By Carter B.
One of the worst mistakes that
new to art make is to pigeon-hole cultures and regions and to
think that an individual artist's best work is formulaic, adhering
to a relatively easy to identify style.
Such common but naive
approaches tend to overlook
the fact that pupils sometimes surpassed their masters, that derivative
art and influenced art can still be superb, and that some artists
actually have "off" days, or diverse interests and experimental
We look at Latin American art,
and are tempted to look for "indigenous" characteristics
that perhaps reflect the artistic heritage of Pre-Columbian cultures,
or the environmental influence of rainforests and volcanos, or
the socio-political heritage of revolutions and dictatorships.
These are all, of course, legitimate themes for art, and regional
differences can be interesting.
In an increasingly global
world, of course,
there is tremendous cross-fertilization of ideas and cultures,
enough, in fact, to spur more attention to the intellectual and
artistic preservation and advancement of specific heritages.
Lot 25, "Viaje Galaxico," by
Xul Solar (1887-1963), a watercolor on paper, 4 3/4 by 8 1/3 inches,
shown above and the endpapers illustration in the catalogue, is
a fine example of a work that combines different influences but
also brilliantly captures and evokes regional culture.
The catalogue provides the
on this lot and Lot 26, a slightly larger work by the same artist:
"Xul Solar's dialogue and
the theories of the avant-garde, along with his unique sensibility
and intelligence, embarqued [sic] him upon a search for his own
means of artistic expression and into a unique world that would
embrace literature, metaphysics and science. His imagery and style
fully developed while the artist was still living in Euirope bewtween
the years 1918 and 1923. During this period, the artist was constantly
exposed to the work of the European Expressionists, Futurists,
Cubists and other nonfigurative paintrs such as the Russian vanguards.
He studied the works of contmporary authors like H. P. Blavatsky
and Rudolph Steiner, and those of classic mystical masters like
Jakob Bohme and Emanuel Swedenborg but especially of the poet
and painter William Blake. Upon his return to Argentina, he become
one of the most influential and original thinkers of the avant-garde.
Xul depicted his innermost visions as a self-referential exercise
employing a visual vocabulary of text, bright flat color forms,
and imaginary characters. He would mount these compositions on
colored paper further exploring the meanings of color. All of
the above mentioned elements imbued with esoteric and symbolic
content, were employed by the artist as referential signs or 'visual
peoms' that delved into his subconscious."
Both lots have estimates of
$60,000 to $80,000.
They each were sold for $78,000, not including the buyer's
premium, easily exceeding the $70,700 auction record for the artist.
Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991) is
one of the greatest
Latin American artistss and Lot 28, "Venus Negra," a
39 1/2-by-32-inch oil on canvas, is one of his major works.
The catalogue's description of
the work includes
"The artist's stylized figures
rotond forms all have their origin in pre-Hispanic and popular
Mexican art. The Venus Negra of 1965 resembles a
goddess by the exaggerated form of her breasts and hips. Moreover,
because of the color of the canvas, the generous rounded bulkiness
is erotic. This idea is accentuated by the postion of the Venus
who is standing in claro obscuro in a threshold
a warm, protective interior. At her shoudlers is a cool light
that suggsts an exterior garden. There is a dual visual gam in
the bodyof the venus. Af first glance, we see a corpulent figure.
However, if we look at the delicately scratched lines that reveal
the whtie under-painting of the canvas, we discover the stylized
body of a woman."
The lot has an ambitious high
estimate of $600,000.
It sold for $420,500 including the buyer's premium.
Lot 34 is a very pleasing,
painted with a bluer than usual palette. Entitled, "The Circus,"
the 17 5/8-by-23 5/8-inch oil and canvas has a high estimate of
$350,000. It sold for $310,500 including the buyer's premium
to a U. S. private collector.
Another Tamayo, Lot 40, "Imagen
espejo (Mujer ante el espejo) is more abstract and very painterly.
Executed in 1961, it has a marvelous texture and Tamayo's strong
palette of pinks, white and oranges. The 39 3/8-by-31 1/2-inch
work has a high estimate of $280,000. It sold for $244,500
including the buyer's premium to a U. S. private collector.
