Rufino Tamayo’s Sandías once again top the lists at Christie’s and Sotheby’s auction fall sales

Posted on November - 29 - 2016

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Before December starts and all the heavyweight collectors’ head down to Miami, the major auction houses hosted their fall sales and kept them busy in New York. Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips held their sales last week, displaying the biggest grossing names in the Latin America category. Christie’s and Sotheby’s had a good season, both exceeding the $US 20M mark.

If anyone is an avid follower of Latin American art auctions, it quickly comes to attention that the total earnings (and an average value of work in the whole lot) are significantly higher if you have a piece by one of the highest grossing and most sought-after artists dominating the auctions today. There is no denying that there just is something about Rufino Tamayo that has the art market hungry for more and on the look out for one a piece to come their way. Biting his heels the next in line, keeps close, but never truly can surpass the great Mexican master. Fernando Bottero’s total gross comes close to Tamayo on most occasions, but the reason for this is due to the high number of works by Botero available in the catalog. Cuban artist Wilfredo Lam and Mexican muralist Diego Rivera and his wife Frida Kahlo, also can’t keep up with Tamayo skyrocketed prices on an average basis, unless a rare and significant piece appears.


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Sotheby’s offered a lovely piece where Tamayo’s signature watermelons were depicted statically contrasting with the saturated red background. An artist’s artist, Tamayo always referred to himself as a realist painter, following the tracks of famed French realist Courbet, and his path led him to find in this emblematic fruit, endless possibilities of representation, separating himself from a mimetic portrayal and focusing more on the formal and aesthetic aspects of the painting. This particular work has a distinct provenance, which adds to its pedigree and market value. It was originally bought by the actress and fashion icon Audrey Hepburn and placed on her library room at her state in Switzerland. This distinctive past added to the importance of the piece and had collectors roaring over it, which made the price swell up to $2.3M, surpassing its original estimation by almost half a million $US. It exceeded the piece El Fisgón, up for sale back in May that went for just $US 970,000. Another set of Sandías was well received at Christies Latin American’s auction, reaching $2.1M. It’s safe to say that watermelons were definitely in season and in demand this fall.


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Christie’s fall auction top 10 list was more varied than the monotonous Tamayo-Botero-Lam trifecta. The second place was held Brazilian artists Sergio Camargo’s Untitled, whose work is not seen often at auctions. Also holding prestigious ranks on the list were Cuban Carlos Enriquez, the Uruguayan master Joaquin Torres Garcia and the Argentinean Guillermo Kuitca.

Christie’s dynamic approach doesn’t aim only at high rollers, but also offers an online auction with works that are more accessible to buyers. Luiz Zerbini holds the highest estimated work at $70,000 for the moment, followed by a drawing from Botero at $30,000. Works by Guatemalans Carlos Merida and Dario Escobar can also be found, as well other valuable pieces. Which proves that auctions are not only aimed at the rich and famous, but also offer great works of art at accessible prices. Now budget buyers who want to get their hands on good art can do so, at a competitive price that is.

By: Gabriela Martinez de la Hoz

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