VS Gaitonde paintings achieve $2.77 million


Untitled, 1963, by VS Gaitonde. Image courtesy of Bonhams

Hundreds of bidders from all around the world participated in one Bonhams’ Indian, Himalayan & Southeast Asian auction on September 17 in New York, which brought in a total of over $4.7 million in sales.

The phone bank was buzzing with activity as the bids for the star lots—two paintings by VS Gaitonde—rose higher and higher until finally, Untitled, 1961 sold for $1.085 million and Untitled, 1963 sold for $1.685 million, both to overseas bidders. Untitled, 1961, a darker work of a more dramatic palette of black and indigo represents a transition, as he moved to develop his non-objective series. Untitled, 1963 is an incredible work that marks the beginning of Gaitonde’s classical style.

Pieces from the Rafi Y. Mottahedeh collection fetched prices that exceeded expectations. A large Kashan luster pottery dish from early 13th century Persia realized $100,000, soaring past its high estimate. During the 1930s and 40s, Mottahedeh began collecting Islamic and Pre-Islamic art, assembling mostly ceramics, manuscripts and textiles. Items within his collection rarely make appearances at auction in the United States.

Top lots included a 40-inch tall 10th century blackstone stele of Avalokiteshvara from the Pala period, which sold for $245,000; and an important painting, circa 1820, attributed to celebrated Devgarh artist, Chokha, of a female devotee approaching a Shiva shrine at night, which beat its high estimate, selling for $43,750.

A 17th/18th century gilt copper alloy figure of Vajrapani Krodha sold for over 7 times its high estimate for $42,500.

Edward Wilkinson, senior consultant at the Indian, Himalayan & Southeast Asian art department said: “It was gratifying to see broad interest for the two important paintings by Gaitonde from around the globe translate into these fantastic results. We were absolutely thrilled to see strong results across all categories.”

Dessa Goddard, Vice President and Director of Asian Works of Art at Bonhams in North America added: “Bonhams is proud to have been the auction house of choice to offer these splendid works of art.”

The sale of these masterworks represents a major achievement for the young Indian, Himalayan & Southeast Asian department at Bonhams, which has repeatedly broken records since its inception in 2011. These include the sale of the most expensive Bagta painting for $305,000, over eight times the estimate, in March 2012; the most expensive Thai sculpture ever sold, a Mon Dvarabati bronze Buddha from the Eilenberg Collection, which soared past its estimate and eclipsing its previous record by nearly three times to eventually sell for $674,500, in September 2012; and the most expensive 16th century work, a Thirty-Two-Deity Guhyasamaja Mandala, which was also the most expensive Mandala ever sold at auction, for $929,000.

Bonhams’ next Indian, Himalayan & Southeast Asian art sale in New York will take place in March of 2015.

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