Lot 108 is another large strong Tamayo and it has an estimate
of $150,000 to $200,000. It sold for $156,500 including the
Lot 61 is a very strong
sculpture by Tamayo
with a high estimate of $180,000. It sold at its low
$140,000 not including the buyer's premium.
Francisco Toledo (b. 1940) is
artist whose works have a very distinctive texture. Lot 27, "Pescado
de San Mateo," is a lovely, 39 1/2-by-47 3/8-inch oil and
sand on canvas, executed in 1979.
"Toledo has often been referred
the greatest modern Mexican artist since Rufino Tamayo and was
born like Tamayo, in the state of Oaxaca. Similarly, the artist
is also a Zapotec Indian (as was Tamayo) and his art primarily
reflects his indigenous roots. After having completed art studies
in Mexico, Toledo spent years working in Paris where he perfected
his skills as an artist and a print-maker. While never abandoning
his ties to Mexico, he wandered the world, working in New York,
Spain and again, in Paris. His works convey many forms of the
human condition, linking our natural surroundings to the supernatural
and intertwining relationships between man and nature. The images
of animal forms is a recurrent theme in Toledo's paintings, as
the folkloric tales of his Juchetan childhood. Turtles, iguanas,
toads, rabbits and insects appear in never-ending interpretations
in watercolours, etchings and paintings. Using native amate paper,
oils, sand, bark and even ceramics, Toledo creates an imaginary
world in which man and beast interact....Everything in the composition
including the shape of the fish, the texture of the work, the
light and shadow on the surface, gives the spectator both the
feeling of a prehistoric cave-drawing as well as a modern touch."
The lot has an ambitious high
estimate of $320,000.
It sold for $310,500 including the buyer's premium.
Another good Toledo is Lot 41,
which has a high estimate of $200,000. It sold for $210,000
not including the buyer's premium.
Lot 42 is a good example of the
work of Vicente
do Rego Monteiro (1899-1970). Entitled "O Menino e a Tartaruga,"
the 17 5/8-by-14 7/8-inch oil on canvas was painted in 1924 and
has an estimate of $180,000 to $220,000. It was passd at
The catalogue notes that Rego
"one of Brazil's most interesting modern painters" and
provides the following commentary;
"During the 20s, he lived and
Paris and was linked to L'Effort Moderne, a group led by Amidie
[Amedee] Ozenfant, a purist and Jean Metzinger a cubist. His
with the European avant-garde led him towards the
of a thematic and stylistic language that was closely linked to
Brazilian motifs derived from native artistic manifestations.
O Menino e a Tartaruga is a fine example of the
concern with these issues. It is rendered in the abstract and
geometric style that is reminiscent to Pre-Columbian objects found
in the region of Maraca, Brazil. It also represents a human figure
with an animal, an iconographic element that later enriched the
mythical world of th artist. The final composition resembles shallow
relief carvings, an effect that is further accentuated by the
monochromatic aspect of the paintings. Again, the use of these
earth-tone colors is a tribute to Brazilian indigenous motifs.
It recalls the pigmentation of the local inhabitants."
The man and the animal in this
have inflated forms that would later appear in the work of Fernando
One of the auction's highlights
is Lot 30,
"Encuento tropical," by Diego Rivera (1886-1957). This
41 1/2-by-78 3/8-inch oil on canvas was commissioned in 1944 for
the Celebrity Bar at the Old Hearst Ranch in California. The work
shows the new owners of the ranch who were converting it into
a luxury resort on either side of the artist. The ambitious estimate
is $400,000 to $600,000. It sold for $442,500 including the
buyer's premium to a European private collector.
by David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896-1974), oil on board, 43 1/4 by
35 5/8 inches, 1967, is a stunning abstract work that has a
high estimate of $90,000. It sold for $57,500 including the
buyer's premium. Another Siguieros is Lot 39, "Laconesa,"
a very interesting and strong work of women in pink dresses with
men in tall hats behind them. The very dynamic painting has a
conservative high estimate of $200,000. It sold for $140,000,
not including the buyer's premium.
