You are viewing a read-only archive of the Blogs.Harvard network. Learn more.

Tuesday, May 24th, 2005...8:55 pm

Latin American Art – Kiss Boredom Goodbye

Jump to Comments


Latin American Art sales in New York have taken a new turn. The usual fare is predictable: Boteros, Lams, Zunigas, some Tamayos. Collectors are traditionally nationalistic in their purchasesSome exciting pieces have come to market. Diego Rivera is the “flavor of the month.”

Rousseau arrives in Mexico with the lush 1931 Rivera, La Ofrenda, at Sotheby’s. MoMA once owned it, a gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. Acueducto, at Christie’s, described as “Cezannesque,” stems from the concern with volume and monumentality that occupied Rivera during a stay in Arcueil.

Matta’s L’Impensable (Grand Personnage), at Sotheby’s, is a translation of his two-dimensional work into a delicate – almost fragile – sculpture. In the same medium, the dramatic Untitled bronze by Alicia Pena (at Christie’s) is massive and solidly primordial. Joaquin Torres-Garcia appears in both auction houses. His 1943 Construccion gris at Christie’s is important in the artist’s canon. It once belonged to Jose Gomez-Sicre.

A refreshing change from the traditional Botero offerings, his 1972 Still Life with Onions is a virtuoso piece for sale at Sotheby’s. Monochromatic (charcoal on canvas), its intense drama is product of Baroque chiaroscuro. His impeccable technique is cliche to discuss.

Claudio Bravo’s masterful Italian Collector of Roman Heads is homage to Classical antiquity. It has the self-referential element to Mr. Bravo’s collecting activity. The artist explores the depth and complex emotions represented in Roman statuary, here arranged as a still life. The young Italian’s features, of Praxilesque beauty, impart the character narcissistic detachment. His empty stare is juxtaposed to the passion portrayed in the objects of his collection. The aristocratic self-consciousness, even the position of the protagonist’s hand, establishes a connection with the Metropolitan Portrait of a Young Nobleman by Bronzino.

Vik Muniz has had a meteoric rise to international recognition. The Brazilian’s Carceri is unusual in his oeuvre; it is a clever dialogue with Piranesi. Tamayo’s Cabeza Monolitica is an imposing steel totem of Giacometti elongation. His fellow Mexican Maria Izquierdo is present in both houses: the playful Tony y Teresita at Sotheby’s and El Gallo, a still life with a rooster — executed with characteristic Mexican palate — at Christie’s.

Examples of Lam’s Spanish period rarely come to market. His 1937 Untitled, a nude self-portrait facing a woman, ties him to Fauvism at that juncture of his trajectory. In this painting, at Christie’s, the visual language is in tune with the work’s erotic possibilities.

Latin American Modernism and Contemporary art are not the sole concerns of these sales. Important colonial pieces have surfaced this spring. Christie’s XVIII century Biombo de los proverbios (Mexican or Colombian) is an exciting study of the Book of Proverbs. Framed in an ornamental screen, the different components create a visual sermon on moral rectitude. Four XIV century Ex-Votos, once in Andre Bretton’s possession, exemplify genuine piety, rich in the narrative of miracles. The link to Frida Kahlo is immediately established. Sotheby’s features a Rococo Nuestra Senora del Rosario, “La Marinera” . The Holy Family in Nazareth, set in an idyllic landscape, departs from the traditional hieratic idiom of Cuzco School. The Quito School is represented by the Apocalyptic Virgin of Quito, dynamic and Europeanized. Important fresh works, not subject to the usual recycling, bring renewed interest to the spring Latin American Art sales in New York.

Be Sociable, Share!


  • The international art market is rather limited in its view . . . just because Rockefeller bought a Rivera does not mean that it is the best work ….just look what has happened to Frida´s work. History brings the cream to the top of the milk!

  • What is it that defines the art market?
    Sure Botero, Lam, Rivera, Tamayo were all great artists.
    But we are just scratching the surface of the 21st century,
    there´s no way (or is there) that we can SAFELY distance ourselves
    from this art given that the 20th century art markets have been defined
    by marketers rather than markets

    Was it always so throughout history?