By Carter B. Horsley
This auction of Latin American
Art at Sotheby's November 18 and 19, 2009 is highlighted by good
works by Fernando Botero, Rufino Tamayo and Matta and fine examples
by Julio Alpuy, Javier Marin, Irene Sierra Carreno, Sergio Camargo,
David Alfaro Siqueiros, Julio Larraz, Mariano Rodriguez, Adriana
Varejao, Diego Rivera and Leonora Carrington.
Lot 41 is a fine bronze sculpture
by Fernando Botero (b. 1933) that is 45 inches high and is entitled
"Ballerini, Piccolo Donna su Gradino." It is number
2 of 2 and was created in 2006. It has an estimate of $400,000
to $600,000. It sold for $626,500 including the buyer's premium
as do all results mentioned in this article.
The evening auction was
very successful with 50 of the 58 offered lots selling for $14,764,250
nicely over the pre-sale high estimate.
August O. Uribe, the auctioneer,
said at a news conference after the sale that he was "absolutely
ecstatic" about the results, adding that there was "extremely
deep" bidding." He said that it was "the third
best sell-through of the past decade" for the department.
Bidding was in some instances very prolonged and Mr. Uribe noted
that there were bidders from Russian, Indonesia and South Africa
as well as America, Latin America and Europe.
Lot 32 is a very fine painting
of a picador by Fernando Botero (b. 1933). An oil on canvas, it
measures 60 5/8 by 48 inches and was created in 1984. It has an
estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. It sold for $752,500.
Lot 10 is a simple but strong
composition by Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991) entitled "Constelacion.
An oil and sand on canvas, it measures 22 by 40 3/4 inches and
was painted in 1947. It has an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000.
It was formerly in the collections of Mr. and Mrs. Henry J. Heinz
II of New York and Mr. and Mrs. David Rockefeller of New York.
It sold for $470,500.
Lot 37 is a very fine and subtle
and large oil and sand painting on canvas entitled "Pareja
en gris" by Tamayo. It measures 70 3/4 by 48 1/2 inches and
was painted in 1983. It has an estimate of $400,000 to $600,000.
It is property from the collection of Mary Schiller Myers and
Louis S. Myers. It sold for $494,500.
Lot 11, "Endless Nudes," is an
unusual Matta in that elements of the human body can be discerned.
It was once in the collection of Philip Johnson and Associates
and the Seagram Collection.. An oil on canvas, it measures 28
½ by 36 inches and was executed 1941-2. It was offered
at Christie's in Spring, 2003 with an estimate of $1,000,000 to
$1,500,000 when it sold for $1,687,500, the highest lot of the
auction. At this auction, it has an estimate of $2,000,000 to
$3,000,000. It sold for $2,490,500.
The catalogue for the 2003 auction provided the following commentary
on this work by Hayden Herrera:
"In Endless Nudes the movement of paint, handled with
Matta's characteristic ease and fluency, stands for the rhythms
of the human organism. Pigment is first poured and then rubbed
with rags in a free improvisational manner. Matta was a proponent
of the Surrealist technique of `psychic automatism,' a kind of
visual stream of consciousness that aimed to go beyond habit and
rational thinking and to discover the `real functioning of the
mind.' After laying down broad areas of color, Matta applied transparent
veils of white, which he called `a caress.' His brush unearthed
shapes in the movement of the paint and transformed these shapes
into precise, yet ambiguous biomorphs. Endless Nudes lures
us into a uterine landscape where sinking and swelling forms suggest
themes of germination and birth. Because Matta has not yet abandoned
the horizon line in Endless Nudes, there is an implication
of earth and sky, but both spheres are full of fleshy folds that
sometimes become nude bodies. On the lower right, just on the
threshold of recognition, is a recumbent embracing couple. In
the sky above them the movement of clouds creates what looks like
a male torso seen from the back and, lying beside him, must be
a female. (We see only her bent knee.) The painting's orgiastic
energy also belongs to the mineral world: in spring 1941 Matta
traveled to Mexico where he was impressed with the brilliance
of color and light and where he witnessed the birth of the volcano
Paricutin. The paintings he made upon his return to New York reflect
his apprehension of the earth's terrifying power, a power that
echoed his own spiritual eruptions: dreams, he said, are `images
of our volcanic experiences.' And, beyond that, Endless Nudes'
upheaval of form and its lava flow of color was perhaps also a
response to the cataclysm of war. Matta's genius lay in his ability
to keep us reinventing his fantastic landscapes"
entry for this auction for this lot provides the following commentary
by Martica Sawin, noting that its exhibition in 1942 at the Pierre
Matisse Gallery in New York "caused ripples of excitement
because of the new and unorthodox approach to painting it announced":
moved sideways into painting from architecture Mattas was not
encumbered by academic training and approached painting in an
unorthodox way to produce previously unseen effects. According
to Onslow Ford, he dabbed pigment on the canvas with his fingers
and then used a sponge or turpentine soaked cloth to spread the
painting in thin layers, then wiped off the excess and in places
scraped small areas with a palette knife....This explains why
we see no marks of a brush or any trace of the artist's hand in
Endless Nudes. Instead there is an overall swelling and
heaving motion of the diaphoanous layers which occasionally part
to allow jewel-like bits of dense pigment to show through like
glimpses of the earth's interior fires."
