This Latin American
Art auction at Sotheby's promises to be one of the strongest in
recent seasons with many major works by important artists.
One of the sale's strongest
works is Lot 5, "Éxodo (studio para mural), by David
Alfaro Siqueiros (1896-1974), a very dramatic, bold and excellent
study for the main figure in his mural entitled "Defense
for a Future Victory of Medicine over Cancer of 1958 at the Hospital
de Oncologia, Centro Médico del Instituto Nacional del
Seguro Social in Mexico City. The 31 ½-by-23 ½-inch
pyroxylin on panel, it is dated 1962 and has a modest estimate
of $50,000 to $70,000. It sold for $83,650 including the buyer's
premium as do all results mentioned in this article.
The catalogue notes the discrepancy in the work's dating and states
that "what is certain is that the original date on the lower
right corner has been painted over and post-dated to 1962, the
year Éxodo was acquired by its original owner, Dr.
Edward Lipsett of Los Angeles, a benefactor and collector of Siqueiros'
paintings. Éxodo was taken to the United States
by Dr. Lipsett and placed on long-term loan, along with three
other paintings by Siqueiros, at the Los Angeles County Museum
of Art (1963-1967)."
A very companion piece to
the Siqueiros would be Lot 76, "Mujer," a 22 ¼-by-15-inch
gouache on paper by José Clemente Orozco (1883-1949). This
quite beautiful and strong sketch of a female nude has a very
similar palette to the Siqueiros lot and a conservative estimate
of $10,000 to $15,000. It comes from the collection of Samuel
and Luella Maslon.
(1886-1957) is represented by two good lots, 3A and 9. The latter
is entitled "Naturaleza Muerta en Ovalo," and is a 29-by-24-inch
oil on canvas that was painted circa 1915-6. This attractive still
life has a muted but lovely palette and was executed in Paris
when the artist was experimenting with Cubism. The cover illustration
of the auction's catalogue, it has a somewhat ambitious estimate
of $500,000 to $700,000. It failed to sell and was passed at
"Peasant Woman," is a very good watercolor and crayon
on paper by Rivera that measures 24 ½ by 19 ¼ inches.
Executed circa 1950, it has an estimate of $40,000 to $50,000.
It sold for 44,812.
Carrington (b. 1917) is one of the great Surrealist painters.
Lot 4, "Plain Chant," is a fine example of her vivid
and fanciful imagination. The 35 ½-by-27-inch oil on canvas
is dated 1947 and has an estimate of $175,000 to $225,000. It
sold for $251,500.
excellent Carrington is Lot 96, which is untitled. Egg tempera
and oil on panel, it measures 16 ½ by 24 inches and is
dated 1962. It has a somewhat modest estimate of $50,000 to $70,000.
important female Surrealist artist is Maria Martins (1894-1973)
and Lot 15, "Huitième Voile (Eighth Veil)," was
included in the "Surrealism: Desire Unbound" exhibition
at the Tate Modern in London and at the Metropolitan Museum of
Art in 2001-2. The bronze sculpture measures 41 by 45 by 37 inches
and was executed in 1948 and cast the next year. It has an estimate
of $500,000 to $700,000. It failed to sell and was passed at
The catalogue provides the following commentary by Francis M.
