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Latin American Art

Christie's

7PM, May 28, 2002 (Lots 1-62)

& 10AM, May 19, 2002 (Lots 66-136)

Sale 1084

"La Tierra Promedita" by Rufino Tamayo

Lot 20, "La Tierra Promedita (Israel de hoy)," by Rufino Tamayo, oil and sand on canvas, 78 ¾ by 249 ½ inches, 1963

By Carter B. Horsley

This Latin American Art auction at Christie's is highlighted by a great Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991), a very vibrant Matta (b. 1911), and excellent works by Wilfredo Lam (1902-1982), Leonora Carrington (b. 1917), and Fernando Botero (b. 1932).

Lot 20, "La Tierra Promedita (Israel de hoy)," is a spectacular and beautiful oil and sand on canvas by Rufino Tamayo. Painted in 1963, it measures 78 ¾ by 249 ½ inches and has a conservative estimate of $1,000,000 to $1,500,000. It failed to sell and was passed at $600,000, but Ana Sokoloff, head of the department, indicated after the auction that its great size probably limited the number of potential bidders and that it might become an after-sale. The well-attended sale was not very successful with only about 58 percent of the 57 offered lots selling.

The catalogue provides the following commentary on this lot by Juan Carlos Pereda:

"In 1962, Rufino Tamayo visited Jerusalem to attend the opening of a retrospective of his work at the Betzalem Museum, which later traveled to the Museum of Modern Art in Haifa and the Helena Rubenstein Pavilion in Tel Aviv. The retrospective was received with much critical acclaim and led the ZIM Navigation Company to commission two murals from Tamayo for the luxurious transatlantic ocean liner, Shalom, which was in construction at the French shipyards of Saint-Nazaire. The artist chose the theme Nada del desierto de Neguev (Nothing of the Neguev Desert) and Todo de la vida laboriosa, agricola, commercial e industrial de Israel (All about the laborious life, agriculture, commercial and industrial Israel) later simplifying the respective titles to Israel de ayer (Israel of yesterday) and Israel de hoy (Israel Yesterday). The murals, each two by six meters, together presented a didactic vision of the physical history of Israel two views which contrasted greatly in color, structure and significance and with great symbolic richness highlighted the triumph of the Israelis over the desert lands. The Galeria Misrachi showed the two murals first to the Mexican public before they went to Japan as part of a larger retrospective that traveled to three cities in that country. Upon completion of the tour they were hung in the elegant reception rooms of the Shalom where they would remain for more than twenty years. When the boat was later taken out of commission the two murals were separated. Unfortunately, Israel de ayer apparently disappeared and information suggests that it was fragmented. In the lost mural, Israel de ayer, Tamayo expressed the sense of the indomitable desert and its association with antiquity. In the canvas Tamayo unveils a landscape in which nature has imposed a hostile geography on man painted in heraldic tones of reds and yellows of various scales and tones, revealing the mountains, boulders, and valleys bleached by the intense sun. The entire landscape is free from man's touch and generally wanting of life. In the surviving mural Israel de hoy Tamayo exalts the victory of man's ingenuity, heralding the land revitalised by the arduous work of the people against the desert, converting it in to fields, farms and gardens. In this promised land, at the edge of the Neguev Desert, there are as well the budding industries of Israel, the factories and hydraulic power stations. The hand of man is unescapable in the depiction of Modern Israel. Separating the mural has not lessened its significance, nor limited the vigor of the revolutionary concepts intrinsic to the Mexican Muralists captured in the work its magnificence reaffirms the value of landscape through aesthetics. Underl[y]ing the landscape is its symbolic meaning as the true strength of Israel, their land. The great evocative power of Tamayo's palette, employing local color, and his enormous poetic capacity to transform the picture space into planes allows him to simultaneously capture a low horizon as well as the skies above as though seen from an airplane. The airplane itself is included as a stylized white mass at the center of the composition. All of the elements here reinforce the uplifting testament of the strength of the human will, which with ingeniousness and work can overcome the adversities dispensed by nature a will that can also achieve great beauty of form and color, which the artist exalts as the unifying theme of the mural. The color greens, grays, sepias and reds [-] are contrasted with the white apparatus which appears at the center of the canvas, allowing for relief from the abundant use of color as well as providing contrast. The composition possesses the virtuous harmony with which the colorist Tamayo imprints all his work. He displays his innate understanding of the richness and diversity in tonalities in color, how delicate changes in color can transmit the humid atmosphere and freshness of cultivated lands. With visual arts values of the most elevated hierarchy Tamayo was able to realize with this work a new chapter in the prestigious and historic genre of landscape painting."

The striking painting, which illustrates both the front and back covers of the catalogue, is a masterpiece of 20th Century art.


