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Market Leaps to New Highs at $50.3M Latin American Sales

Records fell as the New York auction houses sustained high totals for Latin American artworks in day and evening sales from May 30-June 1.

NEW YORK—Records fell as the New York auction houses sustained high totals for Latin American artworks in day and evening sales from May 30-June 1.

The total at Christie’s was $28.9 million, with 78 percent of 314 lots selling; at Sotheby’s it was $21.4 million, on a 75 percent sell-through rate. The tally for both houses was $50.3 million—up sharply from the $39.3 million total achieved last spring (ANL, 6/6/06).

The star of the sales was the early-20th-century Mexican artist Alfredo Ramos Martínez, whose large-scale oil Flowers of Mexico, circa 1938, set an auction record at Christie’s when it fetched $4.07 million, five times the high estimate of $800,000. A smaller Martínez work, the 44-by-36-inch The Lonesome Indian, 1933, also soared above its high estimate of $450,000, bringing $1.1 million at Christie’s from an American collector.

Noting that Mexican newspapers had questioned the high prices realized for the Martínez paintings, New York dealer Mary-Anne Martin told ARTnewsletter, “Martínez does not have the same position in art history as [Diego] Rivera or [José Clemente] Orozco or Frida Kahlo, but Mexican patrimony laws have a deflating effect on those painters while Martínez can be sold

anywhere.”

Works from Chilean artist Matta’s most celebrated period also fared well at Christie’s: the 50-by-58-inch Tige verte (Les possessions), 1943, sold for $2.2 million, above its high estimate of $2 million; and Imaschus, 1948, won $456,000, more than double its high estimate of $200,000.

Noting that the Latin American field is “on a roller-coaster right now that’s still going up,” Martin says she bid unsuccessfully, on behalf of a U.S. museum, for Matta’s Tige verte. “It’s very difficult at the moment for institutions, and even for dealers, to buy,” she adds.

Paintings and sculpture by the widely popular Colombian Fernando Botero accounted for four of the top ten lots at Christie’s, including: the limited-edition bronze Woman on a Horse, 2002, which went for $1 million (estimate: $600,000/800,000) to an American collector; a 1982 crayon and charcoal on canvas, Menina (After Velázquez), which took $734,400 (estimate: $300,000/400,000); and the bronze Man on a Horse, 1999, which was acquired by a South American collector for $504,000 (estimate: $280,000/320,000).

Contemporary Mexican artist Francisco Toledo’s 1979 abstract composition El cangrejo azul, in oil and sand on canvas, sold for $622,400, above its $400,000 high estimate, setting a record for Toledo at auction.

Records also were set at Christie’s for living artists Marcelo Bonevardi ($62,400), Gyula Kosice ($38,400), Julio Larraz ($240,000), Rogelio Polesello ($84,000), Victor Rodriguez ($31,200) and Luis Tomasello ($50,400); for 20th-century artists Carlos Enríquez ($114,000), Jesús Guerrero Galván ($96,000), Antonio Gattorno ($120,000), Alberto Greco ($54,000), Kazuya Sakai ($54,000) and Juan Soriano ($96,000); and for 19th-century artists Conrad Wise Chapman ($312,000) and Edouard Pingret ($240,000).

Carreño Oil Tops $2M at Sotheby’s

At the Sotheby’s sale the top lot was Cuban Mario Carreño’s oil Danza Afro-Cubana, 1943, which flew past its $800,000 high estimate to sell for a record-setting $2.6 million to Cernuda Art Consultants, Miami.

Ramon Cernuda, the Miami dealer and art consultant who purchased the record-breaking work, also acquired a 1984 oil by the same artist at Christie’s. That painting, Árbol Tropical, sold for $168,000 (estimate: $70,000/90,000), which Cernuda said was a record for a Carreño made in Chile, where the artist moved in 1957.

Of the Danza Afro-Cubana, Cernuda told ARTnewsletter, “It is probably the most important painting by the artist and one of the most important works of Cuban art. The estimates were not in tune with the market.” After the sale Cernuda said he was negotiating to sell the painting to one of two possible buyers.

The next-highest lot also set an auction record: Joaquín Torres-García’s abstract Composition, 1932, fell for a mid-estimate $1.2 million to an American collector.

Botero: Star Turns at Both Houses

Botero figured prominently at Sotheby’s as well as at Christie’s, with two of his 1990s oils—Reclining Nude with Book, 1998, and L’enlèvement d’Europe, 1991—selling for $824,000 and $656,000, respectively. A 1977 bronze, Poupée (La Muñeca), fell among the top ten lots for $552,000. The prices for L’enlèvement d’Europe and Poupée far exceeded their high estimates of $225,000 and $450,000, respectively.

Among other highlights at Sotheby’s: A 17-inch-tall onyx sculpture by Francisco Zúñiga, Desnudo de Victoria, 1966, took $936,000 (estimate: $100,000/150,000); and José María Velasco’s 1882 landscape The Valley of Mexico from the Hillside of Santa Isabel attained $588,000, well above its $350,000 high estimate.

Venezuelan artist Armando Reverón’s neo-Impressionist Caribbean landscape Paisaje, ca. 1930, set an auction record of $456,000 as the tenth-highest lot in the Sotheby’s sale and above its high estimate of $400,000. A work on paper by Reverón, Las tres modelos, ca. 1947, sold for $312,000, more than its $200,000 high estimate and an auction record in that medium.

The sale achieved eight other artists’ auction records—for Carmelo Arden Quin ($78,000), Juan Melé ($70,000), Antonio Asis ($48,000) and Rogelio Polesello ($42,000), among living artists; and for 20th-century figures Pedro Figari ($216,000), Jorge de la Vega ($432,000), Agustín Cárdenas ($132,000) and David Álfaro Siqueiros ($144,000).

Carmen Melián, head of Sotheby’s Latin American art department, reports that the sale achieved “strong prices across all lot values and for all genres,” bringing in “crossover from other categories and global buying that deepens for every sale.”

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