Voodoo-surrealist art, color grille lead Latam sale

Wed Nov 17, 2010 2:56pm EST
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By Walker Simon

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - A voodoo-inspired Surrealist painting by Cuban Wifredo Lam and a vibrating color grid by Venezuelan Alejandro Otero set new artist auction records at Sotheby's Latin American art sale.

Mexican works also sparked heated competition and set records for 19th century artists. Argentine and Brazilian artists hit new peaks for geometric mazes in wood.

"Abstraction seems to have done really well," said Carmen Melian, Sotheby's Latin American art chief of the $14.8 million Tuesday night auction. "The great surprise was the 19th century Mexican painters ... and the sale in part was a homage to Lam."

The top-selling work was Lam's "Les Abalochas Dansent pour Dhambala, dieu de l'Unite," which fetched $2.15 million.

Populated with countless masks, worn by animal-human hybrids, the 1970 painting takes its name from a Haitian Creole word for the voodoo Dhambala serpent god.

"You see a pantheon of gods fighting for dominance, light versus dark." said Sotheby's Vice President Alex Stein.

Horned, shadowy spirits. eyes aglow like Halloween pumpkins, jostle with sprawling lit figures, one of them a winged horse-human female amalgamation, balanced precariously on a single hoof.

An Afro-Cuban, Lam traveled to Haiti with Surrealist founder Andre Breton. His godmother practiced santeria, a Cuban voodoo variant, steeping him in its beliefs as a boy.   Continued...

<p>Picture of Cuban painter Wifredo's Lam's "Les Abalochas Dansent pour Dhambala, dieu de l'Unite, which fetched $2.15 million at Sotheby's Latin American art sale on November 16, 2010, setting a record for the artist. REUTERS/Sotheby's/Handout</p>