Latin American Art auction is highlighted by several superb works
from the estate of Stanley Marcus, the famous retailer whose collection
was also the subject of an auction at Sotheby's Nov. 16, 2002.
Lot 12, "Retrato Matriomonial," shown above, is a sensational
oil on canvas by Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991). This extremely bright
and vibrant work measures 31 5/8 by 39 3/4 inches and was acquired
by Mr. Marcus from the Perls Gallery in 1971. It has a quite
estimate of $300,000 to $350,000. It sold for $273,500,
the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this article,
to an anonymous buyer.
was quite successful with 13 of the 50 lots offered in the evening
auction selling, a respectable 74 percent. The evening sale total
was $6,070,015 and records were set for five artists.
highlight of the Marcus group is Lot 9, "Retratro de Hombre,"
by Diego Rivera (1886-1957). This 32 1/4-by-18-inch oil on canvas
was executed in 1916 and was once in the collection of Jacques
Lipschitz. It is a superb Cubist portrait that has considerable
monumentality. With its rich and dark palette and shading, it
has great dimensionality and is reminiscent of the finest works
of Juan Gris and compares very favorably with some of the best
portraits by Cézanne and Matisse. Rivera lived in Europe
from 1907 to 1921 before a falling out with Picasso and a return
to Mexico where he became a major figure because of his great,
proletarian murals. This fine painting has a conservative estimate
of $350,000 to $450,000. It sold for $350,500 to a New York
dealer and another Rivera, Lot 7, a still life from the same year
and about the same size, sold for $405,500 to a Mexican private
collector. After the sale, Kristen Hammer of Sotheby's Latin American
Art Department said in an interview that the wonderful portrait
may have sold for less because it was not signed.
Marcus masterwork is Lot 8, "Cabeza de Hombre," by David
Alfaro Siqueiros (1896-1974," a very powerful and painterly
head of a man. The pyroxylin on copper measures 14 1/4 by 12 inches
and is dated 1935. It has a very modest estimate of $40,000 to
$60,000. It sold for $95,600.
These three works are all museum quality.
The first 12 lots in the auction come from the Marcus estate and
all but one sold.
Highlights of the rest of the auction include two fine paintings
by Leonora Carrington (b. 1917), two good paintings by Matta (b.
1911), a major work by Claudio Bravo (b. 1936), two excellent
works by Armando Morales (b. 1927), a very good painting by Fernando
Botero (b. 1932), a panoramic vista of Iguazu Falls by Augusto
Ballerini (1857-1897), a very sensitive oil portrait and a lovely
ink on paper by Diego Rivera, two fine works by Gunther Gerzso
(1915-2000), and two strong paintings by Carols Alfonzo (1950-1991)
and a very handsome painting by Alejandro Obregon (1920-1992).
Carrington is one of the world's great Surrealist painters. Lot
17, "Paisaje de Venus," is a surprising bright and ethereal
painting by her, a tempera on panel that measures 23 1/43 by 36
inches. Executed in 1954, it has a conservative estimate of $80,000
to $100,000. It sold for $89,625.
The catalogue entry for this lot by Susan Aberth notes that in
1954 Carrington executed several works with "archaic-looking
sturues with slender and elegant columns that terminate in floral
capitals" that served "as stage-settings for theatrical
pageants containing human and semi-human entities clad in elaborate
costumes." The entry continued: "Always interested in
astronomy and astrology, the Passage of Venus could also be an
allusion to the ancient goddess who presided over growth and the
beauty of nature. At the time of this painting, Carrington's friend
and patron, the British art collector Edward James, was constructing
a surrealist sculpture garden in Xilita, a small village west
of Tampico in Mexico. His vast estate, set in a tropical wilderness,
was called Las Pozas (The Pools) after the many spectacular pools
and waterfalls located there. Over the years, this collector turned
creator, assembled over 36 architectural follies that a crew of
local craftsmen made from cast concrete, patterned on his drawings.
These dream-like structures were vaguely reminiscent of the imagery
contained in the artworks he owned: he even named one Homage
to Max Ernst. We know that Carrington visited Las Pazos and
one is tempted to hypothesize on the visual results of their
A more typical
Carrington, more mysterious and foreboding, is Lot 25, "Syssigy,"
a 22-by-19 3/4 oil on board. Dated in 1957, it has a conservative
estimate of $80,000 to $120,000. It sold for $141,500.
