By Carter B. Horsley
The evening auction of Latin
American Art at
Christie's November 19, 2008 is highlighted by several masterpieces
by such important artists by Wilfredo Lam (1902-1982), Rufino
Tamayo (1899-1991), and Matta (1911-2002).
Lot 35, show above, is a large
and very impressive
oil and charcoal painting on burlap by Lam that is entitled "Bonjour
monsieur Lam." Painted in 1959, it measures 29 1/2 by 59
In a catalogue essay for the
Anreus provides the following commentary:
"Throughout most the 1940s
are colorful and lush, after 1947 his palette becomes starker
- browns, blacks and grays are balanced with areas of red, yellow
or blue. His earlier more expressionistic use of line...is replaced
by a precise, elegant drawing endowed with neo-classical rigor.
His canvases of the 1950s possess a grand sobriety, where sharply
defined forms are interlaced within fields of dark blues, olive
greens, brown and blacks. Bonjour monsieur Lam
to this period. A horizontal composition, Bonjour monsieur
Lam contains a winged horse that fills most of the picture
plane; interlaced with it and leaning towards the lower right
is a reclining figure with a horned mask for a face, while in
the background a branch-like form with thorns floats diagonally.
The elongated figures reflect the artist's re-invention of oceanic
sculpture, which he studied and collected with particular focus
during the 1950s. The title evokes self-portraits by both Gustave
Courbet and Paul Gauguin, where the artist is greeted by a patron
or audience. It is possible to read this image as a metaphorical
self-portait (winged horse) where the artist is entangled with
his audience (masked horned figure) in a world of struggle (thorns)."
This painting's composition is
and its horizontal format and large size is unusual for Lam. The
painting was once in the collection of Prince Furstenberg of Vienna
and has been widely exhibited and published. It has an estimate
of $1,000,000 to $1,500,000. It failed to sell.
Lot 15 is a very vibrantly
colored, large and
very, very impressive oil on canvas by Matta. Painted in 1948,
it measures 78 by 117 1/2 inches and is entitled "Stop the
Age of Hemmohrr." It has an estimate of $1,000,000 to $1,500,000.
It failed to sell.
Abby McEwen provides the
commentary on this marvelous and spectacular work in her catalogue
"'If we admit that we are
entering a new
world in which there are laws that we do not understand,' Matta
reasoned mid-career, 'in such a world it is the task of the poet
and the artist to represent this new physics where we must now
live and which is revolutionary.' The experience of the Second
World War was profoundly unsettling for Matta, and to the physic
hemeticism of his early work he began to introduce imagery more
deeply existential and catacylismic in feeling. Influenced by
the wartime exhibition of Picasso's Guernica in the
States and the Mexican muralist movement, whose work Matta saw
during two trips to Mexico in the 1940s, he began to paint on
a far greater scale than his American contemporaries at the time.
A dynamic figure on the New York scene since his emigration from
Paris in 1938, Matta served as a conduit between the European
Surrealists who had gathered in New York, including Breton, Ernst
and Tanguy, and the emerging New York School. The visionary projection
and uncanny originality of his Surrelist paintings, would have
a great impact on the young Pollock, Rothko and Gorky'; and his
monumentally-sized canvases of the mid- to later 1940s anticipated
those of the Abstract Expressionists. In early masterpieces such
as the present Stop the Age of Hemmohrr and Being
(1946), a complex labyrinth people with unnatural humanoid beings
and grotesquely contorted architecture, Matta began to unveil
a new iconography of monstrous anthropomorphic beings that acted
within what he described as a social rather than personal or psychic,
morphology of form. 'To move away from the intimate, imaginary
forms...toward the cultural, totemic expressions of civilizations...the
formation of cultures in confrontation with social landscapes,'
he explained, was to invest his forms with the historical consciousness
of the present reality. 'I want to show the contradictions involved
in realty,' Matta further emphasized to William Rubin. 'It is
the space created by contradictions, the space of that
struggle, which interests me as the best picture of our real condition.
The fault with most pictures today is that they show an a
freedom from which they have eliminated all contradicton, all
resemblance to reality'....Realist in a most desultory, purely
visionary way, the present work is rife with contradictory elements;
the pictorial space warps and expands around the grotesquely outsized
half-human, half-insect creatures that punctuate the gelatinous,
suggestively catalytic background. 'I want to replace perspective,'
Matta explained, 'by a kind of prespecting and simultanously to
replace the space of distance with the space of feeling....All
extremes and everything that is found within them - should be
seen in terms of prospecting and be expressed in a special kind
of space: a space of feeling.' This affective space grounds Matta's
universalism in the anguish of his own experience, lending a compelling
intimacy to painting that became increasingly non-referential....In
Stop the Age of Hemmohrr, the torquing diagonal,
by a strangely attenuated yellow form, connects the jagged, pincer-like
figures at the top to the more aggressive exoskeletal bodies looming
below. Encased within an amber blister at the left sits a sinister
composite form, appedances sharply angular and innards gapingly
exposed. 'They seem monstrous cybernetic embodiments of the hidden
forces that seek to control our lives,' Rubin observed, the signs
of the devastation and catalcylismic shock of a facturerd, post-war
reality experience, by Matta working from New York this time,
The lot has a modest estimate
to $1,500,000. It failed to sell.
