The world was still to discover the abstractionist, but American artist Morris Graves had predicted the rise of V S Gaitonde back in 1963. On a visit to Mumbai, he picked two works by the then 32-year-old, following the purchase with a letter to his friend 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.” The words of the American Master were to come true. His acquisitions are now part of the Bonhams auction “Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Art” that will take place in New York on September 17.
Also featuring important Indian miniatures, the Gaitonde works in the auction are signed and dated 1961 and 1963, and stem from the artist’s much coveted and pivotal “non-objective” series. While the 1963 canvas, estimated at $ 6,00,000-8,00,000, conveys a serene field of pale turquoise, punctuated by a broken line of abstract hieroglyphic forms in deep black and indigo hues, the 1961 canvas, estimated at $ 3,00,000-5,00,000, has a more dramatic tonal variation. The expectations are high, with the master holding the record for modern Indian art, with his abstract landscape fetching Rs 23.7 crore last year.