On February 24, a untitled 1969 painting by VS Gaitonde went under the hammer for Rs 42 crore at an auction by Pundole’s in Mumbai. This is the highest price an Indian modern or contemporary artwork has sold internationally at auction. Gaitonde has consistently broken records in recent years, selling for the highest prices at auction every year.
What makes Untitled (1969) a unique work of art?
It was the first time that this Gaitonde oil on canvas came to the auction market. It belongs to the Glenbarra Art Museum in Japan, which houses the private collection of businessman Masanori Fukuoka. Gaitonde painted a limited number of canvases in his lifetime, making each a coveted lot at auction.
Beyond the art markets, Gaitonde’s works have often been described as luminous, sonorous, sublime and soothing by art critics. It is said that a work by Gaitonde cannot be seen but is “lived”. The same goes for the current bluish paint with its amorphous shapes, reminiscent of expanses of sky or sea.
Why was the 1960s a crucial period in Gaitonde’s career?
Mamta Saran writes that Gaitonde once said that the only thing he planned in his life was to join an art school, everything else was by accident, including finding a book on Zen Buddhism in a bookstore in Mumbai. in 1959. This was a watershed moment in the artist. career. The discovery of Zen Buddhism will greatly modify her approach to art, moving her from figuration and geometric shapes to abstraction.
Saran writes that in Gaitonde’s “Landscapes of the Mind”, “the vibrant colours, thick impasto and rigorous geometry of the late 1950s have now given way to contemplative works of the highest quality”. “The compositions are extremely simple and the palette comes from nature. Overlapping veils of color radiate across the canvas creating an illusion of endless space – and mystery hangs in the air.
Gaitonde’s last figurative work was titled Bird, painted in 1961, after which he only continued with abstraction. He will now work a lot with a paint roller and a palette knife.
What are Gaitonde’s other best-selling works?
Currently, Gaitonde dominates the list of top ten modern or contemporary Indian artworks. He found great international appeal for the understated quality of his works and the illusion of making complex techniques simple. The luminous quality, often attributed to his works, arises from the application of several layers of translucent paint – imagine the layering of thin muslin on top of each other. All of Gaitonde’s best-selling works use this technique.
Newsletter | Click to get the best explainers of the day delivered to your inbox