Naumann on this lot:
"The Brazilian sculptor Maria Martins better known professionally
as simply `Maria,' as she insisted upon being referred to in all
matters pertaining to her artistic life is one of the most important
sculptors of the Surrealist period, singled out by André
Breton in 1948 as the `shining star' of post-war art. Her first
major exhibition was held in1941 at the Corcoran Gallery of Art
in Washington, D.C., but it was quickly followed by a series of
solo exhibitions at various galleries in New York, concluding
with a retrospective at the Galerie René Drouin in Paris
in 1948. The works she showed in these exhibitions were without
exception strikingly powerful sculptures in wood, plaster and
bronze that, for the most part, drew their inspiration from the
folklore of Brazil, and, in particular, from a lifelong fascination
with the jungles of the Amazon.in Huitième Voile
or Eighth Veil one of the largest and most important sculptures
by Maria from the Surrealist period she has depicted the body
of a young woman (her daughter Anna Maria served as its model
when she was a teenager), but she has taken the liberty of distorting
the head, hands and feet in a way that suggests their metamorphosis
into grotesque plant forms, as if the vegetative powers of the
Amazon have physically invaded and taken over the power and strength
of an otherwise healthy human figure. But the title of this work
reveals a source in Christian iconography, one that can be traced
to a plaster sculpture that Maria made ten years earlier entitled
Salome. In the earlier work, Salome sits on a flat surface wither
legs spread apart, clothed only by one of her famous seven veils,
which covers very little as it lies draped across her thigh. Salome's
positioning is almost identical to the figure in the Eighth
Veil, but in the bronze, the figure is conspicuously missing
her veil; if Salome was known for her Dance of the Seven Veils,
then it would seem reasonable to speculate that Maria's allusion
to an `eighth veil' must refer to the traffic result of her lascivious
dance: the head of a man who in accordance with Oscar Wilde's
famous interpretation of the vent she subconsciously loved. Sources
in Maria's earlier work may have inspired the positioning of the
figure and subject matter of Eighth Veil, but events that
took place in her personal life might have been an even more direct
source of inspiration. Maria was married to Carlos Matins, a diplomat
who, in 1940s, served as Brazilian Ambassador to the United States.She
spent most of her days working as a sculptor, converting the upper
floor of the ambassador's resident in Washington into a fully-equipped
sculpture studio. By the winter of 1941-42, she wanted to begin
showing her work in New York, so she rented a three-bedroom duplex
apartment on Park Avenue at 58th Street in Manhattan. It may have
been at one of the openings of her exhibitions that she met the
celebrated French artist Marcel Duchamp, who , like many Europeans
in this period, moved to New York during the years of World War
II. It would not be long before her friendship with Duchamp progressed
into a more involved relationship, an affair that few people at
the time knew anything about (since Maria was still married).
In 1946, Duchamp began the Etant donnés, a large-scale
environmental tableau that would be shown to absolutely no one
except Maria. The work would not be placed on public view until
after the artist's death in 1968. This last major work features
a completely nude female figure lying on a bed of broken branches,
her legs spread-eagled and her sex conspicuously visible through
two peepholes in an old wooden door. From viewing the work alone,
it is impossible to determine the identity of the woman, for her
head is bent back and fades out of view, but we know that Maria
served as the model for the first sketch that Duchamp made of
this work in 1946."
Lot 6 is an interesting and fine oil on artist board, 29 ¾
by 24 ¾ inches by Carlos Mérida (1891-1984). Executed
in 1943, this abstraction has a modest estimate of $30,000 to
$40,000 and conjures a combination of Clyfford Still, Adolph Gottlieb
and Joan Miró. It is entitled "Rainy Gray (From the
Texan Skies Series)." It sold for $28,680.
Lot 12, "Fuego," is a good, 44-by-34-inch oil on canvas
by Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991) that was executed in 1946 and has
a somewhat ambitious estimate of $800,000 to $1,000,000. It
sold for $669,500. The catalogue entry for this painting of
women fleeing a conflagration by Edward J. Sullivan notes that
it was painted shortly after the end of World War II and "causes
an enormous impact." "Fuego is a work that sums
up the tendencies of Tamayo's artistic development up to 1946
while, at the same time, adumbrating new paths of inspiration
and achievement that the artist was to attain in the following
years. It is thus a pivotal work, a paradigmatic image of the
artist's power of synthesis and suggestion. It is a painting that
represents a unique link between the youthful period of the 1930s
in which he was more specifically bound to the palpable realities
of his Mexican artistic background and what the artist himself
often referred to as the `universalism' of his later, more fully
mature decades of artistic creativity."
Lot 25, "Hombre Atacado por un Pájaro," is a
1980 acrylic on canvas by Tamayo that measures 51 by 38 inches.
