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This Rare Kandinsky Masterpiece Could Sell for $32 Million

The rare 1909 canvas is one of the Russian artist’s most significant works.

The year 1909 was important for Wassily Kandinsky, the late, great pioneering Russian artist. “It marks the change in his art that pave[d] the way for the abstract works that follow[ed] in 1913,” says James Mackie, senior international expert in Sotheby’s Impressionist and modern art department.

On June 21, Sotheby’s London will offer a Kandinsky canvas that bears that magical date. Murnau—Landschaft mit grünem Haus (Murnau landscape with green house) is estimated to auction for $19.3 million to $32.2 million. If the painting—an Expressionist masterpiece considered to be one of the artist’s finest—sells for $23.4 million or more, it will set a new record for a Kandinsky at auction.

The current Kandinsky record-holder is not from 1909—but five of the top 10 auction results for the artist are, including the second most-expensive, Study for Improvisation 8, 1909. “1909 is a critical year. That’s why you see top prices in the marketplace,” Mackie says. “The works are figurative, but we start to see a push toward the disappearance of recognizable reality.”

That said, Murnau boasts a virtue that even other high-ranking 1909 Kandinskys do not—it has never before hit the auction block. “It has an extraordinary provenance, which we know the market responds to very strongly,” says Mackie.

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