Frida Kahlo’s ‘Survivor’ Astonishes, Realizes 10 Times Estimate at $1.2 Million
Survivor,” by Frida Kahlo, earned 10 times it low estimate, making it the star of the Latin American Art Sales hosted by Christie’s on May 26-27. 2010. Having not been exhibited since 1938, when it was the Julien Levy Gallery in Kahlo’s very first solo show, it sold for $1,178,500.
NEW YORK – A small painting measuring just 6 5/8 by 4¾ inches—a work by Frida Kahlo titled “Survivor”—earned 10 times it low estimate, making it the star of the Latin American Art Sales hosted by Christie’s.
The sales, which also drew blockbuster results for works by José Clemente Orozco and Alfonso Michel, achieved a combined total of $20,514,600, with 72 percent sold by lot and 80 percent sold by value. The strong results reflect a resurgence of Latin American art, as sales greatly surpassed those from the same time last year, at $13.8 million. Mexican and Cuban modern works dominated the sale, with 12 new world auctions records set for artists.
The sale’s highlight was the anticipated sale of “Survivor” (1938). After several minutes of intense bidding, the palm-sized painting—which hasn’t been exhibited since 1938—went for $1,178,500.The painting features a Mexican idol standing on a field, ridden with alienation and despair. Wednesday evening, May 26, marked the first time that the rare and extraordinary work had come to market since it was initially exhibited more than 70 years ago at the Julien Levy Gallery, in Kahlo’s very first solo show. Thunderous applause ensued when the hammer came down for the work, which went to a private collector. The original estimate was for $100,000-$150,000.
“It was a sale full of excitement and surprises with world auction records for key Latin American modern and contemporary artists,” said Virgilio Garza, head of Latin American paintings at Christie’s. “We were delighted with the runaway success of Frida Kahlo’s “Survivor.” None of our estimates were over $1 million and yet, we sold three pieces for over $1 million. It shows that there is a great deal of pent-up demand for these works. What makes this sale so important is the level of artists, the freshness of the works and their condition.”
José Clemente Orozco’s “The City” (1929) sold for $1,142,500.
Jesús Rafael Soto’s “Figura de pie” (1959) sold for $818,500.
Overall, Mexican paintings dominated the sales with a long-overdue record for Orozco. Another important record was set for the Venezuelan artist Jesús Rafael Soto. There was a 100percent sell-though rate on the prestigious Lynch Collection, containing three works each by Rufino Tamayo and Orozco, whose “The City” (1929) sold for $1,142,500, well above the artist’s previous record at auction for “La Cantina” (1941), which sold at Christie’s Paris for $988,031 in 2004. Tamayo’s “Figura de pie” (1959), a pink-hued work with a dark silhouetted figure in the foreground, is also part of the Lynch Collection and sold for $818,500. Other notable highlights include Fernando Botero’s monumental bronze sculpture, “Woman on a Horse” (2002), which brought in $1,046,500, and Beatriz Milhazes’ “578”—a synthesis of baroque garb within a richly intellectualized pictorial environment (1994)— went for $506,500. Milhazes’ “O beijo,” a 2001 collage featuring candy wrappers and acrylic, went for $110,000 and was a world auction record for the artist on paper.
Soto’s multi-dimensional “Un Trou sur l’Orange” (1970) sold for $758,500.
World records were set for 12 artists, most notably for Soto’s multi-dimensional “Un Trou sur l’Orange” (1970), which sold for $758,500. As is characteristic of the artist, the work combines a monochromatic panel, this time in orange, with oscillating metal rods that impart a dynamic spatial and perceptual tension. Soto’s previous record was $657,924. Michel’s “Naturaleza muerta” earned a world auction record for the artist at $218,500. Michel’s previous record was $90,500.
Mexican Rodolfo Nieto’s “Hombre con botella,” which sold for $194,500—well above its $15,000-$20,000 estimate—set a world record for the artist. Nieto’s previous world auction record was $58,000. Another world auction record was set for Venezuelan artist Oswaldo Vigas, whose “Ceremonial” (1987) brought in $86,500. Vigas’ previous record at auction was $56,250.
World auction records were also set for:
• Costa Rican artist Juan Manuel Hernández for “Entre montañas” (2007) which achieved $98,500. His previous record was $21,250.
• Cuban artist’s Damián González’s, “Islote en la niebla”(2009), which sold for $68,500. His previous record was $42,500.
• Costa Rican sculptor Jorge Jiménez Deredia for “Arraigo,” which brought in $62,500. His previous record was $48,000.
• Brazilian artist Leda Catunda’s “Circulos” (1994), which achieved $25,000. Her previous record: was $11,881.
• Brazilian artist Frans Krajcberg for “Untitled” (1960) for a work on paper, which realized $25,000. His previous record was $14,639.
Other highlights include strong prices overall for works by Mexican, Columbian, Uruguayan, and Venezuelan artists, including Diego Rivera of Mexico, whose “Flowers for the Market” (1948) went for $158,500—well above its $60,000-$80,000 estimate. Chilean artist Matta’s Untitled, circa 1960, which came from The Baruch College Fund, sold for $866,500.
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