Lam (1902-1982) is
one of the great Latin American masters. Lot 43, "J'arrive
(Figura)," a 50 3/8-by-43 3/4-inch oil on canvas is a fine
large abstract work in grays, blue-gray and white and has a high
estimate of $250,000. It passed at $190,000 just below its
low estimate of $200,000. Lot 105 is a stronger Lam that is
a 23 7/8-by-28 7/8-inch oil on canvas, executed in 1970 and which
carries a conservative high estimate of $90,000. It failed
(b. 1911) is another
master and is represented in the auction with several works, the
best of which is Lot 60, an untitled oil on canvas, 65 1/2 by
131 1/4 inches, that has a conservative estimate of $220,000 and
is a fine example of his sci-fi, high-tech Surrealist imagery.
It sold for $150,000.
Leonora Carrington (b. 1917) is
one of the
most imaginative Latin American Surrealists and Lot 98, "Belfry,"
is an example of her art. The 14 3/8-by-29 1/2-inch oil on masonite
was painted in 1988 and has a high estimate of $80,000. It
failed to sell.
Lot 33 is a superb white marble
a man in a bowler standing with a cane atop a naked female lying
on her stomach with her legs crossed and raised by Fernando Botero
(b. 1932). The 47 5/8-inch high sculptureis wonderful and has
a conservative high estimate of $400,000. It was withdrawn.
Another fine Botero is Lot 21,
a large bronze
sculpture of a nude woman, which also has a $400,000 high estimate.
It sold for $380,000 not including the buyer's premium.
One of the most interesting
works in the auction
is Lot 38, "Consumatum Est," a 20 7/8-by-23 1/4-inch
tempera on masonite by Juan O'Gorman (1905-1982). This work is
an apocalyptic vision of an imaginary landscape with great viaducts
and structures and ruins and skeletons. O'Gorman studied and
with Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco and other masters
and the catalogue maintains that "O'Gorman's sublime style
appears to be addressing his Mexican people about change and othr
liberal ideas that were supported by the Mexican revolutionaries.
It has an estimate of $80,000 to $120,000. It sold for
not including the buyer's premium.
The salesroom for the
evening auction was
packed but there were relatively few bidders in the room and the
results were generally disappointing with rather low prices and
with 21 passes out of 76 lots offered. The audience, however,
burst into applause several times, the strongest being for Lot
16, a large painting by Guillermo Kuitca that had an estimate
of $100,000 to $150,000 and was sold for $210,000 not including
the buyer's premium, easily breaking the artist's auction record
of $156,500. The audience also applauded the sale for $160,000
not including the buyer's premium of Lot 24, a work by Armando
Reveron that had had a high estimate of $150,000. Applause was
also generated by the $170,000 price not including the buyer's
premium for Lot 70, a work by Francisco Rodon Elizalde that had
had a high estimate of $160,000, and for lot 69, a Botero that
sold for $420,000 and had had a high estimate of $350,000 and
for Lot 74, a lovely full length portrait by an Anonymous Cuzco
School artist that sold for $38,000 not including the buyer's
premium and had had a high estimate of $16,000. A large Matta,
Lot 47, that had had a low estimate of $150,000 was passed at
$95,000, and a strong work by Wolfgang Paalen, Lot 48, which had
a low estimate of $80,000 was passed at $55,000.
conducted the auction with
wit, style, elegance and pace in the best traditions of the affable,
ebullient and sharp Christopher Burge.
Of the 76 lots offered
in the evening sale,
55 sold for a total of $8,112,025 with auction records set for
nine artists including $233,500 for Lot 16, "Siete ultimas
canciones," a 1986 painting by Guillermo Kuitca. "Tonight
we saw across the board buying on an international level and the
prices realized confirm that the market for Latin American art
is strong and growing steadily," remarked Juan Varez, the
head of Christie's Latin American Art Department in New York,
adding that 24 lots sold above their high estimates."