Several of the figures are dressed in what the catalogue described
as "rather fanciful Edwardian dress" and although it
is a relatively dark interior scene several of them wear sunglasses
"as if to protect their vision from the unfolding drama occurring
between the elderly seated woman and the standing man on the right."
"Garbed in a somber black robe, this bearded man clearly
plays the role of the Magus. Clutching a staff in his outstretched
right hand, he resembles Hermes Trismegistus, messenger god and
patron of the alchemical arts. Mixing the humorous with the sacred,
he holds in his left hand an uroboros (the figure eight sign of
infinity), which dangles at the end of a string like a mystical
yo-yo. In fact, according to Carrington, the title Syssigy is
a made-up word that for her means 'mixture' and appears to be
in some way derived from the term 'syzygy,' connoting a pair of
connected or correlated things. Syzygy, like Carrington's paintings,
has a multitude of esoteric meanings as well. In astronomical
terms it is the perfect alignment of three or more celestial bodies,
or it can refer to the conjunction of the sun and moon. In Jungian
pyschology it describes the pairing of opposites such as male
(animus)/female (anima) which he related to the alchemical conjoining
of the sun and the moon that resulted in the birth of a new androgynous
being. Finally, within the Gnostic tradition, syzygy is a complex
notion that expands upon the dualism of body-spirit to incorporate
the idea that we all have a Heavenly twin, a personal angel that
represents our own perfected self. A ghostly mixture between a
monkey and a sloth clutches the staff while peering inquisitively
at its bearer, as it conjured forth that very moment."
Too bad Bosch is not alive. What a romance that would be!
usually grouped with the Surrealists even though his works are
more fantastical and abstract and conjure luminous, distant worlds
that often seem to be bursting with exotic energy. Lot 21, "Green
I Want You Green (Vert Je Te Veux Vert), is a 1957 oil on canvas
that measures 45 by 57 1/2 inches and has an estimate of $200,000
to $350,000. It failed to sell and was passed at $190,000.
In this work, Matta's style resembles a bit that of Wilfredo Lam
with spiky boldly delineated forms gathering at some glowing hearth.
Lot 24, "Scenario No. 1: Succion Panique du Soleil,"
is a quite different Matta, richly organic and sinuous. The 1937
crayon and graphite on paper measures 19 5/8 by 25 1/8 inches
and has an estimate of $150,000 to $200,000. It was exhibited
in 1938 at the Exposition International du Surrealisme in Paris
at the Galerie Beaux-Arts. It sold for $185,500.
Lot 33, "Composition," is a very good oil on canvas
by Wilfredo Lam (1902-1982). It measures 63 1/4 by 51 1/4 inches
and was executed in 1963. It has a modest estimate of $170,000
to $200,000. It sold for $163,500.
Lot 20 is
a huge oil on canvas by Claudio Bravo entitled "Paquete Marfil."
The 59-by-78 3/4-inch work was executed in 1967 and has an slightly
ambitious estimate of $900,000 to $1,100,000. It sold for
the highest price realized at the auction, setting a new auction
record for the artist that had been set at Sotheby's in 1999 when
a "blue package" painting by the artist sold for $1,020,000.
It was bought by an anonymous buyer. "It comes as a shock
to many that the man who is arguably the foremost living 'academic'
painter spent almost no time in the Academy: rather, working for
hours in Madrid's Prado, he drew his lessons directly from the
example of the Spanish Old Masters. In particular the subtle color
effects of Velázquez and the almost mystical dynamism of
Zurbarán impressed him deeply and continue to direct his
work today," the catalogue entry for this lot noted. He would
go on to paint portraits, but in the late 1960's, the catalogue
continued, "he wiped the slate clean[and] elaborated a series
of transcendent works that announced his shift away from the baroque,
highly referential society portraits that had established his
early career, and toward the purer, sparer art that would characterize
Bravo's painting from this point forward. The series was a revelation,
uniting the artist's exquisite technique with an inexplicable,
otherworldly aura of mysticism.They were abstract paintings but
perfectly realist: in the parcels you could touch the paper but
the composition was completely abstract and the colors were taken
from abstract painting.Bravo claims his inspiration for the series
lay in the abstract paintings of Tapiès and Rothko.Critics
have also noted affinities to the color field paintings of Barnett
Newman and Ellsworth Kelly. The point is not to exercise the
to conjure a concrete object behind the paper, but rather to allow
it always to exist in that phase of becoming - incorruptable because
Armando Morales has an admirable technique that employs a fresco-like
blue-green-and-gray palette to great effect. Lot 22, "Selva
Tropical, Decidua (Foret Tropical, Decidue)," is a 51 1/8
by 102 3/8-inch oil on canvas that was executed in 1992. It has
an estimate of $350,000 to $450,000 and engulfs the viewer in
a lush tropical forest. This enormous work has more browns than
normal but the dense thicket of vines and trees presents a labyrinthine
and marvelous place. It failed to sell and was passed at
perhaps reflecting its very large size.
