Artcurial

Object lessons

Object lessons: from Salvador Dalí greetings cards to a long-hidden Kandinsky painting

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Our pick of highlights for sale over the next fortnight

Wassily Kandinsky’s 1909 painting of the steps up to Murnau castle has not been exhibited since 1916 and its whereabouts was unknown to scholars until recently. It was long hidden in the private collection of a Dutch music and art critic, Paul Sanders. His descendants are now offering the painting for sale and it may be the top-priced work in a German auction this year. The work marks Kandinsky’s transition from Expressionism to abstract painting and was created during the artist’s second stay in Murnau, in southern Germany, with Gabriele Münter. “While similar works have realised results in the double-digit millions in international auctions, a comparable masterpiece from the artist’s best Murnau days has never been offered in a German auction at all,” the auction house says.
Wassily Kandinsky, Treppe zum Schloss (Murnau, 1909). Evening sale, Ketterer Kunst, Munich, 7 June. Estimate €1.5m-€2.5m.

Wassily Kandinsky’s 1909 painting of the steps up to Murnau castle has not been exhibited since 1916 and its whereabouts was unknown to scholars until recently. It was long hidden in the private collection of a Dutch music and art critic, Paul Sanders. His descendants are now offering the painting for sale and it may be the top-priced work in a German auction this year. The work marks Kandinsky’s transition from Expressionism to abstract painting and was created during the artist’s second stay in Murnau, in southern Germany, with Gabriele Münter. “While similar works have realised results in the double-digit millions in international auctions, a comparable masterpiece from the artist’s best Murnau days has never been offered in a German auction at all,” the auction house says.

The Manchester-born photographer Grace Robertson colourfully captured the life of women in post-war England, with her most celebrated works showing women of a certain vintage jovially drinking in pubs around London. For this image, the photographer accompanied a lively group to the Margate seaside. In a 2010 interview, Robertson said she was drawn to the women’s joie de vivre, as they “had been through two wars and a depression in the middle, [and] were incredibly exuberant” (those at the back seem less amused). An edition is held by Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts, while other images from the pub series are in the Tate’s collection.
Grace Robertson, On the Caterpillar, London Women’s Pub Outing, 1956. Artist, Icon, Inspiration: Women in Photography, Phillips, New York, 7 June. Estimate $1,500-$2,500.

The Manchester-born photographer Grace Robertson colourfully captured the life of women in post-war England, with her most celebrated works showing women of a certain vintage jovially drinking in pubs around London. For this image, the photographer accompanied a lively group to the Margate seaside. In a 2010 interview, Robertson said she was drawn to the women’s joie de vivre, as they “had been through two wars and a depression in the middle, [and] were incredibly exuberant” (those at the back seem less amused). An edition is held by Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts, while other images from the pub series are in the Tate’s collection.

When Bhupen Khakhar unveiled this controversial painting at Bombay’s Chemould Gallery in 1986, he did something entirely unprecedented for a post-colonial Indian artist—he revealed his homosexuality. Khakhar has depicted himself naked (recognisable by a shock of white hair) embracing another man, some 33 years before India officially decriminalised homosexuality. Two days later, Chemould was forced to remove the canvas after protests and it was eventually bought by the collectors Guy and Helen Barbier to support their friend and owner of the Chemould Gallery, the late Kekoo Gandhy. Featured in the 2016 Tate Modern exhibition Bhupen Khakhar: You Can’t Please All, the first international retrospective since his death in 2003, this is Khakhar’s most significant work to come to auction since another painting from the private collection of fellow artist Howard Hodgkin sold for £1.1m at Sotheby’s in 2017.
Bhupen Khakhar, Two Men in Benares, 1982. Coups de Coeur: The Guy and Helen Barbier Family Collection Sale, Sotheby’s, London, 10 June. Estimate £450,000-£600,00.

When Bhupen Khakhar unveiled this controversial painting at Bombay’s Chemould Gallery in 1986, he did something entirely unprecedented for a post-colonial Indian artist—he revealed his homosexuality. Khakhar has depicted himself naked (recognisable by a shock of white hair) embracing another man, some 33 years before India officially decriminalised homosexuality. Two days later, Chemould was forced to remove the canvas after protests and it was eventually bought by the collectors Guy and Helen Barbier to support their friend and owner of the Chemould Gallery, the late Kekoo Gandhy. Featured in the 2016 Tate Modern exhibition Bhupen Khakhar: You Can’t Please All, the first international retrospective since his death in 2003, this is Khakhar’s most significant work to come to auction since another painting from the private collection of fellow artist Howard Hodgkin sold for £1.1m at Sotheby’s in 2017.

Every year between 1959 and 1976, the Spanish pharmaceutical laboratory Hoechst Ibérica commissioned Salvador Dalí to design illustrations for its company greetings cards—which was unusual, as the artist accepted few commissions. The original illustrations were displayed for 20 years at the Gala-Salvador Dali Foundation in Dali’s hometown of Figueres, in north-western Spain, but now 15 of the gouache designs will be sold by Hoechst Ibérica through Artcurial. Some are Christmas themed, others reference medicinal plants, but another recurring subject is the chrysalis which, in the festive Mariposas, blossoms into a butterfly.
Salvador Dalí, Mariposas (butterflies, 1967). Impressionist and Modern Art auction, Artcurial, Paris, 4 June. Estimate €60,000-€80,000.

Every year between 1959 and 1976, the Spanish pharmaceutical laboratory Hoechst Ibérica commissioned Salvador Dalí to design illustrations for its company greetings cards—which was unusual, as the artist accepted few commissions. The original illustrations were displayed for 20 years at the Gala-Salvador Dali Foundation in Dali’s hometown of Figueres, in north-western Spain, but now 15 of the gouache designs will be sold by Hoechst Ibérica through Artcurial. Some are Christmas themed, others reference medicinal plants, but another recurring subject is the chrysalis which, in the festive Mariposas, blossoms into a butterfly.