evening auction of Latin American Art at Sotheby's May 27, 2003
is highlighted by several delightful works by Fernando Botero
(b. 1932), some very pleasant watercolors by Diego Rivera (1886-1957),
a vigorous painting by Jose Clemente Orozco (1883-1949), a fine
painting by Remedios Varo (1908-1963), a couple of major works
by Claudio Bravo (b. 1936), a couple of good paintings by Matta
(1911-2002), two nice paintings and a good "ancestor"
sculpture by Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991), a good landscape by Armando
Morales (b. 1927) and a stunning painting by Mario Carreno (1913-1999).
Botero is the star of the auction and Lot 17, "Antes del
Paseo," shown above, is the back-cover illustration of the
auction's catalogue. An oil on canvas that measures 78 ¾
by 107 inches, the catalogue entry notes that this work is "the
grandest of Botero's corrida cycle" that he began in 1984,
adding that it "captures the moments before the triumphal
entrance of the opening parade in to the bullring." It has
an estimate of $600,000 to $800,000. It sold for $680,000
the buyer's premium as do all the results mentioned in this article.
attendance at the sale was not gigantic, the sale was quite lively
and 36 of the 50 offering lots in the evening auction sold for
a total of $6,246,000, just shy of the pre-sale low estimate.
Despite 28 percent of the lots not selling, many lots exceeded
their high estimates.
"Femme a La Robe Verte," is another classic Botero of
a standing woman in a green dress with a cigarette holder. An
oil on canvas that measures 71 ¼ by 39 inches, it is dated
1992. It has an estimate of $275,000 to $325,000. It failed
to sell and was passed at $260,000. A green snake slithers
near the woman's feet in Lot 28 and Lot 14, shown above, is a
marvelous bronze with gold patina sculpture of a snake by Botero.
The 13-by-67-by-28 ½-inch sculpture was executed in 1977
and is number 4/6. It has an estimate of $50,000 to $60,000. It
sold for $60,000.
Another Botero sculpture, Lot 16, "Femme au Serpent,"
shows a reclining woman encircled by a large thin snake. The 14
¼-by-44-by-25-inch bronze with brown patina was executed
in 1982 and is number 2/6. It has an estimate of $175,000 to $225,000.
It failed to sell and was passed at $150,000.
Another fine sculpture, albeit "snakeless," is Lot 27,
"Reclining Woman with Mirror," a 1987 bronze with green
patina that measures 14 by 55 by 19 ¾ inches. Numbered
3/6, it has an estimate of $300,000 to $350,000 and the voluptuous
woman holds a very small mirror. It failed to sell and was
passed at $250,000. Botero is one of the few major artists
known widely for both his sculptures and paintings. For a
his sculptures seemed somewhat more popular in the market than
his paintings, but Kirsten Hammer, one of the auction house's
Latin American Art specialists, declined to speculate after the
auction that the market was now definitely in a "painting"
cycle as far as Botero is concerned despite the disappointments
of some of the sculptures.
born in Medellin, Colombia and in 1952 moved to Bogota. In 1969
the Inflated Images show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York
established him as one of the masters of the 20th Century, the
is represented in the auction with some very nice watercolors
on rice paper, two from the estate of Hazel Gibbons Ross, Lots
6 and 7. The former is entitled "Dos Hombres" and measures
15 by 10 ¾ inches. The latter, shown above, is entitled
"Dos Hombres con Mula" and measures 15 1/8 by 10 ¾
inches. Both were executed circa 1935 and have identical estimates
of $30,000 to $40,000. Both lots sold for $51,000 each.
Lots 39 and 40 are two more watercolors by Rivera, each dated
1944, each measuring 15 3/8 by 10 7/8 inches and each depicting
stonemasons. Each has an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000 and
each sold for $60,000. Lot 40, "El Picapedrero,"
is shown above, and measures 15 3/8 by 10 7/8 inches and is dated
Clemente Orozco was one of the famous Mexican muralists and in
the early 1940s he completed murals about the Mexican revolution
for the Gabino Ortiz Public Library in Jiquilpan. Lot 9 is a 24-by-29
¼-inch oil on masonite, entitled "Acordadas y Zapatistas"
in which Orozco depicts the rural guards in the employ of hacienda
owners on horseback leading the Zapatistas, or farmers who would
follow peasant leader Emiliano Zapata, from their lands. The painting
had an estimate of $150,000 to $200,000. It sold for $366,400.