of the artist's style is the rather classical "Annunciation,"
Lot 36," an oil on canvas that measures 32 3/4 by 45 1/4
inches. Dated 1999, it is a highly original and very beautiful
modern variation on an old theme and has a modest estimate of
$50,000 to $70,000. It failed to sell and was passed at
When questioned about it after the sale, Ms. Hammer remarked that
it had some "condition" problems.
Fernando Botero's inflated figures are always depicted with humor
and affection and Lot 34, "Standing Woman," is a delightful
oil on canvas that was executed in 1982. It measures 60 5/8 by
35 inches and has an estimate of $300,000 to $400,000 and was
once in the collection of Richard L. Feigen & Co. It
to sell and was passed at $230,000.
"Casamiento Indio," by Alfredo Ramos Martinez (1872-1946),
a 30-by-34-inch oil on canvas painted circa 1934 sold for $405,500,
breaking the artist's former auction record of $229,500 and
above its $175,000 high pre-sale estimate. This picture of a young
couple handing hands was once owned by the Santa Barbara Museum
"Novia de Tehuantepec," by Rosa Rolanda (1897-1962),
a 30 1/4-by-24-inch oil on canvas painted circa 1950 said for
$29,875 established a new auction record for the artist who was
married to artist Miguel Covarrubias.
"El Lider/iradir," by Antonio Ruiz (1895-1964), a 12
3/8-by-8 5/8-inch oil on canvas laid down on panel sold for $317,500,
breaking the artist's former auction record of $229,500. The painting
was executed in 1939 and had a high estimate of $300,000.
Falls is one of the world's greatest natural wonders and its astounding
and dramatic breath is nicely captured in Lot 67, an oil on canvas
by Augusto Ballerini. It measures 36 1/4 by 118 1/4 inches and
has a very modest estimate of $15,000 to $20,000. It sold for
sale of this auction has two fine works by Diego Rivera, Lots
76 and 85. The former, shown above, is a portrait of a man that
is an oil on canvas that measures 18 1/8 by 15 inches. Dated 1911,
it is a very strong and memorable work with a modest estimate
of $40,000 to $50,000. It sold for $53,775. The
shown below, is an exquisite ink on paper of a woman with flowers.
It measures 18 by 23 inches and has an estimate of $20,000 to
$30,000. It comes from the Stanley Marcus estate. It sold for
Gerzso is a superb abstract artist. Lot 36, "Semblantes,"
is an impressive bronze that measures 23 by 30 5/8 by 2 1/4 inches.
Executed in 1994, it is numbered 4/6 and has an estimate of $20,000
to $30,000. It failed to sell. Lot 97, "Legendary
Landscape (Azul Y Naranja)," is a fine abstract oil on canvas
by Gerzso that measures 23 3/4 by 32 inches. Dated 1964, it has
an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. It sold for $77,675.
Lots 143 and 144 are very striking paintings by Carlos Alfonzo.
The former is entitled "Smiling Head with Green Eyes."
An oil on canvas, it measures 24 by 18 inches and was executed
in 1987. It has an estimate of $12,000 to $18,000. It failed
to sell.The latter is entitled "Murano Waters" and
is an acrylic on burlap that measures 60 1/2 by 43 1/4 inches.
It was also executed in 1987 and has an estimate of $25,000 to
$35,000. It failed to sell.
Lot 100, "Souvenir of Venice," is a very nice oil on
canvas by Alejandro Obregón (1920-1992). The painting was
deaccessioned from the Museum of Modern Art in 1984. It measures
51 /2 by 38 1/4 inches and was executed in 1954. It has a modest
estimate of $40,000 to $50,000. It sold for $32,862.