By Carter B. Horsley
This evening auction of Latin
at Sotheby's May 24, 2006, is highlighted by an important painting
by Frida Kahlo, a superb work by Remedios Varo, a very good and
large painting and a lovely sculpture by Francisco Botero, and
good works by Rufino Tamayo, Gunther Gerzso and David Alfaro Siqueiros.
Lot 6, "Roots," by Frida Kahlo,
oil on metal that was executed in 1943, has an estimate of $5,000,000
to $7,000,000. It sold for $5,616,000 including the buyer's
premium, as do all results mentioned in this article, to an anonymous
bidder on the telephone, setting a new record for a Latin American
work of art at auction and for the artist at auction.
The evening sale
totaled $18,658,800, the
highest total ever for a sale of Latin American Art at auction,
far above its pre-sale estimate of $11,900,000 to $16,200,000,
and set records for a number of artists, including Francisco Zúñiga,
Tomás Sánchez, Luis Tomasello and Edmund Darch Lewis,
and also set a record for a Botero sculpture at auction and tied
the record for Botero at auction. The two-day sale, which was
expected to bring $14,600,000 to $19,800,000, brought a total
The Kahlo painting has been
and published and has been requested for the Frida Kahlo exhibition
commemorating the 100th anniversary of her birth being organized
by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, which will show it in
the summer of 2007 and it will then travel to Philadelphia and
The catalogue provides the
by Hayden Herrera:
1943, is one of Frida Kahlo's
least anguished and most beautiful self-portaits. Like its counterpart,
My Nurse and I, 1937, it is a passionate
Kahlo's deep identification with nature. In the earlier painting
Frida is an infant suckling at her Mexican Indian wet nurses's
plant-like breast. Fr9m this earth mother, she imbibes not only
her Indian heritage, but also the essence of her native land.
In Roots, on the other hand, it is Frida who
that land by giving birth to a vine. Curiously, given the painting's
title, the vine has no visible roots. It must, therefore, be rooted
in Frida, but Frida, floating just above a barren landscape and
painted in a much large scale, is rootless, as in a dream. The
year she painted Roots, Kahlo was engrossed in a
that would bind her to her husband, Diego Rivera, and that would
connect both spouses to the Mexican earth. In 1942, on a piece
of land bought with Kahlo's money in a section of Mexico City
called the Pedregal (meaning stony ground), the Riveras began
to build a temple for Rivera's collection of pre-Columbian
adored the Pedregal's rough, uningratiating expanse of grey. pitted
rocks, and it is this landscape that appears in Roots....The
stems of the vine in Roots....have no thorns.
vine has thirteen cut off stems. These leafless stems might stand
for Kahlo's losses - her unborn children, her wounded body, her
The lot, which was once owned
by Dolores Olmedo,
a lover of Diego Rivera and a trustee of his and Kahlo's estates,
has an estimate of $5,000,000 to $7,000,000. It is being sold
by Marilyn Oshman of Houston.
The auction has a strong
portrait of Diego
Rivera, Lot 74, by Marie Vorobieff Marevna (1892-1984). An oil
on canvas, it measures 26 by 20 inches. It has a modest estimate
of $18,000 to $22,000. It sold for $39,000. The
was born in Russia as Marie Vorobieff-Stebelska and studied at
the Stroganov Art Academy in Moscow and then traveled to Italy
where she was given the nickname Marevna by Maxim Gorky after
a Russian fairy sea princess. The catalogue notes that she "is
widely accredited as the first female cubist painter and she is
noted for combining elements of cubism with pointilism in her
works," adding that In 1912, while in Paris, Marevna became
friends with some of the greatest artist's of the early twentieth
century, such as Matisse, Modigliani, Picasso and Soutine."
"There," it continued, "she also met Mexican cubist
and muralist Diego Rivera, and together they had a daughter, Marika."
Remedios Varo is one of Latin
woman artists. "El Camino Arido," Lot 9, is a 28-by-8
3/8-inch vinyl resin on thin board mounted on masonite that is
a great and beautiful work by her that was executed in 1962.
and published, it was sold at Sotheby's in New York May 31, 2001
for $236,750 when it had an estimate of $175,000 to $225,000.
