• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 2054

    Latin American Sale Evening Session

    19 - 20 November 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 27

    Francisco Zúñiga (Costa Rican/Mexican 1912-1998)

    Grupo frente al mar

    Price Realised  


    Francisco Zúñiga (Costa Rican/Mexican 1912-1998)
    Grupo frente al mar
    the male figure signed and dated 'ZÚÑIGA, 1983'; the group inscribed and dated 'FUNDICION CARLOS ROJAS A. MEXICO- 1985' and 'ESCULTOR FRANCISCO ZÚÑIGA' (on the base)
    bronze with green patina
    75 x 69¼ x 46¾ in. (190.5 x 176 x 118.7 cm.)
    Executed in 1984.
    Edition two of four.

    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    Contact the department

    The artist completed only two casts of the projected edition of four. The other cast in existence is in the collection of the Hakone Open Air Museum in Japan.

    The presence of the sea emerges in the work of Francisco Zúñiga around the early fifties; allegorical work is still strongly present in his work of that time mainly in public commissions. There are many drawings of men washing horses in the Papaloapan River, which he executed while traveling to Veracruz in the Gulf of Mexico where he created his group Richness of the sea. This group consists of two fishermen who trap in their large net the mythological idea of the eternal feminine represented by a woman as a modern siren. This woman emerging from the sea, the fishermen, and the net itself remained as a motif throughout his oeuvre both in sculpture and other media.

    After many different approaches and versions of this same idea he then moved on to the direct relationship between men, women, and the sea, where all life is supposed to come from. Such relationships can be observed in lithographs as well as in preparatory drawings that later became sculptures.

    Grupo frente al mar, a later project, was developed at a time when Zúñiga began to group figures in his work. This piece responded to his desire to integrate a man into a group. Before the preparation of a large-sized figure, or group of figures, he always realized several models. Around 1980 he had made a small figure of a Nude man with hat (Catalogue Raisonné, Volume I, # 892), the first step for this particular group. A year later, with Fishermen with net (Catalogue Raisonné, Volume I, # 900), he explored the possibility of integrating such object, but the idea was abandoned. In Standing woman with fishes (Catalogue Raisonné, Volume I, # 932), he approached the young female figure. Finally, in 1983, he completed the first version of Grupo frente al mar (Catalogue Raisonné, Volume I, #931).

    It is particularly enlightening to note that the model of this group is almost identical to the large version; it then becomes obvious that most of the technical problems were at that point solved. In the final piece the man's hat disappeared since in a larger scale its horizontal line would affect the composition modifying the representational mode as the space between and around the figures, so carefully plotted, would become reduced and the accent on the horizon would greatly increase. In the latter, the oar is stronger and better defined as it is a key iconographic attribute that accentuates the man's stillness and strength. The two women represent two different life stages, another important aspect of Zúñiga's formal proposal. He suggests movement/displacement in time and spaces as well as the presence of the wind and the sea itself.

    While Zúñiga was working in the modeling of the large group, he was invited to participate in the 3rd International Sculpture Biennale in Japan and, the coincidence being so timely, participated with this group. As he usually did when he cast bronzes he considered the size of the edition; in this case, four. The sculptor had the good fortune to obtain the Kotaro Takamura Grand Prize and the group was acquired by the Hakone Open Air Museum in Hakone, Japan. He then cast number II which a few years later went to a private collection. Numbers III and IV were never cast. During the difficult times following his loss of sight and as radical decisions had to be taken regarding which plasters should be preserved, the original was destroyed.

    Ariel Zúñiga.


    The Weinstein Gallery, San Francisco.
    Acquired from the above by the present owner.


    Francisco Zúñiga: Catálogo Razonado Volúmen I, Escultura 1923-1993, Albedrío & Fundación Laborde, Mexico City, 1999, p. 539, no. 934 (illustrated).
    Francisco Zúñiga: Homenaje Nacional, Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Mexico, 1994, p. 154 (another cast illustrated).


    Paris, Tuileries, outdoor exhibition, 1986.
    Mexico, Francisco Zúñiga: Homenaje Nacional, Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, 1994.