Latin American art auctions set record-high sales for 31 artists

November 30
1:42 AM 2014

Blistering sales this week of Latin American art set auction records for 31 artists spanning three centuries, ranging from creators in the Spanish colonial period to living artists like Colombia's Fernando Botero.

In New York on Monday and Tuesday, Sotheby's sold $33.9 million worth of art, a record high for works from the region at auction, and Christie's sold $24.3 million.

"Our November sale series has been a glorious celebration of Latin American art," said Alex Stein, Sotheby's Latin American art chief. "We have seen the international collecting community flock to own works by the giants of our category such as (Rufino) Tamayo, (Remedios) Varo, (Leonora) Carrington, and Botero, as well as emerging artists."

Varo's 1960 "Hacia la Torre" (Toward the Tower) fetched $4.3 million, topping the Sotheby's sale and establishing a record for the artist. Close behind was Tamayo's 1987 "Ofrenda de Frutas" (Fruit Offering), which went for $4.2 million.

Painted in the final years of the late Mexican artists' lives, each work evokes childhood themes.

"Hacia La Torre" recalls Varo's education in a Roman Catholic convent, depicting robed schoolgirls following a nun out of a forbidding 12-towered building.

Tamayo's work focuses on a beaming boy who displays a smile-shaped sheet holding an abundance of fruit in golden hues, an echo of Tamayo's experience as a child helping his aunt sell tropical fruit in a Mexico City market.

At Christie's, Botero's 1990 "Adam and Eve," a bronze sculpture of a corpulent and nude man and a woman, fetched $2.57 million, surpassing the artist's previous auction record of $2.03 million for the painting "The Musicians," the auction house said.

Coated in a dark brown patina, the sculpture stands nearly 3.6 meters (12 feet) tall. Another casting of the work rises in the lobby of New York's Time Warner Center.

Mexican Alfredo Ramos Martinez's "Mujeres con Flores" (Women with Flowers") fetched $2.74 million at Christie's.

It was painted circa 1938, when he lived in Los Angeles, and his works were collected by such Hollywood luminaries as Alfred Hitchcock.

At Sotheby's, Carrington's 1945 "The Temptation of Saint Anthony" fetched $2.63 million, setting a record for the Mexican surrealist artist who was born in Britain and lived most of her adult life in Mexico City, where she died in 2011.

Among colonial-era works, Antonio de Torres' 1718 painting "Virgen de Guadalupe" (Virgin of Guadalupe) went for $185,000, a record for the artist who lived in colonial-era Mexico.

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