The estimate this time is $275,000 to $325,000. It sold for
the year before death," the 2001 catalogue entry for the
lot observed, "Remedios Vario's Camino árido
may well be the artist's swan song. In point of craft she was
never better; the delicate draftsmanship and subtle brushwork
that characterize her best paintings are here married to a pulsating
spirituality, causing the painting to glow with an inner life.
Varo's search for enlightenment included eastern hermetic philosophy,
and is suggested by the allusion to Chinese landscape paintings
in the rendering of the cloudy mountaintops that form the backdrop
to Camino árido. Camino árido
perhaps be best understood as the pendant to a work of the previous
year, La Llamada or The Call
A frequent figure in these late works is a mystical sage - often
Varo's own self-portrait - trying to engage, energize, enlighten
a mass of respectful but static disciples. "
in this work is a beautiful, ghostly figure wearing a sensational
dress and cape seemingly made out of luminous layers of stones.
She walks with a cane and is very erect and thin. Small rocks
seem to be either falling or rising at her side. The foreground
consists of many layers of rock, echoing the layers of her dress.
This is a haunting work of mystery and beauty and one of the best
paintings to be offered this spring auction season.
Carrington (b. 1917)
is another great woman Latin American artist. Lot 8, "Un
Sueno en El Bosque (The 19th Hole), is a large oil on canvas that
was executed about 1958. It measures 45 by 64 inches and has an
estimate of $350,000 to $450,000. It sold for $553,600.
and figures conjure Boschian worlds and the macabre but usually
do not convey dread but mischief, if not wit.
Another work by Carrington is
Lot 108, an untitled
gouache, ink and graphite on paper. It measures 9 1/2 by 12 3/8
inches and was executed circa 1942. It once belonged to Remedios
Varo. It has an estimate of $25,000 to $30,000. It sold for
is a large oil on canvas
by Fernando Botero (b. 1933) that is entitled "Four Musicians.
It measures 87 1/8 by 72 3/4 inches and has an estimate of $1,000,000
to $1,500,000. It sold for $2,032,000, tying the world
record for the artist set the night before at Christie's in New
is a wonderful bronze
sculpture of a bird by Botero. Executed in 1988, it measures 49
by 45 by 53 inches and has an estimate of $500,000 to $600,000.
It sold for $1,052,000, an auction record for a sculpture by
Lot 101 is an interesting and
very lively imaginary
landscape by Juan O'Gorman (1905-1982). A tempera on masonite,
it measures 8 5/8 by 12 5/8 inches. It was executed in 1943 and
has an estimate of $35,000 to $45,000. It sold for $101,000.
The catalogue notes that small easel paintings by O'Gorman
"are relatively rare." The catalogue notes that "as
a young architect, he followed the lead of José Villagrán
Garcia in applying the principles of functionalism to buildings
in revolutionary Mexico." "He was commissioned by the
government to design many schools and in the house he built for
Rivera and Kahlo and others, he was the first in Mexico to apply
functionalism to private architecture. He also helped organized
the School of Construction were architecture was taught from the
practical rather than aesthetic viewpoint. He would later repudiate
functionalism and turn to organic architecture in which the blending
of architecture and landscape is sought, as in his own house built
Lot 5 is a very strong and fine
masonite by David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896-1974). Entitled "Ascenso
del Hombre en El Paisaje," it measures 33 1/8 by 23 7/8 inches
and was painted in 1961. It has a modest estimate of $60,000 to
$80,000. It sold for $132,000.
Lot 99 is a very fine portrait
of a man with
a pipe by Siqueiros. An oil on board, it measures 25 1/8 by 20
1/2 inches and was executed in 1934. While it does not have the
remarkable painterliness and impasto of his later works, it is
quite lyrical and animated. It has a modest estimate of $40,000
to $50,000. It sold for $57,000.
Lot 18, "Santuario," is a very
oil on masonite by Gunther Gerzso (1915-2000). It measures 16
5/8 by 23 3/8 inches and was painted in 1947. It has a modest
estimate of $60,000 to $80,000. It sold for $132,000.
