On March 19 Sotheby’s will have the distinction of offering leading Indian modernist Vasudeo S. Gaitonde’s Painting No. 3. Created in 1962, this seminal painting marks a watershed moment in the artist’s career when he definitively embraced abstraction (or in his words the “non–objective” mode) as his chosen medium of expression. A sister painting from this series presently resides in the Permanent Collections of New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

 Vasudeo.S. Gaitonde, Painting No. 3.

Gaitonde, who is the subject of an upcoming retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York later this year, is amongst a handful of Asian artists of the 20th century who forged an individual idiom that transcended boundaries and was truly universal in its scope. This timeless painting featuring dark, textured hieroglyph-like forms punctuating a limitless, yellow-gray horizon represents the beginnings of the artist’s lifelong experimentation with texture and form in his work.

Part of the proceeds from the sale shall benefit the Late Mrs. Aarti (Mahendra) Bhammer Gallery of South Asian Art at Cornell University’s Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art. Well-read, widely-traveled, and a connoisseur of art, the late Mrs. Bhammer was truly a renaissance woman. To her family, which was always on the move living in different cities in India and more recently, abroad, art was the only constant in an ever-changing environment. Through frequent visits to galleries and museums worldwide, she instilled a love and passion for art in both her sons, Sandiip and Vishal, from a young age. To honour her legacy, in 2010, they jointly endowed a gallery in the newly renovated floor for Asian Art at Cornell University, where Sandiip attended Graduate School. The gallery is dedicated to showcasing the artistic heritage of South Asia.

L to R: Stephanie Wiles, Natvar Bhavsar, Sandiip Bhammer and Ellen Avril inaugurating the gallery

Courtesy of the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University
Amongst Ivy League institutions in the US, Cornell University has been at the forefront in building bridges with Asia. Cornell’s Asian Studies Programs offer a wide variety of courses and serve as a valuable resource for exploring global history, economics, politics, arts, religions, and philosophical traditions to foster a deeper understanding of Asia for all audiences. The University’s Johnson Museum of Art was established in 1973 with the mission of developing creative ways to link objects and ideas for education and enjoyment. The Museum exhibits, preserves and interprets artworks from different cultural traditions and time periods from antiquity to the present.

Dr. John Guy, Florence and Herbert Irving Curator of the Arts of South and Southeast Asia, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, instructing students in the gallery
Courtesy of the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University


The University’s Asian Art Collection was established in the 1950s and currently numbers more than 8,000 works, built through gifts and purchases from Cornell faculty, friends and alumni. The Asian Art galleries are a focal point of the Johnson Museum  and showcase works from Turkey to Japan and Australasia. The Late Mrs. Aarti (Mahendra) Bhammer Gallery, featuring artworks spanning at least two millennia of South Asian history from early-historic to modern times, underscores the  Museum's mission to serve  as a “laboratory for collaboration, experimentation and the critical examination of new ideas.”

The Late Mrs. Aarti (Mahendra) Bhammer Gallery of South Asian Art, Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University
Courtesy of the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University