Lot 33 is a great painting by
"Mujeres." An oil and sand on canvas, it measures 51
1/2 by 77 1/4 inches and was painted in 1960. It has an estimate
of $800,000 to $1,200,000. It failed to sell.
In her catalogue essay on the
Donovan provides the following commentary:
"Set in a room with a louvered
two female figures, reduced to elemental lines and circles, stand
before a large, looming form of an animal. Inspired by Cubism,
the geometric shapes overlap and conflate the figures, thereby
challenging traditional perspective and composition. The tight
spatial relationship between the women and the animal suggest
the interconnectedness of humanity and nature. Likewise, modernity
and antiquity fuse in Mujeres. The areas of pattern
cup the left and right shoulders of the women, for example, mimic
a jaguar's coat and a feathered wing, alluding to presentations
found inMesoamerican codices and murals."
It is quite extraordinary that
the three finest
works in this auction should fail to sell.
Lot 11 is one of several works
in the auction
to be consigned by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to benefit
acquisitions of Latin American Art. It is entitled "Los Amigos"
and is an oil on canvas by Tamayo that measures 38 1/4 by 51 1/4
inches. Painted in 1976, it has an estimate of $350,000 to $450,000.
It sold for $$338,500 including the buyer's premium as do
results mentioned in this article. Of the 79 works offered in
this evening sale, only 51 sold for a total for $10,724,400. Virgilio
Garza, head of Christie's Latin Ameican Art department, said after
the auction that "despite the current financial situation,
we saw positive results for tonight's sale, which broke seven
auction records for work by Emilio Pettoruti, César Paternosto,
Manuel Rodriguez Lozano, Manuel Pailos, Roberto Aizenberg, Julio
Galan, and Adriana Varejao."
The total for both the
evening and day sale
came to $14,150,963 and was 70% sold by lot. Combined with the
$33.8 million fetched in the Spring auctions, Christie's grand
total for Latin American Art in 2008 is $48,012,313, representing
the second highest annual total for Christie's.
Mr. Garza said "We had
a very successful
Day Session of Latin American Art, proving the strength of the
middle market across all categories of sculpture, Mexican School,
Cuban Modernism, geometric abstraction and Contemporary Art. Despite
the current financial situation, six artist records were achieved
in the Day Session for José Maria Mijares, Jorge Camacho,
Tomás Sánchez, Mario Carreño, Juan Manuel
Hernández and Arturo Montoto, adding to the seven records
established in the Evening Sale. The two-day sales witnessed active
international bidding, proving freshness to the market, excellent
quality and superb artistic merit are qualities that continue
to be recognized by astute collectors."
is a good oil and sand
on canvas by Tamayo. Entitled "Hombre contra un muro,"
it measures 37 3/4 by 51 1/4 inches, and was painted in 1975.
It has an estimate of $320,000 to $420,000. It sold for
Lot 22 is another oil on canvas
by Tamayo that
has a nice dark palette. Entitled "Serenata a la luna,"
it measures 42 1/4 by 30 inches and was painted in 1949. It has
a very ambitious estimate of $1,500,000 to $2,000,000.
Lot 25 is an interesting and
on wood by David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896-1974). It measures 31
1/2 by 23 5/8 inches and was painted in 1960. It has a modest
estimate of $60,000 to $80,000. It sold for $218,500.
The cover illustration of the
Lot 12, "El Cantor," an oil on canvas by Emilio Pettoruti
(1892-1971). Painted in 1934, it measures 31 7/8 by 23 5/8 inches.
It has an estimate of $700,000 to $900,000. It sold for
by Joaquin Torres Garcia is an oil on canvas that measures 51
by 58 1/2 inches,. Painted in 1946, it has an ambitious estimate
of $2,000,000 to $3,000,000. It failed to sell.
Lot 24 is an excellent small
oil on masonite
by Diego Rivera (1886-1957). It measures 11 1/4 by 15 5/8 inches
and was painted in 1944. It has an estimate of $140,000 to $180,000.
