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Indian masterpieces to be featured at Bonhams New York during September Asia Week auctions
Vasudeo S. Gaitonde (1924-2001), Untitled, 1963. Oil on canvas. 101.2 x 126.2 cm. Estimate: $600,000-800,000. Photo: Courtesy of Bonhams.

NEW YORK, NY.- Following a record-breaking auction of Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Art in March, Bonhams New York announces it will offer two seminal works by one of India’s most important modern artists, V.S. Gaitonde, on behalf of the George Gund III Trust, on September 17, 2014.

The masterworks by Gaitonde will headline a special section of Modern South Asian Art and will be featured in a special preview exhibition in London at Bonhams’ New Bond Street galleries from June 7-11, in addition to a preview in New York from September 14-17.

Signed and dated 1961 and 1963, respectively, the paintings stem from the artist’s much coveted and pivotal ‘non-objective’ series. With record prices achieved at auction over the past six months, and an upcoming retrospective opening at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York in October, Bonhams is anticipating strong international interest.

The American artist Morris Graves acquired the two works from Gaitonde in Bombay on February 20, 1963. The same day, Graves wrote to the Johnsons of Willard Gallery in New York exclaiming: “Gaitonde, age 32, (is) one of the finest painters I have ever seen. He is very little known. He’s as fine – or superb – as Mark Rothko at his best…and will be a world-known painter one of these days…an abstract painter with something unspeakably beautiful and clean added. They are the most beautiful landscapes of the mind…”

The paintings passed from Morris Graves to George Gund through Humboldt Galleries of San Francisco in 1968. As a prominent collector of Japanese Zen painting and related art, who later donated numerous pieces to the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, Gund was drawn to Gaitonde’s fascination with Zen philosophy. The two sublime works of intense variant blue hung on the walls of his San Francisco offices for 45 years and remained unknown to the scholarly world.

The 1963 canvas, attractively estimated at $600,000-800,000, conveys a serene field of pale turquoise, punctuated by a broken line of abstract hieroglyphic forms, pulsing in deep black and indigo hues. The 1961 canvas, estimated at $300,000-500,000, has a more dramatic tonal variation with an abyssal vertical band of blue interrupting the median horizontal line.

The paintings will be accompanied by a group of important Indian miniatures also to be offered in the September auction.

Famously private, giving few interviews and writing next to nothing about his art, Gaitonde once explained: “Early on, I did both figurative and non-figurative paintings; I was initially influenced by Indian miniatures. You see, my sense of colour was weak, so I started copying the miniatures. Their vivid, vital, vibrant colours attracted me. Soon, to study the colours more closely, I started eliminating the figures and just saw the proportions of colours. I experimented with this because sometimes figures can bind you, restrict your movements. I just took patterns instead. I think that step really marked the beginning of my interest and pre-occupation in this area of painting." (V. S. Gaitonde in an interview with M. Lahiri, Patriot on September 27, 1985)

A member of a distinguished family known for its wide-ranging philanthropy, Mr. Gund was a trustee of the George Gund Foundation, a Cleveland based organization created by his father in 1952 and known for its support of innovative community and national programs. He was also committed to many educational, human rights, and peace with justice programs in conjunction with his wife, Iara Lee. He served on numerous boards, including the National Museum of the American Indian in New York; the Western Folklife Center in Elko, Nevada; and the Sierra Club National Advisory Board. An exhibition that featured his collection of Japanese painting, “Zen: Painting & Calligraphy, 17th–20th Centuries,” was held at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco from June 27 to October 7 of 2001.

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