"Dos mujeres" by Rufino Tamayo

Lot 31, "Dos mujeres," by Rufino Tamayo, oil and sand on canvas, 51 ½ by 38 ¼ inches, 1968

A more conventional and classic, albeit very strong, Tamayo is Lot 31, "Dos mujeres," an oil and sand on canvas that measures 51 ½ by 38 ¼ inches. Painted in 1968, it shows two standing figures against a very vibrant red and pink and yellow background. It has a conservative estimate of $300,000 to $400,000. It sold for $559,500, including the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this article.


"Los Vendors de pescado" by Rufino Tamayo

Lot 28, "Los vendors de pescado," by Rufino Tamayo, oil on canvas, 42 ¼ by 50 1/8 inches, 1972

Lot 28, "Los vendors de pescado," shows Tamayo in a different mood and style. Executed in 1972, the 42 ¼-by-50 1/8-inch oil on canvas shows two fish peddlers talking over their boxes of fish and has an unusual and interesting palette of blue-greens and grays. It has an estimate of $300,000 to $400,000. It sold for $361,500.


"The Ecclectrician" by Matta

Lot 14, "The Ecclectrician," by Matta, oil on canvas, 55 by 77 inches, 1945

No artist since Kandinsky has more dynamic energy in his compositions than Matta and Lot 14, "The Ecclectrician," is a particularly strong and very bold work by him that measures 55 by 77 inches and was executed in 1945. The lot has a conservative estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. It sold for $669,500.

The catalogue entry for this lot notes that the artist represented flux through the use of lines and forms and the "mechanization of humankind and its inner struggle through totemic figures of sculptural presence," adding that this painting "reflects the artist's interest in primitive ritual, depicted by the imposing figure, and Matta's commentary on the dehumanizing effects of modern technology." It also stated that this painting and A Grave Situation, which is in the collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, represent the culmination in painting of Matta's existential concerns of modern moan in today's world, and the role of art as an act that requires an act of consciousnsess on the part of the viewer for its full understanding."

"A Elizabeth" by Matta

Lot 18, "A Elizabeth," by Matta, colored crayons and pencil on paper, 19 ½ by 25 ¾ inches, 1938

Lot 18, "A Elizabeth," is another very strong Surrealist work by Matta. It is a colored crayons and pencil on paper that was drawn in 1938. It measures 19 ½ by 25 ¾ inches and has an estimate of $120,000 to $140,000. It sold for $218,500.

"Pig Pig Bite Snake" by Lenora Carrington

Lot 5, "Pig Pig Bite Snake," by Leonora Carrington, oil on masonite, 39 ½ by 31 5/8 inches, 1951

Leonora Carrington is another major Surrealist painter. Lot 5, "Pig Pig Bite Snake," is a good example of her whimsy. It is a 16 1/8-by-36-inch oil on masonite that was painted in 1951. It has an estimate of $120,000 to $140,000. It failed to sell and was passed at $80,000.

"Los visitants" by Leonora Carrington

Lot 15, "Los visitants (The Visitors)," by Leonora Carrington, oil on canvas, 39 1/2 by 31 5/8 inches, 1960

Lot 15 is another Carrington entitled "Los visitants (The Visitors)." Painted in 1960, it measures 39 ½ by 31 5/8 inches and has an estimate of $150,000 to $200,000. It sold for $163,500.

"La Sierra Maestra" by Wilfredo Lam

Lot 25, "La Sierra Maestra," by Wilfredo Lam, oil on paper laid down on canvas, 99 ¼ by 124 inches, 1959

One of the finest and most important works by Wilfredo Lam to appear on the auction market in recent years, albeit one with some condition problems, is Lot 25, "La Sierra Maestra," a 99 ¼-by-124-inch oil on paper laid down on canvas. Executed in 1959, it has an estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. It failed to sell and was passed at $280,000. Ms. Sokoloff suggested after the sale that its size, like the large Tamayo's, might have made some potential buyers hesitant.

