(Corrects days on which auctions start in second paragraph)
By Walker Simon
NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - A voodoo-inspired Cuban work and a portrait of a bullfighting family by Colombian Fernando Botero top this week’s Latin American art auctions at Sotheby’s and Christie’s in New York.
Christie’s expects to see sales of up to $26 million at its auction that starts on Wednesday and Sotheby’s is predicting as much as $27 million at its sale beginning on Tuesday, which would be their biggest since the spring 2008 before the financial crisis.
“There’s a renovated confidence and energy in the market,” said Christie’s Latin American art chief Virgilio Garza.
He added that there could be a carryover from fall auctions which saw record-smashing prices for contemporary and post-war art.
The top lot at Sotheby’s is Cuban surrealist Wifredo Lam’s “Las Abalochas dansent pour Dhambala, dieu de l‘unite.”
Lam visited Haiti with Surrealism founder Andre Breton. The painting takes its name from Dhambala, a Haitian Creole word for a voodoo rainbow-serpent god, according to the auction catalog.
The 1970 work, which hung in Lam’s studio, could fetch up to $2.25 million,
“One of the strengths of the Latin American art auction is Surrealism,” said Carmen Melian, Sotheby’s Latin American art chief.
In his 1972 “Nuestra Senora de Cajica,” which is expected to sell for up to $800,000, Botero juxtaposes symbols of the Virgin Mary and the Garden of Eden. A corpulent Virgin offers an apple to a chubby male infant, his hand grasping a tiny Colombian flag. Tiny nuns, monks and priests peer from a leafy tree top. A devilish-looking black serpent slithers below the virgin’s shoeless toes.
Christie’s top lot, with an expected price tag of $1.5 million, is Botero’s 1985 “Family Portrait” of bullfighters, three of them dressed in matador finery. The youngest is a crawling toddler with a red tie and wearing white stockings on his bulging calves.
Inspired by visits to the sprouting Mexican volcano Paracutin, Chilean artist Matta’s 1942 work “Untitled” envisions earth as what he then said was “something terrific, burning, changing, transforming (and) growing.”
“Untitled,” which has an expected price tag of $1.2 million, mixes dropped pigment with strokes of liquid color, centered on a burning fury of fiery reds, pea-like greens and sunbeam yellows.
Sotheby’s top-priced Matta, the 1944 “Children’s Fear of Idols II,” has a high estimate of $700,000.