Two extremely rare works by abstract expressionist pioneers, Arshile Gorky and Wassily Kandinsky, both from the collection of the same private European owner, will make their auction debut at Sotheby’s modern and contemporary art evening sale in London on March 25. The works are expected to bring in a collective £3.7 million, and they have not been publicly seen since the 1970s when they were acquired by the current collector.
The Gorky work depicting a female figure was made between 1940 and 1941 as part of his “Garden in Sochi” series from the early ’40s. The series relates to the theme of Gorky’s childhood memories in his native country Armenia where the artist was inspired by memories of his father’s garden and farm. Two works from the series are in the Museum of Modern Art’s collection.
Gorky’s foray in the 1920s into abstraction was largely influenced by modernists like Picasso and Kandinsky. By the 1940s however, he was drawing inspiration from European Surrealists, like Joan Miró, André Masson, and Matta. According to Sotheby’s, high-quality works by Gorky rarely make it to auction. Good Afternoon, Mrs. Lincoln from the collection of Barney Ebsworth set the artist’s record at Christie’s New York in 2018, selling for $14 million. The Arshile Gorky Foundation is in the process of completing a major catalogue raisonné of the artist’s complete works.
Kandinsky on the other hand completed his work, Quatre (Square) in 1927, roughly around the same time the artist developed his theory of abstraction, and following his invitation to join the Bauhaus school in 1921. The work features a checkerboard-like form that is warped to appear as though it recedes into space.
The current owner acquired the Gorky from Galleria Galatea in Turin, Italy, in 1971, and the Kandinsky was bought in 1975 through Galerie Maeght in Paris. Before its purchase, the Gorky work was shown widely throughout the postwar period, first at the Whitney Museum in 1951, then at MoMA in 1962, Tate Modern in 1965, and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1969. The Kandinsky was featured at the Guggenheim Museum in 1963, the Fondation Maeght in 1966, and the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in 1971 before being acquired by its current owner.
The March 25 evening sale will also include works by Paul Klee, Jean Dubuffet, Wols, and Jean Fautrier.
Edited 3 February for grammatical error.