The catalogue provides the following commentary:

"The name of the present painting, La Sierra Maestra, is also the one given to the highest mountain range in Cuba, located in the Southeast of the island.In the late 1950s, Fidel Castro had his base of operations in these mountains.On January 1st, 1959. the year Sierra Maestra was painted, the people of Havana witnessed the inauguration of Fidel Castro as Supreme Commander of Cuba. That the painting cannot escape its political and historical connotations is echoed in its composition. The persistence of angular elements evoking bellicose associations is further heightened by a sense of masculine energy, as if a hunting scene were to be unraveling in front of us. The overwhelming effect of these angular elements is interestingly opposed with the presence of a lone circular form barely discernible in the distant background. The isolated figure, the only passive element, is protected from the aggressive cutting and slashing that takes place in the rest of the composition. Energy is concentrated at the center of the composition while the edges have been left untreated. Overall, the work is painted in earthy tones and monochromatic shades of black, brown, and oranges, reminding us of tangible rather than of spiritual concerns. As we trace the construction of the piece from every angle, strong lines prove to be relentlessly confident in both their physicality and direction. There is absolutely no doubt of their purpose and the need for existing in the exact number and location where they have been positioned. Lam conceived La Sierra Maestra after a series of large-scale compositions collectively entitled the Brousses, a group of paintings inspired by dense networks of sugar cane stalks which he used as the base for his imagery.Though the interconnectedness of its elements acts as a less obstrusive barrier than in this earlier period, La Sierra Maestra continues to present itself as an enclosed, scaled area with a dynamic epicenter that exists directly in front of the viewer. The planes do not unlock nor do they relent. Similarly present in this work is the role of Santera, one of the many African-derived religions practiced from the Antilles to Brazil. Saneria is a `syncretic religion devised by slaves in Cuba, who merged their forbidden animist deities with Roman Catholic saints.'That Lam had been deeply immersed in Santeria beliefs and practices is evident in his selection of recurrent elements such as scissors, knives, and daggers. `These metal implements allude to Oggun, the god of iron and, therefore, of farmers and warriors' warriors such as the ones hiding in the mountains of the Sierra Maestra and who would help determine the fate of Cuba.Today, more than five decades later, La Sierra Maestra continues to capture the complexity of this moment and perpetuates, in his powerful and proud nature, the personality of the Cuban people." (The quotations in the above quotation are from V. Fletcher's 1992 catalogue essay on the artist in the "Crosscurrents of Modernism: Four Latin American Pioneers" exhibition at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, published by The Smithsonian Institution Press.)

"Dona asseguda" by Wilfredo Lam

Lot 24, "Dona asseguda," by Wilfredo Lam, oil on paper laid down on canvas, 42 1/8 by 34 1/8 inches, 1940

Lot 24, "Dona asseguda," is another fine Lam in which he shows a seated woman in the Cubist style of Picasso. Painted in 1940, the oil on paper laid down on canvas measures 42 1/8 by 34 1/8 inches and has an estimate of $150,000 to $200,000. It sold for $317,500. The fact that this and some of the other Tamayos did well indicated that these very fine artists had not fallen out of favor.


"La pica" by Fernando Botero

Lot 30, "La pica," by Fernando Botero, oil on canvas, 52 ½ by 61 inches, 1984

Lot 30, "La pica," is a wonderful bullfight scene by Fernando Botero, an artist with an exuberant and inexhaustible style. The 52 ½-by 61-inch oil on canvas was painted in 1984 and has an estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. It failed to sell and was passed at $320,000.

"Caballo" by Fernando Botero

Lot 21, "Caballo," by Fernando Botero, bronze, 19 5/8 inches high, 1999

Botero is one of the rare artists who is equally brilliant in paintings and sculpture. Lot 21, "Caballo," is a very handsome bronze sculpture of a horse that is 19 5/8 inches high. Executed in 1999, it is from an edition of six and has an estimate of $150,000 to $200,000. It sold for $229,500.

"Sin Titulo" by Agustin Cardenas

Lot 85, "Sin Titulo," by Agustin Cardenas, white marble, 15 1/2 inches high, 1974

Another fine sculpture is Lot 85, "Sin Titulo," by Agustin Cardenas (1927-2001). The 15 ½-inch high white marble abstraction is very sinuous and was executed in 1974. It has an estimate of $30,000 to $40,000. It failed to sell.

"Double-sided screen" by David Alfaro Siqueiros

Lot 22, "Double-sided screen," by David Alfaro Siqueiros, 14 ½ by 31 1/8 inches, 1962

Lot 22, "Double-sided screen," is a strong work by David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896-1974), one of the strongest of all Latin American artists. The six-panel screen measures 14 ½ by 31 1/8 inches and was painted in 1962 and is a lush landscape scene. It has a modest estimate of $20,000 to $30,000. It sold for $38,240.

Lot 23, "Vendedores de grano," is a fine watercolor on rice paper, 10 7/8 by 15 inches by Diego Rivera (1886-1957). The scene of grain sellers was painted in 1934 and has a modest estimate of $28,000 to $32,000.
It sold for $47,800.

