The night of the unsold Boteros at Christie’s Latin American Sale

Mixed outcome at last night’s Christie’s Latin American Sale in New York.

Last night’s standing-room-only sale at Christie’s delivered modest results with the top lots failing to reach the sellers’ reserves. The issue, once again, appears to lie in the auction house’s over confidence in setting estimates for some of the offered lots.

The unpredictability of last night’s sale was caused primarily by the random reserves set for select lots. For example the first Roberto Matta work of the evening Yennes, Levitation in Blue, was sold for $360,000 (before buyer’s premium), which is 10% below the $400,000 low estimate set for the work. At the same time, David Alfaro Siqueiros’ pyroxyline on masonite work Basta went for $48,000 (also before bp), or 20% lower than the low estimate of $60,000. However, a 1950’s work by Matta, Let’s Phosphoresce was passed at $240,000, just $10,000 below the listed low estimate. This unpredictability in reserves certainly added to the mystery of the behind-the-scenes price-setting process, but many in the salesroom appeared puzzled.

Fernando Botero - Country WeddingLikewise many of the Botero works failed to find buyers even with bidding starting considerably below the low estimate. His (very recent) 2009 work Country Wedding, (seen here on the left) a large and imposing canvas, was first offered for $350,000 against a $700,000 low estimate, but was passed when buyers lost interest at the $450K mark. Botero’s much more interesting work from 1967, and one least like his usual suspects was the ghostly Aparición de Santa Rosa de Lima painted in a restricted palette of grays, and ochres. The oil on canvas was the subject of much interest and after a brief bidding contest, was purchased by an anonymous phone bidder for $300,000 (before buyers’ premium).

toledoAmong the highlights of the sale were Carlos Cruz-Diez‘s 2009 Physiochromie No. 1601 ($147.7K), Mario Carreño‘s 1985 Atardecer de Nostalgia ($99.7K), and his 1947 Picasso-esque Figura con Tatuajes ($62.5),  Wifredo Lam‘s compact 1937 oil on cardboard Untitled (Abstract) ($171.7), Jorge Jimenez Deredia‘s white Carrara marble sculpture Arrullo ($62.5), Claudio Bravo‘s translucent oil on canvas titled Water ($243.7), Franciso Toledo‘s beautiful blue cow (right) Vaca Mala from 1971 ($339.7), Emilio Pettoruti‘s Ragazza (Carolita) ($111.7), Tilsa Tsuchiya‘s 1974 whimsical yet armless Mujer Volando ($339.7) and Roberto Matta‘s 1950 oil on canvas Let’s Phosphoresce estimate to sell between $250 – $350K but was passed at $240K.

VolpiBrazilian born Alfredo Volpi was in particular favor with the buyers as three of his colorful, Paul Klee like temperas on canvas sold in the $500K – $780K range. Lively works, but the similarities with Klee were somewhat distracting.

An interesting characteristic of last night’s sale were the lots offered for sale in New York but physically located in Mexico and as part of the country’s national heritage, would have to stay in the country after the sale. The auctioneer wryly suggested the buyer purchase the house in Mexico to house the purchased artwork.

The crowd erupted in applause after a distinguished looking man in a pink sweater, seated right in the front row, won the bidding battle for the lovely, if moody, surrealist work by Candido Portinari Meninos Soltando Pipas, buying the work for a total of $1.444M. Some minutes later the same bidder picked up Milton Dacosta‘s Figura, a 1954 oil on canvas for $171.5K. The work was reminiscent of Picasso’s early cubist period and was estimated to sell for just $30 – $40K.

Tilsa TsuchiyaAccording to Christie’s, public sale records were set for several of last night’s artist’s including the Peruvian artist Tilsa Tsuchiya (her Mujer Volando is seen here on the right). We, of course, keep thinking of Bulgakov’s Margarita as she ascends on her final flight, leading the Master away with her…

We are still wondering about the Loló Soldevilla‘s Untitled sculpture as the work on the pedestal did not match the image projected on the screens or reproduced in the catalogue, so perhaps someone from Christie’s could solve this little mystery for us.

The day sale takes place May 30th and features several strong lots including works by Rafael Colonel (lot 190) Francisco Toledo (lots 192, 193, 203), Enoc Perez (lot 150), Augusto Torres (lot 169), Roberto Matta (lots 130, 132) and a work by Victor Manuel (lot 108) among others.

This article ©galleryIntell. Images courtesy of Christie’s New York.