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Latin American Art


7PM May 29, 2002 (Lots 1-54)

10:15AM, May 30, 2002 (Lots 61-169)

Sale 7805

By Carter B. Horsley

This Latin American Art auction at Sotheby's promises to be one of the strongest in recent seasons with many major works by important artists.

"Exodo (studio para mural)" by Siqueiros

Lot 5, "Éxodo (studio para mural)," by David Alfaro Siqueros, pyroxylin on panel, 31 ½ by 23 ½ inches, dated 1962

One of the sale's strongest works is Lot 5, "Éxodo (studio para mural), by David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896-1974), a very dramatic, bold and excellent study for the main figure in his mural entitled "Defense for a Future Victory of Medicine over Cancer of 1958 at the Hospital de Oncologia, Centro Médico del Instituto Nacional del Seguro Social in Mexico City. The 31 ½-by-23 ½-inch pyroxylin on panel, it is dated 1962 and has a modest estimate of $50,000 to $70,000. It sold for $83,650 including the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this article.

The catalogue notes the discrepancy in the work's dating and states that "what is certain is that the original date on the lower right corner has been painted over and post-dated to 1962, the year Éxodo was acquired by its original owner, Dr. Edward Lipsett of Los Angeles, a benefactor and collector of Siqueiros' paintings. Éxodo was taken to the United States by Dr. Lipsett and placed on long-term loan, along with three other paintings by Siqueiros, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (1963-1967)."

A very companion piece to the Siqueiros would be Lot 76, "Mujer," a 22 ¼-by-15-inch gouache on paper by José Clemente Orozco (1883-1949). This quite beautiful and strong sketch of a female nude has a very similar palette to the Siqueiros lot and a conservative estimate of $10,000 to $15,000. It comes from the collection of Samuel and Luella Maslon.

"Naturaleza Muerta en Ovalo" by Diego Rivera

Lot 9, "Naturaleza Muerta en Ovalo," by Diego Rivera, oil on canvas, 29 by 24 inches, circa 1915-6

Diego Rivera (1886-1957) is represented by two good lots, 3A and 9. The latter is entitled "Naturaleza Muerta en Ovalo," and is a 29-by-24-inch oil on canvas that was painted circa 1915-6. This attractive 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 auction's catalogue, it has a somewhat ambitious estimate of $500,000 to $700,000. It failed to sell and was passed at $475,000.

Lot 3A, "Peasant Woman," is a very good watercolor and crayon on paper by Rivera that measures 24 ½ by 19 ¼ inches. Executed circa 1950, it has an estimate of $40,000 to $50,000. It sold for 44,812.

"Plain Chant" by Leonora Carrington

"Lot 4, "Plain Chant," by Leonora Carrington, oil on canvas, 35 ½ by 27 inches, 1947

Leonora Carrington (b. 1917) is one of the great Surrealist painters. Lot 4, "Plain Chant," is a fine example of her vivid and fanciful imagination. The 35 ½-by-27-inch oil on canvas is dated 1947 and has an estimate of $175,000 to $225,000. It sold for $251,500.

"Sin Titulo" by Leonora Carrington

Lot 96, "Sin Titulo," by Leonora Carrington, egg tempera and oil on panel, 16 ½ by 24 inches, 1962

Another excellent Carrington is Lot 96, which is untitled. Egg tempera and oil on panel, it measures 16 ½ by 24 inches and is dated 1962. It has a somewhat modest estimate of $50,000 to $70,000.

"Huitieme Voile (Eighth Veil)" by Maria Martins

Lot 15, "Huitième Voile (Eighth Veil)," by Maria Martins, bronze, 41 by 45 by 37 inches, executed in 1948 and cast in 1949

Another important female Surrealist artist is Maria Martins (1894-1973) and Lot 15, "Huitième Voile (Eighth Veil)," was included in the "Surrealism: Desire Unbound" exhibition at the Tate Modern in London and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2001-2. The bronze sculpture measures 41 by 45 by 37 inches and was executed in 1948 and cast the next year. It has an estimate of $500,000 to $700,000. It failed to sell and was passed at $425,000.

