A previously undiscovered masterpiece by the great abstract expressionist Mark Rothko (1903-1970) will feature at Christie's Post-War and Contemporary Art sale in New York on May 11.
Untitled #17, a seven-foot 1961 oil on canvas, comes to auction with an estimate of $18m -$22m and is sure to attract plenty of art investors.
The present owner of Untitled #17 acquired the work directly from Rothko, and the piece has remained in private hands since 1965.
It is one of only 10 paintings that have come to light since the Rothko catalogue raisonné was published in 1998.
One of the pre-eminent artists identified with abstract expressionism, Rothko evolved his classic style at the end of the 1940s, creating several large-scale canvases.
Rothko spoke of his works as "intimate and intense," and said they were meant to be experienced at close quarters, so that the viewer gets the feeling of being "within the picture".
Christie's Jonathan Laib comments: "The demand for Rothko is truly international, with strong interest from Asia, the Middle East and Russia. This picture will be the talk of the season."
Rothko is known to have produced at least 836 works. White Center sold for $72.8m in 2007, a record for the artist.