjee's explanation of the work, the current owner was immediately struck by it, acquiring the sculpture from the artist that same day. Zero Hour has been part of his collection ever since, remaining with him on his many professional placements around the world, before he returned home to Germany.As a student at the Hochschule für Bildende Kuenste in Munich in 1953, Meera Mukherjee was unhappy with the self-conscious efforts of her fellow students to ‘become an artist’. Instead, Mukherjee wanted her identity to unfold naturally.“If I am unable to become an intellectual […] if I do not become an artist, nobody can turn me into one by force. If I am an ordinary human being, then I will continue to do the ordinary chores, and remain satisfied and happy with it. I did not have an enormous ambition; I did not wish to become a great artist. Whatever be my standard as a human being, I will only desire that which I feel good about.” (Meera Mukherjee: Purity of Vision, Akar Prakar, New Delhi, 2018, p. 14)Mukherjee opted instead to look to the craftspeople of India for inspiration and guidance. Throughout her life, she trained with local artist communities, spending much of her time with Gharua artists. The folk art idiom influenced her work as did the spiritual element of art-making that traditional sculptors brought to their practice. It was during this time that Mukherjee learned cire perdue or ‘lost wax’ casting (a wax form encased within coats of clay which is replaced by molten metal). The labor intensive and physical process of this technique destined that all her work be innately tied to its creator.Zero Hour depicts a figure resting on the street at dawn. They represent a symbol of the ordinary person, Mukherjee’s most prized subject. Their body is sprawled and is adorned with a tunic, carefully tailored with pleats. The figure emits a sense of tranquility and ease. Mukherjee captures the last few personal reflections before the sun comes up and the day starts.Mukherjee was a storyteller; her words were her casts, her stories her sculptures. Working with mostly human subjects, Mukherjee’s sculptural language spoke of often overlooked village life, the domestic and artistic rituals that an industrializing India was trying to leave behind. She immortalized the everyday with grace and vigor. Her work is pure magic, casting a spell of life in bronze. ‘Meera Mukherjee’s creative endeavour, whether sculptural, or painted or drawn, are qualified by the essence of spontaneity, by their rootedness in life and a direct engagement with the same. From her own recollections it becomes evident that this has been a nearly silent and imperceptible process where she picked up the art-life interconnection from the otherwise apparently mundane rhythm of daily existence.’ (ibid., p. 13)



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