Brazil wood maze and nudes top Latam art sale

Thu Nov 19, 2009 3:39pm EST
 
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By Walker Simon

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - A volcanic landscape of lifeless nudes and a Brazilian jumble of whitewashed wood topped a sizzling sale of Latin American art that was reminiscent of the heady bidding in better economic times.

Sotheby's auction raked in $14.76 million, topping its own high estimate in its strongest sale of the region's art since the onset of the global financial crisis in mid-2008.

Bidders included collectors from Russia, Indonesia and South Africa, rarely seen in such force for Latin American art, according to auctioneer August Uribe.

"We witnessed a remarkable breadth and depth of bidding tonight, not only from the Americas but also across Europe and Asia," Maria Bonta de la Pezuela, a vice president and senior specialist at Sotheby's, said of the Wednesday night sale.

Chilean artist Matta's painting "Endless Nudes" was the top seller at $2.5 million.

Inspired by Mexican volcanoes, the 1941-1942 work shows torsos, legs and chests in faded violet and ash gray tones. Body parts descend and dissolve into an inferno of magma red flashes and swirls of yellow and green.

Uribe said Matta's rapid brushwork style helped shape budding U.S. abstract expressionists like Robert Motherwell and Jackson Pollock. The U.S. artists studied with Matta in the early 1940s in Greenwich Village, according to art historians.

Brazilian Sergio Camargo's "Relief" fetched $1.6 million. A labyrinth of whitewashed cylinders, its tips slant in myriad directions; the work set a world auction record for Camargo.   Continued...

 
<p>An oil on canvas by surrealist painter Roberto Matta known as 'Endless Nudes' is seen here in this undated handout from Sotheby's auction house in New York. Sotheby's Latin American art auction raked in $14.76 million, topping its own high estimate in its strongest sale of the region's art since the onset of the global financial crisis in mid-2008. REUTERS/Sotheby's/Handout</p>