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.