Two rare works by 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 fetch a collective price of £3.7 million ($5.08 million), and they have gone unseen by the public since the 1970s, when they were added to the owner’s collection.
Completed as part of his “Garden in Sochi” series from the early 1940s, the Gorky work, made between 1940 and 1941, depicts a female figure. Touching on mythic themes and recalling memories of the artist’s upbringing in Armenia, two of the works from the related series are in the Museum of Modern Art’s collection.
Throughout the 1920s, Gorky’s advance into abstraction was influenced by modernists such as Picasso and Kandinsky. By the 1940s, he was drawing inspiration from European Surrealists, including Joan Miró, André Masson, and Matta. According to Sotheby’s representatives, high-quality works by Arshile Gorky rarely surface at auction. Gorky’s 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 midst of completing a catalogue raisonné of the artist’s complete works.
Kandinsky completed Quatre (Square) in 1927, around the same time the artist had 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 seller acquired the Gorky from Galleria Galatea in Turin, Italy, in 1971, and the Kandinsky was bought in 1975 through Galerie Maeght in Paris. Both works have figured in major museum shows. Before its purchase, the Gorky was exhibited widely throughout the postwar period, at the Whitney Museum in 1951,at MoMA in 1962, at 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 passing on to its current owner.