Lot 54 is an unusual but sharply
delineated composition by Matta that was painted in 1986. Entitled
"Magik," it is an oil on canvas that measures 69 by
93 1/2 inches. It has a modest estimate of $70,000 to $90,000.
It sold for $143,500.
In 1939, Matta (1911-2002)
made a gift of this colored crayon, black crayon and graphite
on paper, Lot 9, to Elizabeth Onslow Ford Rouslin, the sister
of Gordon Onslow Ford, in appreciation for her teaching him English
when he arrived in Europe in the late 1930s. Its title, "I,
said the sparrow," is the first line of the old English poem
Who Killed Cock Robin? The title is hidden in the composition.
The catalogue notes that in 1939 Matta joined Gordon Onslow Ford
and his sister Elisabeth along with a group of the Surrealists
including Andre Breton and the artists Yves Tanguy, Kay Sage and
Esteban Frances at the Chaeau de Chemilieru, where Bathus had
spent the previous summer. The lot has an estimate of $150,000
to $200,000. It sold for $206,500.
Lot 40 is a strong work by
David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896-1974) that is entitled "Nahual."
It is pryoxilin on paper laid down on wood and measures 39 3/4
by 26 1/4 inches. It was painted in 1968. It has a modest estimate
of $35,000 to $45,000. It sold for $37,500.
Lot 14 is a simple oval still
life by Diego Rivera (1886-1957) that is slightly angled. It was
painted circa 1915-6. An oil on canvas, it measures 29 by 24 inches.
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 Sotheby's May 29, 2002 Latin American Art
auction's catalogue, it had a somewhat ambitious estimate of $500,000
to $700,000. It failed to sell and was passed at $475,000.
This time It has
an estimate of $600,000 to $800,000. It sold for $812,500.
Lot 57 is a quite bold and
extremely colorful work by Mariano Rodriguez (1912-1990). An oil
on canvas, it measures 24 1/4 by 20 inches and it was painted
in 1943 and is entitled "Guajiro con Gallo (Muchacho con
Gallo)." It has an estimate of $125,000 to $175,000. It
sold for $482,500. The catalogue notes that this painting
"Boy with a Rooster" was a highlight of a 1944 exhibition
on Modern Cuban painters at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Lot 12 is an oil on canvas
by Leonora Carrington that is entitled "Le Grand Adieu."
It measures 19 3/4 by 39 1/2 inches and was executed in 1958.
It has an ambitious estimate of $400,000 to $600,000 since it
has little of her normal eccentric creatures. It sold for $632,500.
Lot 19 is a handsome painting
by Julio Alpuy (1919-2009) entitled "Constructivo."
An oil on canvas, it measures 37 3/8 by 29 5/8 inches and was
executed in 1950. It has an estimate of $35,000 to $45,000.
It sold for $53,125.
One of the more colorful works
in the auction is Lot 190, "Viaje en la Corteza," by
Irene Sierra Carreno (b. 1965). An acrylic on canvas, it measures
28 1/4 by 36 inches, it was painted in 2001. The painting has
a delightful sense of nature. It has an estimate of $35,000 to
$45,000. It failed to sell.
One of the most charming and
striking works in the auction is Lot 123, "Pronunciamiento,"
by Julio Larraz (b. 1944). An oil on canvas, it measures 40 1/2
by 48 3/4 inches. The asymmetrical composition is very bold and
accented by its large scale and the diminutive and curious monkey.
It has an estimate of $60,000 to $70,000. It sold for $50,000.
Lot 92 is a very lovely painting
by Hector Poleo (1918-1989) entitled "Soledad Infinita No.
24." An oil on canvas, it measures 20 by 24 inches and was
painted in 1967. It has an estimate of $18,000 to $22,000.
It sold for $17,500.
One of the most stunning works
in the auction is Lot 29, "Raices," a painted wood sculpture
by Frans Krajcberg (b. 1921) that measures 85 by 69 by 17 inches.
It was created circa 1980. It has an estimate of $80,000 to $100,000.
It sold for $146,500.
Lot 15 is an impressive work
by Mathias Goeritz (1915-1990). It is gold painted performd metal
on painted wood that measures 36 1/2 by 174 1/2 inches and was
created i8n 1979. It was recently deacessioned by the Denver Art
Museum and previously had been in the Atlantic Richfield Colllection
in Denver. The catalogue notes that this was one of two works
that the artist created to decoratd the ARCO headquarters in Denver.
It has an estimate of $150,000 to $250,000. It sold for $254,500.
Lot 5 is a large painted wood
sculpture by Sergio Camargo (1930-1990) created in 1964. It measures
67 by 45 7/8 inches. It has an estimate of $350,000 to $450,000.
It sold for $1,594,500, more than three times the artist's
previous world auction record.
Lot 30 is a striking painting
by Adriana Varejao (b. 1964) entitled "Figua de convite."
An oil on canvas, it measures 66 3/4 by 51 inches and was painted
in 1995. It has an estimate of $150,000 to $200,000. It failed
to sell and was passed at $110,000. The artist depicts various
decorative bathroom tiles to create her image.
Lot 192 is a impressive sculpture
of a male torso by Javier Marin (b. 1962). It is 96 inches high
and was created in 1995. It has a modest estimate of $25,000 to
$35,000. It sold for $62,500.