Orozco was an active participant in the Mexican revolution aligned
with the supporters of Carranza. From 1927 to 1934, he worked
in the United States and did murals for the New School for Social
Research, Pomona College and Dartmouth College. He returned to
Mexico in 1934.
Varo is one of the great Latin American surrealists and Lot 10,
"Vampiro," is a particularly striking work. An oil on
masonite that measures 18 1/8 by 10 5/8 inches, it was painted
in 1961 and has a modest estimate of $125,000 to $175,000. It
sold for $164,800. Born in Gerona, Spain and traveled to
Bravo is the greatest Latin American realist. Lot 11, "Mystic
Package," is an impressive chalk, conte crayon and ink on
paper that measures 29 ½ by 43 ¼ inches. Executed
in 1967, it has an estimate of $325,000 to $375,000. It sold
for $489,600 soaring above the artist's former auction record
for a work on paper of $96,000. The catalogue provides the
following quotation from Bravo: "I suppose that the idea
for these pictures came partly from looking at Mark Rothko's paintings
of large fields of color and partly through certain works that
Antoni Tapies had done using string across a surface. The initial
stimulus, however, was a very simple mundane one. Three of my
sisters came to stay with me from Chile. One day one of them came
home with a number of packages and placed them on a table. I was
fascinated with their forms and I painted them. I went on painting
wrapped packages in many different ways, investigating the abstract
possibilities of the forms while still creating recognizable forms."
The catalogue maintains that "Bravo is arguably the most
important pastelist of his time," adding that his serene
package paintings "are strongly influenced by the Spanish
baroque master, Francisco de Zurbaran."
sense for the tactile is even more evident in Lot 29, "Visus
Tactus," a sumptuous, 78 ½-by-58 ¾-inch oil
on canvas. Executed in 2000, it has an estimate of $300,000 to
$400,000 and a detail of which is the catalogue's frontispiece.
It failed to sell and was passed at $240,000.
arguably the greatest Latin American artist because he was a very
influential Surrealist whose works preshadow Abstract Expressionism.
Lot 12, "Psychological Morphology," is a small but very
fine example of Matta's extraordinary compositions. The 12-by-16-inch
oil on canvas was executed in 1939 and has a modest estimate of
$100,000 to $150,000. It sold for $299,200.
Matta is Lot 26, an untitled oil on canvas that measures 44 ½
by 56 ½ inches. Executed circa 1955, it is has an unusually
limited palette for Matta and is much more mechanistic and less
fluid than Lot 12. It has an estimate of $90,000 to $120,000.
It failed to sell and was passed for $75,000.
is one of the greatest Latin American artists. Lot 13, "Sandias,"
is one of his studies of watermelons. An oil on canvas that measures
39 ¼ by 32 inches, it was executed in 1953 and has an ambitious
estimate of $800,000 to $1,200,000. It sold for $988,000, the
highest price of the auction.
The catalogue provides the following commentary on this work:
"In Sandias of 1953, a product of Tamayo's classic
mature period, the still life rises, opening like a flower, on
the slim base of the pedestal table. It is almost an abstraction
in its simplicity, the dense compendium of reds, oranges and pinks
encompassing all the shades of the fruit and then echoing and
expanding them to fill the background. In Sandias,
succeeds in harnessing sublime color to the compositional rigor
so prevalent in his early paintings. The artist energizes the
elegant composition by offering multiple perspectives on the
simple still life. This understated evocation of Cubism creates
a remarkably complex and sophisticated composition that lives
in a room of its own."
capable of considerably more interesting subjects than watermelons,
of course. Lot 20, "Cry in the Night," for example,
is a very painterly and quite strong oil and sand on masonite.