The catalogue provides the following commentary by Francis M. Naumann on this lot:

"The Brazilian sculptor Maria Martins better known professionally as simply `Maria,' as she insisted upon being referred to in all matters pertaining to her artistic life is one of the most important sculptors of the Surrealist period, singled out by André Breton in 1948 as the `shining star' of post-war art. Her first major exhibition was held in1941 at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., but it was quickly followed by a series of solo exhibitions at various galleries in New York, concluding with a retrospective at the Galerie René Drouin in Paris in 1948. The works she showed in these exhibitions were without exception strikingly powerful sculptures in wood, plaster and bronze that, for the most part, drew their inspiration from the folklore of Brazil, and, in particular, from a lifelong fascination with the jungles of the Huitième Voile or Eighth Veil one of the largest and most important sculptures by Maria from the Surrealist period she has depicted the body of a young woman (her daughter Anna Maria served as its model when she was a teenager), but she has taken the liberty of distorting the head, hands and feet in a way that suggests their metamorphosis into grotesque plant forms, as if the vegetative powers of the Amazon have physically invaded and taken over the power and strength of an otherwise healthy human figure. But the title of this work reveals a source in Christian iconography, one that can be traced to a plaster sculpture that Maria made ten years earlier entitled Salome. In the earlier work, Salome sits on a flat surface wither legs spread apart, clothed only by one of her famous seven veils, which covers very little as it lies draped across her thigh. Salome's positioning is almost identical to the figure in the Eighth Veil, but in the bronze, the figure is conspicuously missing her veil; if Salome was known for her Dance of the Seven Veils, then it would seem reasonable to speculate that Maria's allusion to an `eighth veil' must refer to the traffic result of her lascivious dance: the head of a man who in accordance with Oscar Wilde's famous interpretation of the vent she subconsciously loved. Sources in Maria's earlier work may have inspired the positioning of the figure and subject matter of Eighth Veil, but events that took place in her personal life might have been an even more direct source of inspiration. Maria was married to Carlos Matins, a diplomat who, in 1940s, served as Brazilian Ambassador to the United States.She spent most of her days working as a sculptor, converting the upper floor of the ambassador's resident in Washington into a fully-equipped sculpture studio. By the winter of 1941-42, she wanted to begin showing her work in New York, so she rented a three-bedroom duplex apartment on Park Avenue at 58th Street in Manhattan. It may have been at one of the openings of her exhibitions that she met the celebrated French artist Marcel Duchamp, who , like many Europeans in this period, moved to New York during the years of World War II. It would not be long before her friendship with Duchamp progressed into a more involved relationship, an affair that few people at the time knew anything about (since Maria was still married). In 1946, Duchamp began the Etant donnés, a large-scale environmental tableau that would be shown to absolutely no one except Maria. The work would not be placed on public view until after the artist's death in 1968. This last major work features a completely nude female figure lying on a bed of broken branches, her legs spread-eagled and her sex conspicuously visible through two peepholes in an old wooden door. From viewing the work alone, it is impossible to determine the identity of the woman, for her head is bent back and fades out of view, but we know that Maria served as the model for the first sketch that Duchamp made of this work in 1946."

Lot 6 is an interesting and fine oil on artist board, 29 ¾ by 24 ¾ inches by Carlos Mérida (1891-1984). Executed in 1943, this abstraction has a modest estimate of $30,000 to $40,000 and conjures a combination of Clyfford Still, Adolph Gottlieb and Joan Miró. It is entitled "Rainy Gray (From the Texan Skies Series)." It sold for $28,680.

Lot 12, "Fuego," is a good, 44-by-34-inch oil on canvas by Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991) that was executed in 1946 and has a somewhat ambitious estimate of $800,000 to $1,000,000. It sold for $669,500. The catalogue entry for this painting of women fleeing a conflagration by Edward J. Sullivan notes that it was painted shortly after the end of World War II and "causes an enormous impact." "Fuego is a work that sums up the tendencies of Tamayo's artistic development up to 1946 while, at the same time, adumbrating new paths of inspiration and achievement that the artist was to attain in the following years. It is thus a pivotal work, a paradigmatic image of the artist's power of synthesis and suggestion. It is a painting that represents a unique link between the youthful period of the 1930s in which he was more specifically bound to the palpable realities of his Mexican artistic background and what the artist himself often referred to as the `universalism' of his later, more fully mature decades of artistic creativity."

Lot 25, "Hombre Atacado por un Pájaro," is a 1980 acrylic on canvas by Tamayo that measures 51 by 38 inches. This painting of a man fleeing a bird has a fine green background and an estimate of $300,000 to $350,000. It sold for $262,500.

"Eclipse Total," by Rufino Tamayo

Lot 18, "Eclipse Total," by Rufino Tamayo, oil on canvas, 13 by 21 ¾ inches, 1967

Lot 18, "Eclipse Total," is a less figurative Tamayo work than Lots 12 and 25 and is a very fine abstraction with a great textural surface. The 13-by-21 ¾-inch oil on canvas is dated 1967 and has a modest estimate of $90,000 to $120,000. It was passed at $70,000.

