NEW YORK (Reuters) - A giant Mexican mural with sprawling elongated figures reminiscent of Pablo Picasso's Guernica" fetched $6.8 million in a sale of Latin American art that fared comparatively well in a tough economic climate.
Spanning 45 feet in length, the mural, "America," by Rufino Tamayo, sold in frenetic bidding which included several art museums, Sotheby's said.
Total sales of Latin American art at the auction house reached $16.8 million on Tuesday night.
"In these rocky times, we're absolutely delighted that there was very fierce competition for certain works," said Carmen Melian, Sotheby's chief Latin American specialist.
"The works that didn't sell, they will sell quite well in a couple of years when the economy turns around," she added.
Tinged with black, red, gray and white, the mural's central figure is a woman named "America." The style of "Guernica" -- Picasso's 1937 testimonial to war's brutality is thought to have influenced Tamayo's murals.
Compared with other recent auctions including post-war art, the Latin American art sale weathered the global economic storm in relatively good shape.
The Latin American sale total fell one-fifth in value compared with the total auctioned by Sotheby's in an evening sale last spring. But that drop was less than the nearly two-thirds fall over the same periods for Sotheby's sale of post World War II art.
Last month Sotheby's withdrew Picasso's cubist painting "Arlequin" that was set to be auctioned as part of an impressionist and modern art sale this month, amid rumors of fears that art prices were dropping due to the global financial crisis. The work has been estimated to sell for $30 million.
In the Latin American sale "Planta Insumisa," or "Unsubmissive Plant" sold for $1.42 million. a record for a work by Remedios Varo, a surrealist born in Spain whose style matured in Mexico, according to Sotheby's.
Among landscapes, standouts included "View of the Port and Bay of Valparaiso, Chile," Sold for $210,000, it was an auction record for British artist Thomas Jacques Somerscales.
The 19th century work combines a dreamy view of skies and clouds with a draftsman-like attention to detail, including fraying cracks in weathered planks of the curving boardwalk.
Editing by Patricia Reaney