High hopes for Latin American art auction amid buoyant market

Mon May 27, 2013 6:44pm EDT
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By Walker Simon

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Art experts are hoping strong interest from Asian buyers and a buoyant market, sparked by a record-breaking sale of contemporary art earlier this month, will boost two Latin American auctions in New York this week.

A bronze sculpture of a dancing couple by Colombian Fernando Botero and paintings by Mexican Alfredo Ramos Martinez, Chilean Roberto Matta and Brazilian Candido Portinari are expected to be the highlights of the sales at Christie's and Sotheby's.

Earlier this month the auction houses had blockbuster sales of Impressionist and contemporary art. Christie's contemporary art sale on May 15 hauled in $495 million - the highest of any art auction ever.

"Obviously the contemporary art sale was on a historical scale," said Virgilio Garza, Christie's Latin American art chief. "So we hope we continue with the level of energy that the market has."

Christie's estimates $24 million to $34 million in total Latin American sales on Wednesday and Thursday. If the upper limit is reached, it will top the peak of the auction house's sale of the region's art, set at $33.7 million in May 2008, months before the Wall Street crash.

Sotheby's expects about $20.7 million to $28.7 million in Latin American art sales on Tuesday and Wednesday.

"We saw $1.5 billion in Impressionist and contemporary art sold in barely two weeks in New York (this month)," said Axel Stein, Latin American art chief at Sotheby's. "That doesn't mean necessarily that manna will a rain on us directly, but it almost assures we won't have just normal or negative sales."

Top-priced works at each auction house include paintings by the late Ramos Martinez, whose art was collected by Hollywood luminaries after he moved to Los Angeles to find expert medical care for his daughter. Christie's see his circa 1930 work "Mujeres con Frutas" (Women with Fruit) fetching $1 million to $1.5 million.   Continued...

Fernando Botero's "Dancers" is photographed by a passer-by as it sits in front of Christie's Auction House in New York, May 27, 2013. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri