NEW YORK - On the evening of May 29 and day of May 30, 2008, Sotheby’s New York will offer for sale works by latin american artists, including the most important selection of paintings by Rufino Tamayo to appear on the market in several years. The cover of the sale catalogue features Tamayo’s El comedor de sandías (The Watermelon Eater), dated 1949 (est. $2/2.2 million) from one of the artist’s key periods. This important selection of latin american works, ranging from colonial to contemporary, demonstrates the dynamic and varied nature of the international market for works from this region and will be on view in Sotheby’s 10th floor galleries prior to the sale from May 24 to 29. The approximately 277 lots are expected to bring $18,771,000/24,505,000.
El comedor de sandías (The Watermelon Eater), (est. $2/2.2 million), 1949, by Rufino Tamayo is one of the most iconic images ever made by the artist and has been exhibited and published in countless exhibition catalogues, including the artist’s 1993 traveling retrospective in Tokyo where it was featured on the poster and later as the invitation for the 2002 landmark exhibition Maestros Mexicanos del Siglo XX at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey in Mexico. El comedor de sandías will be offered at auction for the first time since 1980 when it achieved the highest auction price paid for a work by Tamayo at that time. Also from the 1940’s is El Constructor (The Builder) (est. $700/900,000), which is being offered at auction for the first time, having been in a private California collection since the 1960s. Rarely seen works from the 1920s by Tamayo include Relojes (Clocks), 1929 (est. $325/375,000), and Naturaleza muerta (Still Life), 1924 (Est. $275/325,000), both excellent examples of Tamayo’s early interest in metaphysical surrealism. A later work by Tamayo is Matrimonial Portrait, 1959 (est. $300/350,000), which is being sold to benefit the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in California.
Coinciding with the growing interest and re-evaluation of abstract art from Latin America, a very important part of the sale is dedicated to works by Joaquín Torres-García and his followers, ranging from El Taller Torres-García, the workshop school established by the Uruguayan master to works by other early modernists such as Emilio Pettoruti. This section is highlighted by Joaquín Torres-García’s magnificent Constructif Mysterieux (Mysterious Construction) (est. $1.1/1.4 million), from 1932, a prime example of the artist’s mature work, executed in Paris before his return to Uruguay. The painting, depicted on the back cover of the sale catalogue, represents his trademark style of Universal Constructivism that fused aspects of European modern art with a unique language of symbols culled from ancient and Amerindian cultures. Two very rare early works, Ritmo de ciudad (Rhythm of the City), 1918, and Paisaje Urbano, Barcelona (Cityscape, Barcelona), 1918 (est. $250/350,000 each), are excellent examples of Torres-García’s vibrationist period and of his interest in capturing the energy of the urban environment. Executed before his brief sojourn in the United States during the 1920s, these works prefigure his relationship with the American Stuart Davis with whom he also exhibited. Another important example of early abstraction is the Argentine Emilio Pettoruti’s 1914 futurist drawing Espanzione Dinàmica (Dynamic Expansion) (est. $60/80,000), part of a series of works which represent some of the earliest examples of abstraction to be created by an artist in Latin America. Another early example of work by Pettoruti is a rare cubist painting, La Señorita del Sombrero Verde (Woman Wearing a Green Hat), from 1919 (est. $300/400,000).
Continuing in the abstract tradition are examples of works by several key members of the Kinetic art movement who explored motion as an added dimension, including several of Venezuela’s leading artists represented in the sale by Jesús Rafael Soto’s Fiesta, 1969 (est. $150/200,000); Carlos Cruz-Diez’s Physiochromie no. 437, 1968 (est. $70/90,000); and Alejandro Otero’s Coloritmo 69, 1960 (est. $150/200,000). The latter work was featured in the groundbreaking 1961 exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, titled Latin America: New Departures. From Brazil, Sergio Camargo, the modernist sculptor known for his monochromatic geometric wood constructions, will be represented with White Reliefs no. 357, 1972, oil on wood construction, and 546 Black, 1984, made of black marble (est. $40/60,000 each). Mira Schendel, best known for her simplified geometric compositions evocative of a poetic sensuality and often linked to the 1960s neoconcrete movement is represented with two Untitled works from 1981 with estimates ranging from $35,000 to $60,000. The abstract art movement in Mexico is represented by a selection of paintings dating from 1959 to 1991 by Gunther Gerzso as well as sculpture and paintings by Mathias Goeritz, Rodolfo Nieto, Carlos Merida and Pedro Freideberg.
The sale will also feature a wonderful selection of works by the distinguished Colombian artist Fernando Botero. A 1969 classic female nude by Botero, Rosalba, (est. $800,000/1 milliont), will be offered along with several sculptures including the iconic Man on a Horse, 1989 (est. $350/450,000). Additional sculptures by the artist depict a flirty ballerina and a dancing couple as well as Botero’s signature reclining nudes.
Other highlights include the Mexican artist Alfredo Ramos Martínez’s La niña de las flores blancas (The Girl with White Flowers) (est. $150/200,000), a work of tempera, charcoal, gouache and ink on brown paper; and Untitled No. 9, an exquisite and wonderfully well-preserved crayon and graphite work on paper from 1942 by the noted Chilean abstract surrealist Matta (est. 150,000/200,000). Also being offered is Personnage from 1963 by the Cuban painter Wifredo Lam (est. $600/800,000), a mature work by an artist credited with transforming the lexicon of modern art with a uniquely Afro-Caribbean voice. Lam’s Personnage was included in the 2008 exhibition Wifredo Lam in North America at the Miami Art Museum.