It sold for $146,500.
de Syzszlo (b. 1925)
is a Peruvian artist who creates swirling abstractions with figurative
overtones usually with vibrant but monochromatic palettes. Lot
30, "Runa Macii," is a good example of his style. An
acrylic on canvas, it measures 59 by 47 1/8 inches and it was
painted in 1971. It has a modest estimate of $30,000 to $40,000.
It sold for $56,250.
Lot 45 is a large oil on canvas
Carrington (b. 1917) entitled "The Gardenof Paracelsus."
It measures 33 1/4 by 47 5/8 inches and was painted in 1957. It
has an ambitious estimate of $700,000 to $900,000. It failed
to sell. "Executed during the height of her involvement
with the Gurdjieff group in Mexico during the 1950s, it draws
upon a number of occult sources, yet resists easy interpretation.
This is the great strength of Carrrington's best work; it never
degenerates into grimoire illutstration but hovers on the precipice
of magical awareness....Paracelsus (1493-1541) iss best known
as a European Renaissance physician and alchemist....Paracelsus
underscored the relation between the 'macrocosm' and the 'microcosm,'
believing that there was a connection between the firmament of
the heavenly bodies and the firmament of the human body.....Carrington
first became attracted to alchemy as an art student at the Amde
Ozenfant Academy in London....Set in the starry heavens, The
Garden of Paracelsus is an alchemical play. At the center
of a magic circle is a female figure holding the alchemical egg.
Her ghostly countenance associates her with both silver and the
moon, while her communion with a black angel may represent her
astral double," according to a catalogue entry by Susan L.
Lot 48 is a much simpler but
Carrington oil on canvas. Entitled "Cour d'Amour Epris,"
it measures 10 3/4 by 36 3/8 inches. Executed in 1960, it has
an estimate of $120,000 to $180,000. It sold for $146,500.
auction contains three
fine paintings by Juan Soriano (1920-2006), all from the collection
of Frank and Jayne Fernandez. Lot 47 is an oil on canvas entitled
"hormigas y amapolas (ants and poppies)." It measures
23 1/4 by 34 inches and was painted in 1959. It has an estimate
of $30,000 to $40,000. It sold for $47,500. Lot
sobre Courbet," is a Soriano oil on canvas that measures
36 1/2 by 69 inches. Painted in 1961, it has an estimate of $40,000
to $60,000. It sold for $35,000.
Lot 44 is a 70 1/2-by-41
1/2-inch oil on canvas
by Soriano entitled "Diana cazadona." Painted in 1958,
it has an estimate of $50,000 to $70,000. It sold for $43,750.
One of the most painterly works
in the auction
is Lot 7, "Gallo Blanco (White Rooster)," by Mariano
Rodriguez (1912-1990). An oil on canvas that was painted in 1963,
it measures 31 1/2 by 39 1/2 inches. It has an estimate of $50,000
to $70,000. It sold for $56,250.
One of the best paintings in
the auction is
Lot 57, "Un antepasado de Juarez inaugura Mitla," by
Francisco Toledo (b. 1940). A watercolor, sand and collage on
Fabriano paper, it was created in 1986 and measures 19 1/2 by
27 5/8 inches. It has a modest estimate of $80,000 to $120,000.
It failed to sell.
Antonio Sequi (b. 1934) is an
who creates large caricatures of darrk urban scenes. Lot 64 is
entitled "Excited Youth" and is anoil and pastel on
canvas that measures 59 by 63 inches. Created in 1990, it has
an estimate of $40,000 to $50,000. It sold for $52,500.
Lot 16 is a very fine,
sculpture by Agustin Cardenas (1927-2001). The 88 1/2-inch high
work was executed in 1957 and has an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000.
It sold for $194,500. Lot 28 is a fine and large still life
of fruits by Armando Morales (b. 1927) that was painted in 1983
and is an oil and beeswax on canvas that measures 38 1/2 by 51
1/4 inches. It has an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000. It
failed to sell. Lot 59 is a large painting of a forest by
Morales that measures 63 3/4 by 79 1/4 inches and was painted
in 1992. It has an estimate of $300,000 to $400,000. It sold
Another fine sculpture by
Cardenas was placed
in front of the entrance to Christie's during the auction's exhibition.
Lot 32, it was an 80 3/4 inch high white marble sculpture that
was created in 1994. It has an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000.
It sold for $206,500.
Lot 27, "Grupo frente al mar,"
bronze sculpture, 75 inches high, of three standing people, by
Francisco Zuniga (1912-1998), a competent but very repetitive
Mexican artist, has an estimate of $1,200,000 to $1,800,000. It
sold for $1,202,500. It was created in 1984.