Premier New York Auction Houses to Host Competing Latin American Art Auctions

“Old Hamlet of Toledo” by Diego Rivera from the artist’s Cubist period, is estimated to sell for between $800,000 and $1.2 million in a sale of Latin American art at Sotheby’s on May 25. This sale will be followed by two auctions of Latin American Art at Christie’s on May 26 and 27.

NEW YORK – Fans and collectors of Latin American art are looking forward to three days celebrating the diverse styles and cultural origins of the genre here, as Sotheby’s will present a sale of a single-owner collection on May 25, while Christie’s will present evening and day sales of Latin American art on May 26 and 27. Among the artists to be featured in the three sales include Rufino Tamayo, Diego Rivera, Miguel Covarrubias, Matta, Frida Kahlo, Claudio Bravo and Jorge de la Vega.

Sotheby’s “Latin American Masterpieces from A Private Collection” and “Fernando Botero: A Celebration and Latin American Art” sales will both be held on May 25. Leading the events is “Old Hamlet of Toledo” by Diego Rivera from the artist’s Cubist period, which is estimated to sell for between $800,000 and $1.2 million. Rivera, known as a brilliant landscape painter from the beginning of his career, traveled to Paris from Spain in 1911, where he became an integral part of the Cubist movement together with Braque and Picasso. This Spanish landscape is one of the more figurative works from his Cubist period.

Frida Kahlo’s self portrait “Autorretrato en Miniatura” is just two inches in height, making it the smallest self portrait ever made by the Mexican painter and perhaps her most coquettish. Kahlo painted the portrait for her lover, the artist José Bartoli, who kept the small treasure in his possession for more than 50 years. The dedication “Para Bartoli con amor, Mara,” is on the reverse of its small oval panel. Kahlo styled the portrait on her painting, “Arbol de la Esperanza,” in which she appears in Tehuana costume, her hair braided and crowned by a red ribbon or flowers. In 2005, it was featured in the critically acclaimed exhibition Frida Kahlo at Tate Modern. It also holds a presale estimate of $800,000-$1.2 million.

Frida Kahlo’s diminutive self portrait, “Autorretrato en Miniatura,” has a presale estimate of $800,000 to $1.2 million.

The Sotheby’s sale also includes three paintings by Tamayo, representing his greatest periods. “Woman Playing With Her Child” shows how the artist incorporates both Mexican and Cubist themes into his work (est. $1 to $1.5 million). The work was painted in 1946 and shows a child being entertained by a ball of yarn, perhaps alluding to family ties. “Sandías (Watermelons),” from 1941, reflects the quality of light and Tamayo’s childhood trips to the local market in the southeastern region of Mexico where he grew up (est. $500,000-$700,000). The overflowing fruit bowl offers an optimistic vision of bounty and abundance which is complimented by the cloudless sky that can be seen through the window behind. The group is completed by the sensitive and monumental “Mujer en Extasis” from 1973.

Surrealism is represented in the sale by the early Matta work “Morphology of Desire” (est. $700,000-$900,000). In 1938, at the suggestion of George Onslow-Ford, Matta started to experiment with automatism—the technique whereby the artists brush moves faster than the mind can think. The results, as seen in works such as this, made significant contribution to the development of Action Painting and Abstract Expressionism. The work was originally in the collection of Onslow-Ford, his friend and fellow painter.

The Cuban avant guarde of the 1940s is represented by Rene Portocarrero’s “Mujer,” an arrestingly vibrant work where the boldly patterned background contrasts to the sweeping long strokes of the figure (est. $200,000-$300,000). The work is one of the greatest paintings of Portocarrero’s early career and was included in his 1942 exhibition at the Lyceum. Mario Carreno’s well known masterpiece “The Drumbeater” offers a visual synthesis of geometry and afro-Cuban music (est. $300,000-$500,000) and “Balconies” by Amelia Peláez from 1963 completes the group (est. $20,000-$25,000).

“Offering of Fruits for the Temple,” by Miguel Covarrubias (1932), is a highlight of the two Latin American art sales at Christie’s on May 26-27. It has a presale estimate of $ 200,000-$300,000.

The Christie’s sales, comprised of nearly 350 works by more than 145 artists from 16 countries spanning across Latin America (including Argentina, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Chile, Cuba, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Nicaragua), span the late-18th to the 21st century. Prime examples from Colonial, Modernism, Kinetic Abstraction and Pop and Op Art has Christie’s predicting a sale realizing upwards of $20 million overall.

“We secured a small but special collection of rarely seen Spanish Colonial works from the Cuzco and Mexican schools, as well as Latin American Modernist Masterpieces works by Torres-Garcia, Matta, Tamayo and Lam,” said Virgilio Garza, Head of Latin American Paintings at Christie’s.

The cover lot is a remarkable rediscovered painting by Miguel Covarrubias, the Mexican artist whose extended trips to Bali in the 1930s forever inspired his work. Transfixed by the island’s rich culture, artistic and religious traditions, Covarrubias, a successful illustrator, whose work was often featured in Vanity Fair and Vogue magazines, wrote “The Island of Bali.” “Offering of Fruits for the Temple,” from 1932, is Covarrubias’ pictorial ode to the idyllic beauty of the Balinese women, as a group of beautiful women elegantly balance baskets of fruit on their heads, swathed in brightly colored sarongs. The rare work has been in a private collection until now and is considered one of the artist’s great masterpieces.


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