10 Highlights from Latin America: Modern Art

Launch Slideshow

The Latin America: Modern Art sale on 21 November presents exemplary works from the region spanning the first half of the 20th century. Leading the sale is Diego Rivera’s monumental Retrato de un español, a definitive masterwork by the artist painted in Paris at the peak of European modernism. Exhibited at the Salon d’Automne in 1912 and pre-dating Rivera’s Cubist period, the painting is the most compelling early portrait by the artist in private hands. Click ahead to view other highlights from the fall season.

Latin America: Modern Art
21 November | New York


10 Highlights from Latin America: Modern Art

  • Diego Rivera, Retrato de un Español (Portrait of a Spaniard), 1912. Estimate $3,000,000-5,000,000.
    Painted in 1912, Retrato de un español (Portrait of a Spaniard) emerged within a deeply ideological and fiercely creative cultural milieu—the most consequential in the history of modern art. We now know this is a portrait of Hermenegildo Alsina, a fine books binder and Spanish decorative artist who was a close friend of Rivera in Madrid, Barcelona and later in Paris… Rivera’s Spaniard stares confidently at the viewer. The young man projects a carefully constructed air of nonchalance. Embodying the image of a dandy, he is casually attired in a fashionable hat and an elegant brown overcoat. A green feathered necktie complements his cultivated look as he retains the viewer’s attention with absolute finesse. Rivera's composition reveals a vividly agitated sky filled with onerous grey clouds. White strokes of paint seem to radiate from the Spaniard as to symbolize a halo of earthly sanctity.

  • Rufino Tamayo, Personaje en un interior, 1988. Estimate $1,200,000-1,600,000.
    Personaje en un interior affirms Rufino Tamayo’s mastery of color. Painted in the late 1980s—an innovative and highly prolific decade—the work reveals an extraordinary virtuosity in the treatment of color and texture. Tamayo’s canvases from this period inspire poignant emotions, exhilarating sensations, and indescribable moods. Having developed an idiosyncratic painting technique early on in his career, his application of paint remained technical and systematic throughout eight uninterrupted decades of artistis production. As a direct means for expressing universal themes, the medium retained preeminence against ever changing narratives and stylistic evolutions.

  • Emiliano di Cavalcanti, Reclining Nude with Fish and Fruit, 1956. Estimate $1,200,000-1,600,000.
    A fundamental figure of Brazilian modernism, Emiliano Di Cavalcanti personifies the bold sensuality and exuberant spirit of his native Rio de Janeiro. Di Cavalcanti’s majestic  Reclining nude with fish and fruit epitomizes the longstanding tradition of associating the female body with classical ideals of beauty, fertility, and abundance. Unlike previous renditions from the Renaissance period through the nineteenth century—where mythological or allegorical attributes provide a context for the figure’s nudity—the “painter of mulatta women” as Di Cavalcanti was fondly known, provocatively situates his Reclining Nude as an earthly being.

  • Francisco Zúñiga, Madre e hija sentada. Estimate $1,000,000-1,500,000.
    Madre e hija sentada , standing at the imposing height of nearly 1 ½ meters, is an iconic example of Zúñiga’s mature sculpture. The two figures rest with their backs to one another, their weary expressions belying the strength in their postures; their massive cloaked forms rise from the ground almost like the twin volcanoes of the valley of Mexico, primordial and mysterious. The realism in their faces suggests that, characteristically of this period, they are sculpted from life; Zúñiga selected his models not only for beauty but for their vitality. At once naturalistic, emotive portraits and icons of indigenous strength, these timeless feminine figures remain firmly rooted to the earth as they gaze stoically ahead to the future. Zúñiga monumentalizes “hieratical… mestiza women – beings whose nation has lived and continues to live between greatness and misery, between hope and despair, people who…believe in… the breath of life that animates them and in the elementary realities of human existence: children, bread, the sun that touches the skin...”  

  • Joaquín Torres-García, Formas abstractas ensambladas (Assembled Abstract Forms). Estimate $800,000-1,200,000.
    The geometric configuration of forms in an ascendant rhythm, a crescendo of curves and escalating angles that seem to attach to a central axis, is unique to Assembled Abstract Forms. Its color is also unprecedented: to black and white, Torres-García added a steely grey, yellow ocher, and deep earth red, the only work in the series that features such a tonal harmony. - Cecilia de Torres, October 2017

  • Matta, Let Any Flowers Bloom. Estimate $800,000-1,000,000.
    As he entered the 1950s, Matta had matured the complexities of his earlier anthropomorphism and reoriented his original conception of infinite fictional space. Moving to Paris in the spring of 1955, he cultivated a renewed interest on the gesture. Through it, he delved deeper into automatism: a device for the articulation of signs and activation of hidden emotions. Given the amplitutde of these ambitious Parisian canvases, visual structure and chromatic freedom dominate the composition.

  • Wifredo Lam, Here on Earth (Ici sur la terre). Estimate $600,000-800,000.
    The present painting,  Here on Earth (Ici sur la terre) , is an outstanding example of Lam’s subtle, complex mature style. By restricting his palette and distilling his compositions in his later works, Lam invites the viewer to private contemplation, freely inspiring the subconscious personal associations and reflections that were Surrealism’s original project. On the occasion of his exhibition at the Galerie Etoile Scellée in Paris, 1955, Benjamin Péret eloquently summarized the psychic power of these masterworks: “These beings… speak to our desires and our terror…These states are and have been known by all men. The difference is that the images they engender today are different from those of the past, by virtue of their integral quality… Lam is committed to capturing them… to show their primal state and the fact that despite their ferocious seductiveness we can recognize these qualities in ourselves.” (Lowery Stokes Sims, Wifredo Lam and the International Avant-Garde, 1923-1982, Austin, 2002, p. 106)

  • Rufino Tamayo, Niña atleta. Estimate $600,000-800,000.
    Rufino Tamayo’s mastery of color and prodigious innovations in form and composition are clearly evidenced in  Niña atleta. A dynamic example of the artist’s mature style, Niña atleta is exquisitely painted in oscillating shades of violet and green, enrobed in a halo of magenta and earth-red tones that seem to lift her out of the picture plane and into our world. Tamayo’s glowing hues create a sense of optimism and jubilation that are infectious.

  • Fernando Botero, Leda and the Swan. Estimate $600,000-800,000.
    “As in all the techniques that Botero applies, he craves perfection, so the bronzes display a splendid surface in which all the riches of the modeling can be enjoyed by the play of light and shadow. The figures of Greek mythology that we know from his paintings now come to us as larger than life divinities that can easily dominate a square or a rotunda in any city of the world. His reclining nudes, smoking or eating a forbidden fruit, with their undulating shapes, produce a most sensual and seductive effect in a garden of sculptures.” - John Sillevis, The Baroque World of Fernando Botero

  • Fernando Botero, La Pudeur (Modesty). Estimate $500,000-700,000.
    In the complete corpus of Fernando Botero's painted work it is not unusual to find direct references to classical art. Botero is a devoted student of the old masters having dedicated years to the study of classical compositions and painting techniques. As he started his lifelong pursuit of sculpture in the mid-1970s, he immediately turned to antiquity for sources of inspiration. Botero, much in the way of the great artists of the Italian Baroque, treasured ancient Roman sculpture as one of the foundations of our visual culture. Like many figurative artists before him, Botero adopted antique poses for his subjects ultimately reshaping the female body with his original personal style and surprising aesthetic solutions. As he started his lifelong pursuit of sculpture in the mid-1970s, he immediately turned to antiquity for sources of inspiration.  La Pudeur (Modesty)  is visibly inspired by the Capitoline Aphrodite model.

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