Object lessons

Object lessons: from a Space Age-inspired V.S Gaitonde to a cheeky Norman Rockwell

, and

Our pick of highlights from this week's auctions around the world

Ed Ruscha, Hurting the Word Radio #2 (1964). Post-war and Contemporary Evening Sale, Christie’s, New York, 13 November. Estimate: $30m-$40m

The collectors Joan and Jack Quinn were instrumental in building up a burgeoning Los Angeles art scene from the 1960s onward, championing and befriending a new wave of artists showing and working in California. Included was Ed Ruscha, from whom they purchased this painting in the early 1970s. Consigned directly from the Quinns, the sale marks the first time the work has come to market since then and it may be poised to break a record for Ruscha—the artist’s Smash (1963) sold for $30.4m at Christie's New York in November 2014.

Claude Monet, Charing Cross Bridge (1903). Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale, Sotheby’s, New York, 12 November. Estimate: $20m-$30m

Given to the collector Andrea Klepetar-Fallek by her husband, this painting from Monet’s later London works has remained in her collection since 1977, when it was purchased from the famed dealer Ernst Beyeler. The artist’s Charing Cross Bridge works rarely surface at auction, though a similar painting reportedly changed hands in a private transaction in the UK for $63m in March. The work comes up after Sotheby’s landmark $110m sale of the artist’s Meules (1890) in New York in May.

V. S. Gaitonde, Untitled (1974). Boundless India, Sotheby’s, Mumbai, 15 November. Estimate: INR21m-INR28m  ($290,000-$390,000)

The Bombay society doyenne Sabira Merchant, famous for setting up the Studio 29 nightclub and ushering in India’s disco era, is selling a rarely seen Space Age painting by the Indian Modernist V.S. Gaitonde. Created within a year of India’s first satellite being launched into space, the work is inspired by the cosmos and refers to planetary constellations. This may explain why Gaitonde caught the eye of Homi J. Bhaba, the father of India’s nuclear programme, who became an early collector. “Very few people had heard of Gaitonde then [although he is now one of South Asia’s best known Modernists]”, says Merchant, who bought the work a year after its execution from Kali Pundole, one of Bombay’s most prominent 20th-century dealers. Gaitonde holds the record for the second highest price ever achieved for a work by an Indian artist at auction—$4.4m at Christie’s Mumbai in 2015—and a further three of his works are in the top ten.

Norman Rockwell, Before the Shot (1958). 20th Century and Contemporary Art, Phillips, New York, 14 November. Estimate: $2.5m-$4.5m.

This cheeky painting—literally and figuratively—is one of Norman Rockwell’s most famous works thanks to a similar illustration that appeared on the cover of a 1958 issue of the Saturday Evening Post, one of five covers Rockwell produced for the publication that year. The artist gave this painting to the physician who modelled for it, who later sold it to the family consigning the piece. For the past 13 years, the work has been on view at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. This will be its auction debut and the first time one of the artist’s works will feature at Phillips. Elizabeth Goldberg, previously Sotheby’s chairman of American art, has joined as a senior international specialist of American art and deputy chairman, Americas in July, suggesting there may be more Rockwells at Phillips in future.

Appeared in The Art Newspaper, 317 November 2019