NEW YORK—Latin American art auctions at Christie’s and Sotheby’s, Nov. 15–17, realized $40.2 million, compared with $43.4 million achieved last year (ANL, 11/30/10). Christie’s realized a total just under $20 million ($19.99 million)—down from $23.3 million achieved last fall, but higher than the 2009 total of $17.3 million. Sotheby’s realized $20.2 million in its evening and day sales, compared with $20.1 million last year and $16.9 million in 2009.
At its evening sale on Nov. 16, Christie’s realized $15.3 million for 79 lots offered. Of these, 60, or 76 percent, were sold. By value the sale realized 86 percent and the house said nine new records were realized.
The top price marked a record for a sculpture by Columbian artist Fernando Botero when the large bronze, Dancers, executed in 2007, sold for $1.8 million, compared with an estimate of $1.5 million/2 million, to a private European buyer.
Two other works by Botero figured among the top lots including a painting, Dancing Couple, 1982, which sold for $986,500 (estimate: $700,000/1 million) to a South American dealer, and Adam and Eve, a 1993 painting that sold for $662,500, compared with an estimate of $400,000/600,000.
Another record was set when Mexican artist Francisco Toledo’s oil and sand on canvas, Vaca roja, 1975, sold for $902,500, compared with an estimate of $500,000/700,000.
Among the records set were several new auction highs for Brazilian artists Alfredo Volpi, Antonio Bandeira and Franz Weissmann.
Volpi’s Bandeirinhas estruturadas, tempera on canvas, ca. 1966, sold for $842,500, well above the $250,000/350,000 estimate, and Bandeira’s oil painting, Blue Streets, 1955, sold for $482,500, also far higher than the $70,000/90,000 estimate. Also of note, a welded steel piece, Estructura, 1969, by Austrian and Brazilian artist Weissmann, sold for $386,500 on an estimate of $60,000/80,000.
Christie’s head of Latin American art, Virgilio Garza, said, “Brazilian art shines tonight. Record prices were achieved for iconic works…proving the tremendous interest in Brazilian art and for works that are fresh to the market and competitively estimated.”
Also in the top lots was a work by another Brazilian artist, Emiliano di Cavalcanti. His oil painting entitled O Homem a e máquina, 1966, sold for $386,500 (estimate: $200,000/300,000).
Garza further noted that “across the board, Mexican paintings and sculpture performed well.” In addition to Toledo, there was solid demand for an oil by Diego Rivera entitled Retrato de Julieta, 1945, which sold within the $300,000/500,000 estimate for $362,500.
Cuban artist Wifredo Lam, a mainstay of Latin American sales, was represented by a 1950 oil painting, À Point, which sold for $506,500, meeting the $400,000/600,000 estimate.
Sotheby’s $17 million evening sale on Nov. 16 met the presale expectation of $15.2 million/20.7 million. The top lot was Rufino Tamayo’s Watermelon Slices, 1950, which sold for $2.2 million to a Latin American private buyer against an estimate of $1.5 million/2 million. It was sold from the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, to benefit its acquisitions fund. Also by Tamayo, Venus en su Alcoba, 1956, which sold within estimate for $638,500, compared with an estimate of $550,000/750,000.
Other artists in the top lots included: Lam, whose Bonjour Monsieur Lam (Au Commencement de la Nuit), 1959, sold for $674,500 (estimate: $600,000/800,000); Chilean artist Claudio Bravo, whose hyperrealist painting of draped material, Seraphim (White, Yellow and Green), sold for $992,500, compared with an estimate of $700,000/900,000; and Alfredo Ramos Martínez, whose La India del Lago, ca. 1938, sold for $962,500, compared with an estimate of $900,000/1.2 million.
Among the records posted by Sotheby’s was $518,500 for Venezuelan “Kinetic” painter Carlos Cruz-Diez’s Physicichromie 88, compared with an estimate of $200,000/300,000. The record had already been surpassed just a few lots earlier when Physichromie No 2000, 1980, realized $422,500 on an estimate of $150,000/200,000. A solid, above-estimate price of $530,500 was given for Jesús Rafael Soto’s Escritura Cobalto, 1976, which was estimated at $250,000/350,000.
Sotheby’s head of Latin American art, Carmen Melián, said “the continued demand for Kinetic art helped all of the works by Soto find buyers and we were thrilled to see two works from Cruz-Diaz surpass the artist’s previous record at auction. Bidders in tonight’s sale came from across the globe.”
Melián said one of the surprises of the sale was the rapid rise in price of a monumental, anonymous (most likely Cuban) 19th-century view of sugar cane cutters, Cortadores de Caña, ca. 1880, which sold for $446,500 compared with an estimate of $150,000/200,000.