NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - A one-ton nude sculpture by Colombian Fernando Botero sold for $1.14 million, outstripping its top rival, a delicate portrait of crumpled paper, in a robust sale of Latin American art in New York.
Botero's "Smoking Woman" led the Tuesday evening auction at Christie's. Nearly 12-feet long, it shows a jaunty woman sprawled on a sheet, daintily holding a cigarette.
Botero's art, long known for celebrating voluptuous women, also set a world auction record for his work on paper, with his Madonna-like watercolor "Mother and Child" fetching $614,500.
Traced with pencil, it contrasts a woman's nearly ethereal white complexion with the jet-black hair, swarthy skin and dark eyebrows of her incongruously mature baby, whose chin shows stubble.
"He is still the most successful living artist (in Latin America), energizing our sale," said Christie's Latin American art expert Virgilio Garza, referring to Botero..
In all, Christie's raked in $14.7 million, its priciest evening auction since May 2008, reflecting economic recovery.
"Economies are generally exiting recession," Garza said. "The psychology is different; there is a feeling one can spend again."
Nearly 90 percent of lots sold, the highest percentage ever attained for Latin American art at Christie's in an across the board sale for work from 15 countries, he said.
"White, Blue and Yellow Papers" scored the second-highest sale price, at $722,500. Painted by Chile's Claudio Bravo, it projects creases of paper as ridges twisting across a canvas of countless hues.
Three artists set world auction records. Cuban Victor Manuel's oil "Carnaval" sold for $182,500, Ecuador's Oswaldo Guayasamin's study for "Cartuchos" (Cartridges), an oil on panel, sold for $98,500.
The late Guayasamin is widely known for his monumental murals, Garza said.
"The great, great Guayasamin paintings don't come up at auction and when a good painting comes like the one we had ...there was bidding from all over," Garza explained.
Mexican Javier Marin also set a record for "Adan" (Adam), a bronze sculpture which fetched $43,750.
For works on paper, the auction set two more records.
"Prometheus," an ink and oil on paper by Mexican muralist Javier Clemente Orozco, sold for $134,500, and Argentine Leon Ferrari's ink "Historia de Amor" (Love Story), sold for $43,750.
Editing by Patricia Reaney