Sotheby’s Returns With Second Auction In India, Gaitonde’s 1974 Space Painting To Lead The Lot
A VS Gaitonde painting. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

Sotheby’s Returns With Second Auction In India, Gaitonde’s 1974 Space Painting To Lead The Lot


After a spectacular maiden auction in India, Sotheby's is all set to host its second sale 'Boundless: India 2019' on Nov. 15, with VS Gaitonde's 1974 Untitled painting leading the lot.

The never-before-seen work was in possession of Kali Pundole, one of the greatest Indian gallerists of the 20th century, until actress and society doyenne Sabira Merchant acquired it in 1975, a time India was on the brink of entering the space and atomic age.

The period saw innovation, technology, experimentation in the field of science, and had a profound impact on contemporary artists, architects and designers who embraced the adventurous spirit of the times.

Gaitonde's luminous painting can be read within the context of this space age — five orbs are suspended in space like planets, on a large vertical canvas that is broadly divided into horizontal swathes of gold and bronze, in strips of colour reminiscent of the horizon.

Merchant, who is credited to have launched India's first television programme "What's The Good Word?", the prime time show that ran for 15 years, said she was drawn to Gaitonde's work because of its composition and colouring. It had been hanging in Merchant's home for the last 40 years.

"The whole thing (painting) gave me a very deep sense of peace. I thought to myself, 'how wonderful it would be to share my life with that kind of art'. So, the painting has been hanging in pride of place in my living room for all these years; I hope the new owner enjoys living alongside this work as much as I have," she said.

Gaitonde, in fact, also captured the attention of leading scientists of the era, namely Homi J Bhabha, the famous nuclear physicist. Often referred to as the 'father of the Indian nuclear programme', Bhabha was an early collector and patron of Gaitonde's works.

"This painting's rich story is deeply intertwined with artistic, architectural and scientific modernity in India. It is one of Mumbai's hidden treasures, a work that until now few people had heard of, let alone seen.

"Nonetheless, it comes as little surprise that this painting was collected by Sabira Merchant, who was as far ahead of her time as Gaitonde was with his painting in India. The work represents all that was contemporary at the time," Shivajirao Gaekwar, Sotheby's Specialist for Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art, said.

Sotheby's inaugural auction in India in November last year achieved an overall total of Rs 55.40 crore, establishing a new auction record for Amrita Sher-Gil in India among others.

'Boundless: India 2019' will be held at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Colaba in Mumbai. It will be preceded by a public viewing on Nov. 14.

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