Wassily Kandinsky's Study for Improvisation 8 (1909) will be the highlight of Christie's Impressionist and modern art auction in New York on November 7.
The auction house expects the work to fetch $20-$30 million, which could set a record for a Kandinsky painting. The current record is the $20.9 million Sotheby's obtained for Fugue (1914) in 1990. Improvisation studies rarely come to market; nearly all of the finished paintings reside in museums.
Study for Improvisation 8 features the bright, unnatural palette Kandinsky favored throughout his career, and depicts kneeling pilgrims and a man wielding a sword before Old Kiev, the medieval district of what is now the capital of Ukraine. The dreamlike oil on cardboard and canvas exemplifies Kandinsky's mystical spirituality and experiments with color.
The work has been displayed at Tate Modern, Kunstmuseum Basel and Fondation Beyeler, but has spent most of its time since 1960 on loan to the Kunstmuseum Winterthur in Switzerland.
The Volkart Foundation, a charitable trust founded by the Swiss commodities trading firm Volkart Brothers, is selling the painting to benefit its charitable programs.