Executed in 1953, it measures 19 ¾ by 15 ¾ inches
and has a modest estimate of $125,000 to $175,000. It sold
Lot 25 is one of Tamayo's wonderful "ancestor" steel
sculptures with unique patinas. The 85-inch-high figure was executed
in 1990 and is number 3/3. It has an estimate of $150,000 to $200,000.
It failed to sell and was passed at $130,000.
Morales paints with a somber but rich palette and with a marvelous
and very painterly sense of texture. Lot 43, "Trapiche (Moulin
a Sucre)," is a very fine example of his work. An oil on
canvas, it measures 51 ¼ by 63 ¾ inches. Executed
in 1991, it has an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It failed
to sell and was passed at $150,000. The catalogue provides
the following commentary on this work: "In Trapiche (Moulin
a Sucre) Armando Morales seems to break with his own
of presenting the jungle as timeless and dislocated. In fact the
painting belongs to a series executed between 1991-92 based on
sketches of buildings on the border between the natural and civilized
worlds. As in other paintings in the series, Morales forces the
viewer to cross these boundary lines through a series of intersecting
axes: the unexpected break in the forest wall that permits a view
through to the open sea and distant horizon; the plume that rises
from the sugar mill's chimney to join the clouds that form a second
skyline; and of course, the elongated tree trunks that terminated
in a billowing foliated canopy."
Morales was born in Granada, Nicaragua and held his first individual
show at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Lima, Peru in 1959.
He moved to the United States in 1969.
illustration of the auction's catalogue is a large detail from
Lot 5, "The Guitar Player," a pyroxylin on panel by
Mario Carreno. Painted in 1944, the beautiful work measures 30
by 24 7/8 inches and has a modest estimate of $175,000 to $250,000.
It sold for $456,000, breaking the former auction record for
the artist of $442,500. Carreno moved from Spain at the
of the civil war there to Mexico where he became friendly with
many of the leading artists including David Alfaro Siqueiros who
experimented with Duco, a pryoxylin-based lacquer. Carreno returned
to Cuba in 1941 and invited Siqueiros to paint a mural in his
"If Siqueiros' work in Duco realized the medium's power and
muscle," the catalogue entry observed, "Carreno was
the first to understand its potential for coloristic lyricism,
as achieved so beautifully in Man with Guitar. Duco dries quickly,
preserving the ebb and flow of swirling colors before they run
together and lose their brilliance. Its drips and whorls give
the paint surface that dynamism that would so fascinate the school
of New York a few years later."
One of the
auction's most striking works is Lot 49, "Grutas de Cacahuamilpa,"
by Baron Jean Baptiste Gros (1793-1870). An oil on canvas, it
measures 39 3/4 by 51 1/2 inches and was executed in 1835. It
has an estimate of $80,000 to $100,000. It sold for $93,000.
The evening auction has 50 lots and the day session May 28, has
91 lots including an excellent painting by Bravo, two good sculptures
by Agustin Cardenas (1927-2001), a good painting by Leonora Carrington
(b. 1917), and a good painting by Francisco Toledo (b. 1940).
Lot 71, "Green," is a beautiful pastel study by Claudio
Bravo of green drapery. The 43-by-29 ½-inch work on paper
has an estimate of $70,000 to $90,000.
80, "Pig-rush (Nacimento de Cerdos)," by Leonora Carrington,
oil on canvas, 31 ¾ by 35 ½ inches, 1960
Carrington is one of the world's great surrealist painters. Lot
80, "Pig-rush (Nacimiento de Cerdos)," is an intriguing
oil on canvas that measures 31 ¾ by 35 ½ inches.
Executed in 1960, it has an estimate of $60,000 to $80,000. Born
in England, she moved to Mexico in 1941.
Lot 97 is a fine watercolor on rice paper by Diego Rivera of a
woman carrying her child on her back. The 15-by-10 ¾-inch
work is dated 1944 and has an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000.
"Hombres Dentro de una Vaca," is a dark but quite beautiful
oil on jute by Francisco Toledo (b. 1940) that measures 23 5/8
by 28 ¾ inches. Painted circa 1963, it has an estimate
of $25,000 to $30,000. Born in Juchitan, Mexico, Toldeo studied
with Stanley William Hayter in Paris in 1960 and now lives in