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Sotheby's Spring 2009 Latin American Art Sale Totals $9,422,625
The top lot was JoaquínTorres-García’s Construcción Portuaria which brought $626,500 (est. $350/450,000). Photo: Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s spring 2009 sale of Latin American Art in New York brought a total of $9,422,625 (est. $10.6/14.3 million). The top lot of the two-day sale was Diego Rivera’s Niña con rebozo, a work in tempera on linen which sold last night for $794,500, well above a high estimate of $450,000 and record for the artist in the medium. Nineteen auction records were established during the sale, for artists including Enio Iommi, Mercedes Pardo, Andreas López, Édouard-Théophile Pingret, Irene Sierra Carreño and Jose Antonio Davila, for a sculpture by Hugo Demarco, a painting by Martha Boto and for works on paper by Kcho and León Ferrari.

Carmen Meliàn, Head of Sotheby’s Latin American Art department, said, “Our spring sale was highlighted by the strength of interest and prices for Latin abstract works. We are very pleased by the fact that over 85% of the lots sold over the past two days met or exceeded our expectations.”

Chiki, ton pays (est. $1.2/1.6 million), is a rare large painting from the 1940s by English-born Leonora Carrington, one of the last remaining artists of the original Surrealist group in Paris. By the time she painted this work at age 27, she had already lived a harrowing life, including an elopement with Max Ernst (who was more than twice her age and already married), confinement in a Spanish asylum and a voyage to America to escape the Nazis. After a stint in New York where she re-involved herself with the exiled Surrealists, she followed her first husband, Renato Leduc, to Mexico, where the relationship soon ended. In Mexico she met Chiki Weisz, a Hungarian photographer and partner of fellow photojournalist Robert Capa. At the time, Mexico City was a hotbed of artistic activity for artists, writers and intellectuals who had fled the war. In a famous photograph by Katie Horna, the happy couple is surrounded on their wedding day by their friends—poet Benjamin Peret, painter Remedios Varo, sculptor José Horna, painter Gunther Gerzso and writer Miriam Wolf. Carrington painted Chiki, ton pays in October 1944, a year after her marriage to Weisz. As the title (Chiki, your country) implies, Leonora and her new husband float forward in the sky encapsulated in a fecund red pod topped by a crown of trees and streams, while in the Surrealist landscape below fantastic figures cavort and the underworld peeps through on the right-hand side in the spectacular composition. Carrington’s move to Mexico produced an explosion of creativity in her work, and cemented her place in the Surrealist pantheon.

Wifredo Lam, a Cuban member of the Surrealist movement, is represented by the monumental 1942 composition Nue à la Chaise (est. $500/600,000) and Femme Cheval (est. $450/550,000), an oil from 1959. The sinuous tropical forms of Nue à la Chaise are echoed in a rare ebony totem, Colonne de Feu, 1962 (est. $125/175,000) by another Cuban member of the later Surrealist group, sculptor Agustín Cárdenas.

Other highlights include three works by the distinguished Colombian artist Fernando Botero, led by Man and Horse (est. $600/800,000). Nowhere is the city of Medellín’s bygone era of colorful, narrow streets and quaint village houses more evident than in this work by the city’s most famous son. Executed in 1984 in Botero’s signature style—flat surfaces rendered in barely perceptible brushwork which belie the voluptuousness of the characters and scenes he creates—this work depicts a man preparing to embark on a journey, with resolve apparent in his confident gestures and penetrating gaze. As he prepares to mount his horse and ride away, a string of Colombian flags flank him from behind—perhaps not unlike Botero himself, who set forth from Medellín to capture the world. Also on offer is Botero’s Mother Superior (est. $300/400,000).

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