Lot 4 is an excellent and
strong oil on canvas
with an exquisite palette by Rufino Tamayo, entitled "Dos
Personajes." It measures 37 3/8 by 51 1/4 inches. It has
a modest estimate of $300,000 to $400,000. It sold for $419,200.
Another Tamayo is Lot 36,
Esfera," an oil on canvas that measures 35 1/2 by 43 1/2
inches. It was consigned by the Los Angeles County Museum to benefit
its acquisition fund of Latin American Art. It has an estimate
of $250,000 to $300,000. It sold for $352,000.
Lot 137 is a large striking
work by Rodolfo
Opazo (b. 1935). An oil on canvas that measures 63 by 121 3/4
inches, it was executed in 1961. It has a conservative estimate
of $22,000 to $28,000. It sold for $42,000. Opazo
in Chile and his early works, according to the catalogue, were
influenced by Surrealism and hold ghost-like figures. He was given
a retrospective in 1996 at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes
Lot 150, "Coquille Brisée,"
by Agustin Cárdenas is a very beautiful pink marble abstract
sculpture. It measures 11 3/4 by 19 5/8 by 13 1/4 inches and was
executed in 1968. It has a modest estimate of $22,000 to $28,000.
It sold for $26,400.
Lot 7 is a beautiful, untitled
by Cárdenas. It was executed in 1959 and is 17 3/4 inches
high. It has an estimate of $30,000 to $40,000. It sold for
Lot 171 is an interesting work
Canovas, entitled "Colisée." An acrylic and sand
on canvas, it measures 62 by 78 1/2 inches and was executed in
1999. It has an estimate of $12,000 to $18,000. It failed to
Lot 155, "La Barca," is a
abstraction by Canovas. An acrylic and metal structures on canvas,
it was executed in 1997. It measures 71 by 78 1/2 inches. It has
a modest estimate of $12,000 to $18,000. It failed to sell.
Lot 154 is a good untitled oil
on canvas by
Ignaccio Iturria (b. 1949). It was executed in 1991 and measures
51 by 38 1/2 inches. It has a modest estimate of $15,000 to $20,000.
It sold for $19,200.
Lot 12 is a very large and
vibrant oil on canvas
by Matta (1912-2002). It measures 79 5/8 by 156 7/8 inches and
is entitled "Yo Soy Quien Soy (I Am Who I Am). It has a modest
estimate of $200,000 to $250,000. It sold for $318,400.
Lot 38 is a pleasant, untitled
oil on canvas
by Wilfredo Lam (1902-1982). Dated 1974, it measures 39 1/4 by
31 5/8 inches. It has an estimate of $70,000 to $90,000. It
sold for $204,000.
Lot 11, "Idoli," is a large and
strong abstraction by Wilfredo Lam (1902-1982). An oil on canvas,
it is dated 1955 and measures 31 by 40 inches. It has an estimate
of $150,000 to $200,000. It failed to sell.
Lot 70 is an interesting work
by Julio Ruelas
(1870-1907) that is entitled "Vision de La Conquista."
An oil on canvas, it measures 34 7/8 by 52 1/4 inches and is dated
1905. It has an estimate of $45,000 to $55,000. It sold for
$363,200. Ruelas was born in Mexico and studied in Karlsruhe,
Germany and after he returned to Mexico he became the principal
illustrator for the Revista Moderna, one of the
publications in Latin America, according to the catalogue.
Lot 41 is a very strong
abstract bronze sculpture
by Alicia Penalba (1918-1982). Numbered 2 of four, it measures
46 1/4 by 44 by 26 inches. It has an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000.
It failed to sell.
Lot 19, "Grupo de Cuatro
Mujeres de Pie,"
is a large bronze sculpture of four women by Franciso Zuniga
Dated 1984, it was number 3 of an edition of three. It measures
80 3/4 by 92 1/2 by 47 1/4 inches. It has an estimate of $700,000
to $900,000. It sold for $3,712,000, an auction record for
Lot 15, "Gracia en la
by Tomás Sanchez (b. 1948), a 48-inch-square acrylic on
canvas, dated 1992, sold for $363,200, an auction record for the
artist. It had a high estimate of $200,000.