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Latin American Art Prices Leap at Fall Auctions

Latin American art was the latest sector of the art market to benefit from renewed buyer confidence, as sale volume at the autumn auctions jumped from 2009 levels.

NEW YORK—Latin American art was the latest sector of the art market to benefit from renewed buyer confidence, as sale volume at the autumn auctions jumped from 2009 levels.

The total for evening and day sales at Sotheby’s and Christie’s, held Nov. 16–18, was $43.4 million, up $9.2 million, or 27 percent, from the $34.2 million achieved last fall. Christie’s was the leader, posting a total of $23.3 million, up from $17.3 million in fall 2009. Sotheby’s posted a solid total of $20.1 million, also an improvement on the $16.9 million achieved last fall.

At Sotheby’s series, the top lot was Cuban artist Wifredo Lam’s painting of tribal figures Les Abalochas Dansent pour Dhambala, Dieu de l’Unité, 1970, which was offered from a private collection in Aspen, Colorado, with an estimate of$1.75 million/2.25 million. The work sold within estimate for $2.2 million, setting a new record for the artist. Sotheby’s specialist Carmen Melián said the work “brought together many aspects of [Lam’s] life—Cubism, Surrealism, his Afro-Cuban heritage and his association with the avant-garde movement CoBrA.”

Les Abalochas was followed by Colombian artist Fernando Botero’s oil on canvas Nuestra Señora de Cajicá, 1972 which sold for $872,500 (estimate: $600,000/800,000).

The sale achieved several records, including one for the work of Venezuelan artist Alejandro Otero when Coloritmo 9, 1956, an abstract painting, sold for $752,500, well above the $250,000/350,000 estimate and the artist’s previous record of $409,000. Other records included $482,500 for Italian artist Eugenio Landesio’s 19th-century landscape Cruzando el lago de texcoco con volcanes, 1865 (estimate: $180,000/220,000). The previous auction record for the artist was $40,441.

Mainstays of past Latin American sales also figured in the top lots, including Chilean Surrealist painter Matta, whose Children’s Fear of Idols II, 1944, sold for $518,500, compared with an estimate of $500,000/700,000. Sergio Camargo’s No. 232, 1969, sold for 482,500, against an estimate of $400,000/600,000, and Alfredo Ramos Martínez’s Mujeres de California con Flores, ca. 1937, sold for $458,500 (estimate: $400,000/600,000), to a Mexican collector.

Sotheby’s offered 256 lots, of which 167, or 65 percent, were sold. By value, the auctions achieved 78 percent.
Botero Tops Christie’s Sales

A Fernando Botero painting, Family Scene, 1985, topped Christie’s auctions, selling for $1.7 million against an estimate of $1 million/1.5 million. It was followed by several works by Matta, including S’Enroséer, 1956, which sold well over the $250,000/350,000 estimate for $866,500, and an untitled oil, 1942, that brought $842,400, compared with an estimate of $800,000/1.2 million.

Top lots included three paintings by Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo, including Dos personajes, 1984, which also sold for $842,500 (estimate: $400,000/600,000), Claustrophobia, 1957, which fetched $782,500 (estimate: $600,000/800,000), and Danza al sol, 1948, which sold to a South American collector for $662,500 (estimate: $400,000/600,000).

Chilean realist painter Claudio Bravo’s Couple (Una Pareja), 2003, a signature painting depicting two packages wrapped with paper and twine, sold for $662,500 to a dealer.

And a record was set for Brazilian artist Adriana Varejão, when Paisagem canibal, 2003, sold for $602,500 (estimate: $250,000/350,000).

Christie’s specialist Virgilio Garza said the latest season “has brought a renewed energy into the saleroom, with extraordinary prices for key artists. Buyers bid aggressively on prized works.”

Garza also took note of a new record for Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica. His Metaesquema (Dois brancos), 1958, a gouache on cardboard, sold for $362,500 (estimate: $80,000/120,000). Of the 317 lots offered, Christie’s sold 225, or 71 percent. By value the sales realized 80 percent.

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