Long-unseen Kahlo tops Latin America art auction

Thu May 27, 2010 1:54pm EDT
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By Walker Simon

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Frida Kahlo portrait of a pre-Hispanic warrior was the top selling work in a sale of Latin American art, which also set five auction records, including one for Mexican artist Jose Clemente Orozco.

The evening auction at Christie's on Wednesday fetched $16.8 million, its strongest Latin American sale in two years.

"It was a sale full of excitement and surprises with world auction records for key Latin American modern and contemporary artists," said Virgilio Garza, Christie's Latin America art chief.

"We were delighted with the runaway success of Frida Kahlo's "Survivor," which fetched $1.1 million against a pre-sale estimate of $100,000-150,000."

Garza added that the Kahlo work drew bids from as far afield as Europe and Asia.

Orozco's "The City" also sold for $1.1 million. Both artists' work is scarce in international markets since Mexico bars their export under cultural heritage laws.

An added novelty was that "Survivor" disappeared from public view for 72 years before it was put up for sale this year.

The bidding excitement for the Kahlo recalled Christie's May 2008 auction, when the Latin American art market was at its height. At a rapid-fire pace, "Survivor" drew nearly 50 offers, sparking murmurs of amazement among the well-heeled audience.   Continued...