May 13, 2010 / 3:28 PM / 9 years ago

Diego Rivera works go under hammer at Latam art sale

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A painting by Mexican artist Diego Rivera that has not been seen in public for more than 50 years and works by some of Latin America’s biggest artists will be up sold at auction later this month.

The sale at Sotheby’s will feature a total of 245 pieces, including Wilfredo Lam’s “Sur Les Traces”, which could fetch up to $1.8 million and “The Ordeal of Owain” by British painter Leonora Carrington who now lives in Mexico. It has an estimated sale price of $600,000 to $800,000.

“The selection of the sale is really high quality ... including a fantastic surrealist section,” said Carmen Melian, director of Latin American art at Sotheby’s, adding it was the first auction house to start selling art from the region.

Art experts believe the Latin American art market could benefit from recent record-breaking auctions which marked a resurgence for the beaten-down art market after an 18-month stumble.

Jasper Johns’ pop art painting “Flag” from a collection that belonged to best-selling author Michael Crichton sold for a record $28.64 million on Tuesday.

Earlier this month, Picasso’s “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust” sold for more than $106 million at Christie’s, setting a record for art sold at auction.

Melian said Latin America countries, such as Brazil, Peru and Chile, are bucking the economic trend, meaning prospective buyers are ready to spend.

“Fifty percent of our buyers are from Latin America and are in a position to contemplate discretionary spending,” she explained.

Two works by Rivera, a painter and muralist, will be featured in the sale including “Tejedora y los Ninos”, or Weaver and Children, which had been held in a private collection for more than half a century.

It glorifies Mexico’s indigenous culture and has an estimated sale price of $1.3 million, according to Sotheby’s. But it is considered part of Mexico’s national patrimony so it can never leave the country and must be sold to a collector residing in Mexico.

The restriction will undoubtedly affect the sale price, but Rivera’s reputation as a master of Latin American art should offset any doubts buyers may have, Melian said.

“In Mexico and Latin America, Rivera is a god,” she added.

Sculptures by the German-Venezuelan Gertrudis Goldschmidt, better known as Gego, and the early works of Claudio Bravo, a Chilean realist will also go to the highest bidder.

A portrait by Rivera of Gladys March, an American journalist who spent six months interviewing the painter, is also part of the sale. March eventually wrote a book about the artist. Her interview notes and a manuscript of a book about Rivera, which Melian called “a scholar’s paradise,” will also be auctioned.

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