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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Strong demand for Brazilian abstract art and works by Colombia's Fernando Botero propelled Sotheby's to its best-selling auction of Latin American art with more than $21.6 million in sales.
Botero's painting "A Family," which fetched $1.4 million, was the top seller at Wednesday's sale and his "Man on a Horse" set a record for a bronze sculpture for the artist at auction -- at $1.17 million.
Overall, Botero works accounted for a third of the total sale, which topped Sotheby's $21 million Latin American sale record, set in the spring 2008 before the financial crisis sent art markets into a tailspin.
"In every crisis, there is somebody who makes money and they have to spend it," said Carmen Melian, Sotheby's Latin American art chief. "I think also the big shock is over ... some people are starting to buy and the whole cycle (of art buying) starts all over again.
Unusually for Botero at auction, three decades of his work were represented, including earlier art seen as political like the 1975 "El Presidente," which fetched $266,500.
The evening's most intense bidding was for Brazilian abstract sculptures made of wood.
Brazilian Cildo Meireles' 1982 sculpture "In-Mensa" sold for $518,000, an artist auction record. It fuses polished brown wood into hybrid furniture, tricking the eye into alternatively identifying what parts are chairs or tables.
"Relief 13/83," Brazilian Sergio Camargo's sculpture, dating from 1965, fetched $842,500.
Sotheby's said Brazil's art market is booming. The nation's strengthening currency, the real, makes art priced in U.S. dollars cheaper in comparison to the country's own currency.
Asian buyers snatched the top-priced Boteros, including "A Family," which juxtaposes father and son with blank expressions as mother and daughter gaze at something unseen with their faces turned in opposite directions and an infant tugs on the mother's skirt.
South Asian buyers figured prominently in the auction with Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam well represented. Many participated in the auction online.
The sale also set auction records for Mexico's painter, Dr. Atl, whose landscape, "La Nube (The Rain)," went for $326,500. Uruguayan Pedro Figari's "Baile Criollo" fetched $146,500, a record for an oil on board by the artist at auction.
Mexican artist Mathias Goeritz's sculpture, "Project for Energia," went for $86,500, a record for a bronze by the artist at auction.