Tamayo tops Latam auction, kinetic art sales strong

Thu Nov 17, 2011 1:38pm EST
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By Walker Simon

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Rufino Tamayo's painting "Watermelon Slices" fetched $2.2 million, topping Sotheby's Latin American sale, which also set auction records for pioneering Venezuelan kinetic artist Carlos Cruz-Diez.

"It was a great night for Rufino Tamayo," Sotheby's Latin American art chief Carmen Melian said of the Wednesday evening sale, which totaled $17 million.

"Watermelon Slices is a symphony of colors that recall the (late U.S. master abstract colorist) Mark Rothko. Dozens and dozens of reds and orange shades vibrate," she said.

Melian added that the work, which shows watermelon slices precariously balanced on a brown stand, is difficult to reproduce because Tamayo used pure dried pigment for each tone.

The painting, which was sold by The Museum of Modern Art for its acquisition fund, held a personal significance for Tamayo, Sotheby's said. As a boy, he helped his aunt sell watermelons at a Mexico City market stand.

Tamayo, who died in 1991, is widely seen as a monumental figure of Mexican 20th century art. The Sotheby's auction also fetched unusually hefty prices for work from a long overlooked earlier period when he explored surrealism.

The 1928 "Frutero y Domino" fetched $530,500 and the 1932 "La Tenista" sold for $398,500.

Among other highlights was kinetic art, which "had an exceptional night," said Melian.   Continued...

<p>Watermelon Slices by Rufino Tamayo is seen in a handout photo. REUTERS/Sotheby's/Handout</p>