New York

NEW YORK On May 27 and 28, Christie’s Latin American Art sale will offer an exceptional selection of over 260 lots by some of the region’s most sought after modern and contemporary artists. The two-day sale includes property from several prestigious private and public collections as well a superb offering of paintings and sculpture by such key Latin American artists as Fernando Botero, Claudio Bravo, Joaquín Torres-García, Matta, Hélio Oiticica, Diego Rivera, Rufino Tamayo, Remedios Varo, and more. The sale is expected to achieve in excess of $22 million.

Headlining the sale is an outstanding Surrealist work by Remedios Varo, Vampiros vegetarianos (illustrated left; estimate: $1,500,000 – 2,000,000; Vegetarian vampires). Never before offered at auction, Vampiros vegetarianos was executed at the height of the artist’s career in 1962, and featured prominently in her final exhibition at the groundbreaking Galería Juan Martín in Mexico City. A trailblazer and outlier within the context of modern art, the Spanish born, Mexican artist is best known for her dream-like paintings brimming with myriad sources, ranging from the supernatural to spirituality and scientific.


Christie’s is proud to offer works from the Collection of Roy and Mary Cullen, an extraordinary collection of works by key figures in the history of Latin American modern art. Highly regarded in the Houston community for their business, philanthropic, and cultural contributions to the state of Texas and to their beloved city of Houston, the Cullen family has built an indelible legacy that spans over one-hundred and fifty years of civic and cultural engagement in their community.


At a time when Mexican Modernism had become synonymous with leftist politics, Rufino Tamayo blazed his own path dedicated to arte puro, his distinct style of formalist exploration. Line, color and form, Tamayo asserted, inspired him above all else. In Mujer con sandía (illustrated page one), an angular woman defined by a pulsating patchwork of strident pink brushstrokes faces forward, offering us a slice of the artist's signature leitmotif, the vibrant red watermelon. The female figure and the watermelon, two constants in Tamayo's oeuvre, appearing in his early Cubist-inspired work of the 1920s and continuing through to his increasingly abstract paintings of the late twentieth-century, serve here as a means for exploring the artist's true subject: color. A veritable palimpsest of pigments, Mujer con sandía flaunts Tamayo's consummate skill as a colorist and affirms his commitment to arte puro.

Tamayo’s fascination with space travel reflected his remarkable interest in man’s place within the vast universe. In the 1940s with a world war as backdrop, Tamayo’s angst found expression in various works such as Animales (1941) among others that reveal his connection to the collective anger and despair experienced globally at the time. In The Astronauts (illustrated left: estimate: $500,000 – 700,000), Tamayo’s description of outer space is startlingly joyous. His blues are brilliant and jewel tone, and his spaceships are elegant vehicles that spring symmetrically from the center of the composition mimicking toy airplanes, rather than the rockets that had gone up into the stratosphere since the race for space began in the late 1950s. His spacecraft’s burst onto an azure weightless space in exploration of the unknown. His Earth, by contrast, is a dark mound from which mankind now ventures bravely into worlds beyond. By the time this work was painted in 1971, men had already landed on the Moon two years earlier but the giddiness of journeys to the stars and galaxies, only imagined in popular science fiction novels before, further fueled mankind’s enthrallment with space exploration. It was possible to reach the stars, after all.

Furthermore, Diego Rivera’s Lavanderas con zopilotes (illustrated page one) is a work that pays homage to the dignity of work and especially the back-breaking labor of underclass women whose faces, as in this painting, are unseen. Rivera depicts two women with their backs bent, toiling by a stream or river. The figures are grounded, nearly rooted to the riverbank where they wash clothes. The work is in fact part of a long tradition in art that began in the nineteenth century with artists such as Jean-François Millet, Gustave Courbet and Camille Pissarro, who painted the working classes with great nobility.


 A cornerstone of Christie’s Latin American auctions are the excellent examples of sculpture, paintings, and drawings from Colombian master, Fernando Botero. This spring, Christie’s will offer twelve works from the artist, led by the sculpture, Dancing Couple (illustrated page one). Additionally, Three Musicians (illustrated left; estimate $400,000 – 600,000) is a prime example of Botero’s embrace of drawing’s full potential. A life-size sanguine drawing on canvas, the work is complete in itself, not intended as the basis for a later painting. The blood-red chalk, a favorite medium of the artist, applied freehand, directly to the support, provides little room for error. Despite this challenge, Botero manages a skillful structuring of volumes and meticulous rendering of detail, demonstrating his ability as a consummate draftsman.


About Christie’s

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*Please note when quoting estimates above that other fees will apply in addition to the hammer price - see Section D of the Conditions of Sale at the back of the sale catalogue.

*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium. Sales totals are hammer price plus buyer’s premium and are reported net of applicable fees.