"Elefante y jirafa," by Ignacio Iturria

Lot 131, "Elefante y jirafa," by Ignacio Iturria, oil on canvas, 20 ¼ by 78 inches, circa 1995

Lot 131, "Elefante y jirafa," is a very charming painting of an Elegant in a horizontal space with drawings of giraffes of the rear wall of the space by Ignacio Iturria (b. 1939). The 20 ¼-by-78-inch oil on canvas was painted circa 1995 has a modest estimate of $25,000 to $30,000. It sold for $23,900. Iturria's child-like subjects have the allure of Joseph Cornell constructions and Surrealistic fantasy and this is one of his finest works.

"Still Life with wild flowers" by Claudio Bravo

Lot 123, "Still life with wild flowers," by Claudio Bravo, colored pencil and charcoal on paper, 30 ¼ by 22 inches, 1990

Claudio Bravo (b. 1936) is a major painter of still lifes and Lot 123 is a very cool and lovely colored pencil and charcoal on paper by him of a bamboo vase with wild flowers. Drawn in 1990, it measures 30 ¼ by 22 inches and has an estimate of $30,000 to $50,000. It sold for $29,875.

Lot 44, "Pinturas neoconcretas," consists of three temperas on paper, each 6 7/8 by 4 ¾ inches by Helio Oiticia (1937-1980). These are very handsome abstractions, painted in 1960 that recall the work of Piet Mondrian and Kasimir Malevich and are very strong. The lot has a modest estimate of $20,000 to $25,000. It sold for $28,680.

"Inés en mis suenos" by Francisco Rodon

Lot 35, "Inés en mis suenos," by Francisco Rodon, oil on canvas, 87 by 65 inches, 1996-2002

Lot 35, "Inés en mis suenos," is a very beautiful and impressive portrait of a woman by Francisco Rodon (b. 1934). The oil on canvas measures 87 by 65 inches and was painted 1996-2002. It has an estimate of $220,000 to $260,000. It sold for $229,500, breaking the previous world auction record for the artist of $189,500 set at Sotheby's in New York Nov. 23, 1999.

Two other auction records for artists were set: Lot 43, "Fachada," by Alfredo Volpi sold for $47,800, breaking the artist's former record of $35,250 set at Christie's May 30, 2001; and Lot 55, "Woven Water," by Maria Fernanda Cardoso, sold for $22,705, breaking the artist's former auction record of $17,625, also set at Christie's last May.

"El conejo fumigador" by Francisco Toledo

Lot 4, "El conejo fumigador," by Francisco Toledo, gouache and pen on paper, 22 3/8 by 30 ¼ inches, 1979

Lot 4, "El conejo fumigador," is a very strong work by Francisco Toledo (b. 1940) that appears to depict a rabbit against a background of fans. The gouache and pen on paper measures 22 3/8 by 30 ¼ inches and was executed in 1979. It has an estimate of $80,000 to $100,000. It sold for $218,500 eliciting a burst of applause in the auction room.

"Perder el paradiso" by Tomas Sanchez

Lot 2, "Perder el paradiso" by Tomas Sanchez, acrylic on canvas, 21 7/8 by 28 inches, 2001

Lot 2, "Perder el paraiso," is a good landscape by Tomas Sanchez (b. 1948). It measures 21 7/8 by 28 inches and is an acrylic on canvas. It was executed in 2001 and has an estimate of $50,000 to $60,000. It sold for $57,360. Proceeds from its sale will be used as a charitable contribution to the SYDA (Siddha Yoga Dham Associates) Foundation that administers the presentation of programs and courses on Siddha Yoga meditation.

"Requiem for the Unknown Pedestrian" by Betsabee Romero

Lot 57, "Requiem for the Unknown Pedestrian," by Betsabee Romero, bas relief on rubber tires, variable dimensions, 2002

One of the best works in the auction is Lot 57, "Requieum for the Unknown Pedestrian," by Betsabee Romero (b. 1963).

Detail of "Requiem for the Unknown Pedestrian" by Betsabee Romero

Detail of one of the ten rubber tires in Lot 57, "Requiem for the Unknown Pedestrian"

There are 10 rubber tires in this lot, which was executed in 2002 and has a modest estimate of $15,000 to $20,000. It sold for $14,340.

Use the Search Box below to quickly look up articles at this site on specific artists, architects, authors, buildings and other subjects

See The City Review article on the Fall 2001 Latin American Art evening auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the November 19, 2001 Latin American Art evening auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Latin American Art evening Auction at Sotheby's in the spring of 2001

See The City Review article on the Latin American Art evening auction at Christie's, May 30, 2001

See The City Review article on the Fall 2000 Latin American Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring Latin American Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2000 Latin American Art auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Fall 1999 Latin American Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring, 1999 Latin American Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on The Latin American Sale at Christie's in New York in June, 1999

Recap of Pre-Columbian Art auction at Sotheby's, Nov. 23, 1998


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