Weighty Botero nude, Chile painting top Latam sale

Wed Nov 18, 2009 10:29am EST
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By Walker Simon

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - A one-ton nude sculpture by Colombian Fernando Botero sold for $1.14 million, outstripping its top rival, a delicate portrait of crumpled paper, in a robust sale of Latin American art in New York.

Botero's "Smoking Woman" led the Tuesday evening auction at Christie's. Nearly 12-feet long, it shows a jaunty woman sprawled on a sheet, daintily holding a cigarette.

Botero's art, long known for celebrating voluptuous women, also set a world auction record for his work on paper, with his Madonna-like watercolor "Mother and Child" fetching $614,500.

Traced with pencil, it contrasts a woman's nearly ethereal white complexion with the jet-black hair, swarthy skin and dark eyebrows of her incongruously mature baby, whose chin shows stubble.

"He is still the most successful living artist (in Latin America), energizing our sale," said Christie's Latin American art expert Virgilio Garza, referring to Botero..

In all, Christie's raked in $14.7 million, its priciest evening auction since May 2008, reflecting economic recovery.

"Economies are generally exiting recession," Garza said. "The psychology is different; there is a feeling one can spend again."

Nearly 90 percent of lots sold, the highest percentage ever attained for Latin American art at Christie's in an across the board sale for work from 15 countries, he said.   Continued...

<p>Colombian artist Fernando Botero poses for a portrait in New York in this October 24, 2006 file photo. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn</p>