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Latin American Art Market latest tendencies

Posted on November - 2 - 2016

As it has been noticed in the passing decade, Latin American art has gained worldwide attention from institutions, curators, and collectors. Auction houses have become the arena, where the assertive collectors bid for their favorite artworks and prices soar through the roof for the works of the great Modern Masters and some living artist that rub shoulders with other international sought-after artist. Nonetheless, it is the Modernists who are snatching the big bucks and breaking records on a yearly base. The lists of the top ten selling works often show the same familiar names and their sales occasionally account for the approximately 50% of the total revenue.

In every Latin-American catalog and lot selection, it is very likely that you would bump into the well-known Venezuelan kinetic artists Jesús Soto, the Chilean surrealist Matta and hyperrealist Claudio Bravo, Cuban Wilfredo Lam, Spanish-Uruguayan artist Joaquín Torres-Garcia. However, the artists who have undisputedly gained the most attention until this moment are the Mexicans. Muralists Diego Rivera and his wife Frida Kahlo always rattle the crowd, and when a Leonora Carrington or Remedios Varo appear on the scene, it is sure to cause a commotion in the bidding room. Nonetheless, the name that is excelling every list is none other that Rufino Tamayo, whose work sometimes represents 25% of the total sales.

The two powerhouses that notoriously dominate the scene need no previous introduction. Sotheby’s and Christie’s, both excel dominion over the most coveted artworks in various markets, and since not so long ago, they both turned their attention to Latin American art. It used to be that South Americans mostly collected Latin-American art as well as US citizens, but recently collectors from Russia, China and Japan have started appearing in the arena. Also, private collections and museums are securing their Latin-America selections and have been actively acquiring pivotal works of the past centuries that defined certain moments in an artist’s trajectory and impacted various stylistic tendencies.

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Jesús Rafael Soto. Photo courtesy of: christies.com

Sotheby’s Latin-American spring sale in May of this year presented works by leading masters of the late 19th century all the way into the 20th epoch representing movements such a Cubism, Mexican Muralism, Surrealism, Social Realism and Hyper-Realism. Latin-America Contemporary Art was dedicated to Constructivism, Geometric Abstraction, Kinetic Art, Conceptual Art, Concrete and new contemporary movements happening nowadays in the Americas. The sales for May hit the $16 million mark with 170 lots. Last year Sotheby’s sales for May and November oscillated between the $20 million, and in May it presented a special section titled “Latin America: The legacy of Abstraction” where a selection of leading artists that impacted abstract production throughout the 20th century. With only 35 lots, 89% of its works found buyers, with Joaquin Torres-García and Jesús Rafael Soto overrunning the lists with works those exceeded expectations.

Reached 2014’s impressive $20.9 million, which exceeded and still holds the record for sales. The Latin American Art Modern & Contemporary list was once again dominated by Rufino Tamayo, whose work La Familia, was expected to go for $1.6 million but instead found a buyer for $3 million.

However, the record for Tamayo is still held by Christie’s 2008 May auction, which achieved with El Trovador a staggering $7.2 million. Christie’s holds the records for artists such as Matta and Botero, and recently it obtained records for contemporary artists that up until recently didn’t gain much attention, such as Gego, Julio Le Parc, Abraham Palatnik, Helio Oiticica among others. 2015 was a good year for Christie’s staying close to $25 million in both its spring and autumn sales. Once again Tamayo, Varo, Rivera, and Botero led the lists. This year with 163 lots Christie’s managed to bring home $19.1 million. It is interesting to note that only the seven works by Tamayo represent 23% of the total sales, making him indisputably the most profitable artists in the market today.

The Latin American Art’s fate is sealed; it has cemented itself, and it’s actively holding its ground in the international market. The works of Tamayo and Botero are set to lead the lists for upcoming years and only time with unraveling new directions and tendencies in collectors. With the upcoming November sales, it is to expect to find these familiar names and see how they are performing in the auction room.

By: Gabriela Martinez de la Hoz

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Rufino Tamayo “The Voyeur”. Photo courtesy of: sothebys.com