Akbar Padamsee is a prominent modernist artist. Recognized for his monochromatic “heads" (portraits of imagined people) and colourful “metascapes" (metaphorical landscapes), he was a close associate of the Progressive Artists Group, which included M.F. Husain and S.H. Raza, in the 1950s.

In 1965, Padamsee received a Rockefeller Foundation scholarship to go to the US. He spent several months there, producing works during his grant tenure. The young artist was keen to travel across the US and experience the country. And he decided to spend time in New York before ending his trip. Having heard of the historic Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan, Padamsee decided to pamper himself by staying there.

When it was time to check out, Padamsee realized he did not have enough money to pay the bill for the two weeks he had stayed at the hotel. He was presented to the owner, David Bard. When asked how he planned to pay the bill, the artist said he only had a painted canvas he had carried from India. Bard, an art collector, liked the monumental 10x3ft monochromatic work, which was later named Reclining Nude. A deal was struck and Padamsee was able to leave.

Almost five decades later, in 2011, Bard’s descendants sold the Chelsea Hotel. Its art collection was valued at more than the price of the iconic property in the heart of Manhattan. The 1960 Padamsee canvas, a part of the hotel collection, was later auctioned by Sotheby’s for a then-record price of $1.4million (aroundRs9 crore now) to the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art in 2011.

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