Maqbool Fida Husain, the " Picasso" of Indian art, ended his run as an iconic artist at the age of 95 in London a year ago this day. But his work is still among the top grossers in the buyers' and collectors' market.
Gallerists say they still depend on the price power of Husain's works, which sell around the million-dollar mark in the international and domestic markets for he is one of the few Indian artists with a large non-Indian collectors' base.
Among fans, friends and the artistic fraternity, Husain's memory evokes "nostalgia sometimes bordering on anguish, emptiness for his salt-of-the earth warmth, endearing candour and zest for life".
At a memorial service coinciding with his death anniversary, Remembering Husain, at the India International Centre here Saturday, peer Krishen Khanna, a progressive modern master, art critic Prayag Shukla and writer K.B. Vaid read out from a book of English, Urdu and Hindi poetry and prose by Husain, "Harf Va Naksh".
The trio recalled the time they had spent with the master of contemporary art and ferreted out one lesser known aspect of the artist -- that of an accomplished writer.
The service was organised by Raza Foundation.
"We explored another facet of the artist -- writing. It was another part of his painting. They are examples of great literature," artist Manish Pushkale told us.
"The book was published by Badrivishal Pitti, an old friend of the artist from Hyderabad in 1960. I found a copy of the book in K.B. Vaid's collection and discussed the book with several people. No one knew about the book and I realised it was important. I arranged the reading for the memorial service."
Pushkale describes Husain's life "as an example, who single-handedly steered the whole scene of international focus to Indian art".
"Artist J. Swaminathan once described him as the Vishma Pitamaha of Indian art," he said.
Husain's memories are even echoing in faraway Darjeeling in West Bengal where the Indian Council of Cultural Relations is paying a tribute to his legacy with a lecture and slideshow of his works at an international residency of 25 artists from India and ASEAN countries.
Art critic and writer Sushma K. Bahl, the curator of the residency in Darjeeling, said: "We are talking about his contribution to Indian art -- the controversies he courted in context of free expression and in playing a crucial role in bringing Indian art to the centre-stage -- both in the country and outside".
The week-long residency is hosting 17 artists from ASEAN countries.
"I met Husain three years ago at Art Dubai and again later. I asked him what should I get for you from India. He said: 'Hawa leti aana' (Bring the air). I was touched by his longing for home," Bahl told IANS from Darjeeling.
Collector and art promoter Ajay Seth of Copal Art said Indians should collect more of Husain's art for people in the country to see.
"I'm collecting old masters like Raza and Husain to build my collection. If we say Indian art under-priced, we should buy it. In the next few years, Indian masters may be difficult to find in the market though it may not be case with Husain. He was prolific. I'm waiting for his Mahabharata series to come out. I'll buy it," Seth told us.
Siddhartha Tagore, owner of Art Konsult Gallery in New Delhi, said: "Husain is still one of the hot-selling artists though prices of his works go haywire once in a while".
Explaining price math of Husain's works, Tagore said his art of the 1960s and 1970s is the most expensive in the international market, while those of the 1980s are affordable while his post-2000 work does not have net value.
"They do not fetch much in the auction market, though they are most innovative and grand in scope," the gallerist, who auctions under the banner Art Bull, us.
Tagore sold a Husain at a local record of Rs.1.45 crore in November last year.