"Horse" by Fernando Botero

Lot 19, "Horse," by Fernando Botero, bronze, 113 inches high, 1992

Fernando Botero (b. 1932) is represented by several works in this auction, the best of which are Lots 19 and 22. The former is entitled "Horse" and is a 113-inch high bronze sculpture that was executed in 1992 and has an estimate of $400,000 to $500,000. It sold for $504,500, a world auction record for a sculpture by the artist.

"Princesa Margarita" by Fernando Botero

Lot 22, "Princesa Margarita" by Fernando Botero, oil on canvas, 66 by 63 1/2 inches, 1977

The latter is entitled "Princesa Margarita," and is a 66-by-63 ½-inch oil on canvas that is part of the artist's series of paintings after Diego Velásquez, in this case the central figure of Las Meninas. This painting is dated 1977 and has an estimate of $300,000 to $400,000 and both works are classic Botero. It sold for $262,500.

Composicion Surrealista" by Alejandro Xul Solar

Lot 17, "Composición Surrealista," by Alejandro Xul Solar, watercolor on paper, 10 1/8 inches square, 1923

Lot 17 is a fine 10 1/8-inch square watercolor on paper by Alejandro Xul Solar (1887-1963) that is entitled "Composición Surrealista." It is dated 1923 and has an estimate of $50,000 to $70,000. It sold for $77,675.

"El Burro Contento" by Francisco Toledo

Lot 30, "El Burro Contento," by Francisco Toledo, oil on canvas, 37 3/8 by 49 ¼ inches, 1970

Alejandro Xul Solar's small watercolors are jewels of abstraction and forerunners to a certain extent stylistically of the work of Francisco Toledo (b. 1940), who is represented by several lots in the auction, most notably Lot 30, "El Burro Contento," a 37 3/8-by-49 ¼-inch oil on canvas. Painted in 1970, this excellent painting has an estimate of $200,000 to $250,000. It failed to sell and was passed at $120,000.

"Antillas" by Mario Carreno

Lot 137, "Antillas," by Mario Carreño, gouache and ink on scratchboard, 10 by 14 inches, 1948

Another artist of somewhat related temperament to Toledo is Mario Carreño (1913-1999) and he is represented by two strong and handsome gouaches and ink on scratchboard, Lots 137 and 138, both with estimates of $15,000 to $20,000. Both were executed in 1948 and are approximately 10 by 14 inches, the former in a horizontal format and the latter in a vertical format.

Matta (b. 1911) has numerous works in this auction of which Lot 32, "Un Bieenanal," is a good example. A 1957 oil on canvas, it measures 44 ¾ by 57 ½ inches and has a modest estimate of $125,000 to $175,000. It failed to sell and was passed at $110,000.

Another good Matta is Lot 14, "I Want My Jam," a 14-by-19-inch wax crayons, ink and lead pencil on paper. Executed in 1940, this work is recalls the abstractions of Kandinsky and Miró and is quite refined and there appears to be the face of a young boy in the upper right corner. It has an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. It sold for $119,500.

"Le Chef et Son Cheval" by Wilfredo Lam

Lot 26, "Le Chef et Son Cheval," by Wilfredo Lam, oil on canvas, 19 5/8 by 23 5/8 inches, 1959

Another giant of Latin American Art, Wilfredo Lam (1902-1982) also has several works of which perhaps the best is Lot 26, "Le Chef et Son Cheval," a 1959 oil on canvas that measures 19 5/8 by 23 5/8 inches and has a modest estimate of $50,000 to $70,000. It sold for $53,775.

The lush rain-forest landscapes of Armando Morales (b. 1927) are very popular and Lot 27, "Selva Tropical," is one of his best. The 1988 oil on canvas measures 63 ¾ by 80 ¾ inches and has an estimate of $350,000 to$450,000. It failed to sell and was passed at $250,000.

Claudio Bravo's still lifes are always impressive and Lot 21, "Three Objects," is very fine and cool. The 29 ½-inch-35 ½-inch oil on canvas has an estimate of $150,000 to $200,000. It sold for $163,500.

Another Bravo, Lot 35, a very large still life, sold for $532,000, way over its high estimate of $350,000.

Records were also set for Francisco Zuniga, whose Lot 13, a large sculpture of a seated woman, sold for $394,500, well over its high estimate of $250,000, and for Antonio Ruiz (El Corcito) (1895-1964), whose Lot 8, sold for $262,500.

The sale realized a total $6,577,703 with 37 of the 55 offered lots selling, a 67 percent ratio, considerably better than the less than 58 percent ratio at the previous evening's auction of Latin American Art at Christie's.

See The City Review on the Spring 2002 Latin American art auction at Christie's

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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