This painting of a man fleeing a bird has a fine green background
and an estimate of $300,000 to $350,000. It sold for $262,500.
"Eclipse Total," is a less figurative Tamayo work than
Lots 12 and 25 and is a very fine abstraction with a great textural
surface. The 13-by-21 ¾-inch oil on canvas is dated 1967
and has a modest estimate of $90,000 to $120,000. It was passed
Botero (b. 1932) is represented by several works in this auction,
the best of which are Lots 19 and 22. The former is entitled "Horse"
and is a 113-inch high bronze sculpture that was executed in 1992
and has an estimate of $400,000 to $500,000. It sold for $504,500,
a world auction record for a sculpture by the artist.
is entitled "Princesa Margarita," and is a 66-by-63
½-inch oil on canvas that is part of the artist's series
of paintings after Diego Velásquez, in this case the central
figure of Las Meninas. This painting is dated 1977 and
has an estimate of $300,000 to $400,000 and both works are classic
Botero. It sold for $262,500.
Lot 17 is
a fine 10 1/8-inch square watercolor on paper by Alejandro Xul
Solar (1887-1963) that is entitled "Composición Surrealista."
It is dated 1923 and has an estimate of $50,000 to $70,000. It
sold for $77,675.
Xul Solar's small watercolors are jewels of abstraction and forerunners
to a certain extent stylistically of the work of Francisco Toledo
(b. 1940), who is represented by several lots in the auction,
most notably Lot 30, "El Burro Contento," a 37 3/8-by-49
¼-inch oil on canvas. Painted in 1970, this excellent painting
has an estimate of $200,000 to $250,000. It failed to sell
and was passed at $120,000.
artist of somewhat related temperament to Toledo is Mario Carreño
(1913-1999) and he is represented by two strong and handsome gouaches
and ink on scratchboard, Lots 137 and 138, both with estimates
of $15,000 to $20,000. Both were executed in 1948 and are approximately
10 by 14 inches, the former in a horizontal format and the latter
in a vertical format.
1911) has numerous works in this auction of which Lot 32, "Un
Bieenanal," is a good example. A 1957 oil on canvas, it measures
44 ¾ by 57 ½ inches and has a modest estimate of
$125,000 to $175,000. It failed to sell and was passed at $110,000.
Another good Matta is Lot 14, "I Want My Jam," a 14-by-19-inch
wax crayons, ink and lead pencil on paper. Executed in 1940, this
work is recalls the abstractions of Kandinsky and Miró
and is quite refined and there appears to be the face of a young
boy in the upper right corner. It has an estimate of $100,000
to $150,000. It sold for $119,500.
giant of Latin American Art, Wilfredo Lam (1902-1982) also has
several works of which perhaps the best is Lot 26, "Le Chef
et Son Cheval," a 1959 oil on canvas that measures 19 5/8
by 23 5/8 inches and has a modest estimate of $50,000 to $70,000.
It sold for $53,775.
The lush rain-forest landscapes of Armando Morales (b. 1927) are
very popular and Lot 27, "Selva Tropical," is one of
his best. The 1988 oil on canvas measures 63 ¾ by 80 ¾
inches and has an estimate of $350,000 to$450,000. It failed
to sell and was passed at $250,000.
Claudio Bravo's still lifes are always impressive and Lot 21,
"Three Objects," is very fine and cool. The 29 ½-inch-35
½-inch oil on canvas has an estimate of $150,000 to $200,000.
It sold for $163,500.
Bravo, Lot 35, a very large still life, sold for $532,000, way
over its high estimate of $350,000.
were also set for Francisco Zuniga, whose Lot 13, a large sculpture
of a seated woman, sold for $394,500, well over its high estimate
of $250,000, and for Antonio Ruiz (El Corcito) (1895-1964), whose
Lot 8, sold for $262,500.
realized a total $6,577,703 with 37 of the 55 offered lots selling,
a 67 percent ratio, considerably better than the less than 58
percent ratio at the previous evening's auction of Latin American
Art at Christie's.