Long-unseen Rivera, Kahlo works at Latam art sales

Tue May 25, 2010 11:24am EDT
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By Walker Simon

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - A work blending surrealism and the Cuban variant of voodoo tops this week's Latin American art auctions, which also feature long-unseen paintings by Mexican artist Diego Rivera and wife Frida Kahlo.

The Christie's sale Wednesday and Thursday and Sotheby's Thursday and Friday auctions each have high estimates of $25.2 million, sums reminiscent of strong demand in 2008.

"People are starting to enjoy their money again, not keeping it," said Sotheby's Latin American art chief Carmen Melian. (Some) buy cars, boats and houses ... others invest in art."

With a high estimate of $1.8 million, Sotheby's top-priced item is Cuban Wifredo Lam's 1945 "Sur Les Traces Transformation," painted after his return home from Paris, where he belonged to the surrealist group led by Andre Breton.

"This work combines European elements of surrealism and of santeria," she said.

Like Haiti's voodoo, santeria mixes Roman Catholicism and West African religious traditions. Lam's grandmother was a santeria priestess, she added.

Rivera's 1953 "Tejedora y los Ninos," or "Weaver and Children," is valued at up to $1.3 million said Sotheby's. For more than half a century, it was only known to scholars via a grainy black and white photograph before resurfacing for sale.

At Christie's, a rare Kahlo painting of a pre-Hispanic idol reappears in public for the first time in 72 years, with a high estimate of $150,000.   Continued...

<p>Colombian Fernando Botero's 2002 sculpture "Woman on a Horse" is seen in this undated handout photo. REUTERS/Christie's/Handout</p>