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Botero Works Lift Latin American Art Sales

Spring sales of Latin American art in New York held late last month saw mixed results.

NEW YORK—Spring sales of Latin American art in New York held late last month saw mixed results. However, two smaller, specialized sales (comprising a total of 35 lots) at Sotheby’s, held in addition to its regular Latin American auctions on May 25–26, helped significantly boost the house’s total, accounting for nearly $13 million of the $26.9 million overall proceeds. “Fernando Botero: A Celebration” realized $7.5 million, and “A Discerning Eye: Latin American Masterpieces from a Private Collection” took in $5.4 million; the individual works in these sales fetched the highest prices of the series. Meanwhile, Sotheby’s overall Latin American art sessions (comprising a total of 229 lots) took $14 million, down from the $16.8 million achieved last year.

Christie’s posted a total of $22.6 million in sales held May 26–27, an improvement on last year’s overall sales of $20 million, with the house offering 335 lots this year as compared with 280 lots offered last year. Of the current offerings, 251, or 75 percent, were sold.

At Sotheby’s Botero sale, the highest price (also the highest lot of the week), was a painting, The Family, 1972, depicting the artist’s signature rotund characters. Estimated at $1 million/1.5 million, it sold for $1.4 million to an Asian private buyer.

All three of the top lots at this sale were purchased by Asian collectors, according to Sotheby’s. Pablo Vallecilla, a director of Marlborough Gallery, which represents Botero, noted that his artworks—particularly the sculpture—have been exhibited throughout Asia over the past decade, including shows of sculpture in Hong Kong in 2006 and in 2004–5 in Singapore and Tokyo. “Other parts of the world are catching up to what we appreciate in the West. I think Botero’s aesthetics appeal to many people in Asia, and their interest is substantial.”

The $1.2 million price, against an estimate of $800,000/1.2 million, paid for a Botero sculpture, Man on a Horse, 1992, marked a new record for a bronze by the artist at auction. Another oil painting, Nude, 1983, sold for $632,500, also to an Asian buyer, against an estimate of $500,000/700,000.

The rest of the top lots were bought by buyers listed as American (one), South American (three) and anonymous (three).

Most of the prices landed within estimates, including the $632,500 paid for Girl with Bow, a 1982 bronze depicting a reclining figure. It was estimated at $350,000/450,000.

South American buyers accounted for Botero’s Reclining Woman, 1987, a sculpture that sold for $602,500 (estimate: $500,000/700,000), and Lovers on a French Sofa, 1972, an oil painting that achieved the same price against identical estimates.

The top work at the private-collection offering was by Rufino Tamayo, a 1946 painting entitled Madre Divirtiendo a Su Hijo, that sold for $1.37 million, within its estimate of $1 million/1.5 million. It was followed by Diego Rivera’s landscape painting, The Old Hamlet, Toledo, 1913, which sold for $992,500, compared with an estimate of $800,000/1 million. Of the 14 lots offered from the collection, ten were sold.

At the various-owner sale, the top lot was Wifredo Lam’s oil painting Les Oiseaux Voilés, 1945, which sold for $1.02 million against an estimate of $800,000/1.2 million. And Sergio Camargo’s Relief 13/81, 1965, a painted-wood assemblage, sold for $842,500, well above the estimate of $400,000/600,000. Both lots went to private South American buyers.

A painting by the recently deceased Surrealist artist Leonora Carrington, El Árbol de la Vida, 1960, sold to a private buyer based in North America for $578,500, falling within the $500,000/700,000 estimate. Of the 229 lots offered, 154, or 67 percent, found buyers. By value, the auction was 83 percent sold.

Christie’s top lot was a painting by Mexican artist Miguel Covarrubias, Offering of Fruits for the Temple, 1932, which had been in a private collection in Mexico City for decades and far surpassed its $200,000/300,000 estimate to sell for $1.02 million to a private Asian buyer. And Brazilian artist Emiliano di Cavalcanti had the second-highest lot, Sonhos do carnaval, 1955, which sold for $782,500, landing solidly within the estimate of $650,000/850,000.

Virgilio Garza, Christie’s head of Latin American paintings said the market is strong, adding, “we are pleasantly surprised by the significant prices achieved for Latin American masters who have reaffirmed their status as pioneers of modernism in the region, such as Mexican artist Miguel Covarrubias.”

Chilean Surrealist painter Matta also figured in the top lots, with Regard du germe, 1956, an oil, selling for $710,500, well above the $300,000/400,000 estimate. And Lam’s oil on panel, Femme Peignant ses Cheveux, 1939, also cleared its estimate of $400,000/600,000, selling for $662,500.

Christie’s also featured works by Botero among the top lots, with Woman in Front of Mirror, 1986, an oil painting, selling for $602,500 (estimate: $500,000/700,000) and Homage to Bonnard, 1977, selling for the same price ($602,500) against an identical estimate.

The auction house posted a record for a Tamayo sculpture as Figura sideral, 1990, steel with a painted-concrete finish, sold for $494,500 against an estimate of $180,000/220,000. Said Garza: “Works of art by South American artists inspired buyers from across the globe.”

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