6 – 20 OCTOBERSmall is Beautiful: The Art of SculptureBid Now
At home and abroad, Latin American artists of the 20th and 21st centuries have made an indelible contribution to the evolution of contemporary sculpture. Venezuelan-born Jesús Rafael Soto was a global trailblazer for Kinetic and immersive art; Uruguayan artist Pablo Atchugarry is perhaps the world’s best-known sculptor of marble — a medium mastered only by history’s greatest sculptors, from Michelangelo to Henry Moore.
Many of Modern and Contemporary art’s most recognized Latin American sculptors are best known for their large-scale works but also work brilliantly on a smaller scale, a format that can require particular delicacy and deftness. Here, Latin American Art
specialist Kristen France looks at four standout examples from Christie’s Small is Beautiful sale, an online auction of small-scale sculptures from across time and continents.
Pablo Atchugarry, Universal Love
Pablo Aatchugarry (B. 1954); Universal Love; signed 'ATCHUGARRY' (near the base); white Carrara marble with granite base; 14 in. (35.6 cm.) high; Conceived in 2015, this work is unique. Estimate $35,000–45,000. © 2015 Pablo Atchugarry
Carved out of a single piece of heavy marble, the beauty and power of Uruguayan artist Pablo Atchugarry’s sculptures lie in the quiet contemplation of their forms. Arguably the best-known artist working in marble today, Atchugarry’s sculptures occupy a space that is at once contemporary and timeless, almost primordial.
Through his thoughtful and precise execution of line and form, the artist engages light and shadow in an intricate dance with the stone and achieves a sense of weightlessness that transcends the material. Whether a monumental outdoor sculpture in a public plaza, or a small object for personal reflection like the present work, Universal Love, Atchugarry’s meticulously-executed sculptures transmit a peaceful, harmonious presence upon whatever environment they occupy.
Mario Carreño, Ajedrez
Mario Carreño (1913–1999), Ajedrez; signed and numbered 'Carreño, 15/18' and inscribed with the foundry mark "FUNDICION R. BUCHHASS' (near the base); bronze, 25 1/4 1/4 in. (63.5 cm.) high; Conceived in 1974 and executed in 2002 in an edition of 18. Estimate $40,000–60,000. © 2015 Estate of Mario Carreño / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Along with his Cuban compatriot, Wifredo Lam, Mario Carreño is one of the best-known Latin American artists of the 20th century. Unlike Lam, who worked across a wide range of media, Carreño’s work is mostly limited to paintings and works on paper. Nonetheless, his oeuvre is vastly diverse, displaying a wide range of stylistic influences, from Cubism and Classicism to Surrealism and Geometric Abstraction.
A member of the Cuban Vanguard, Carreño traveled to Mexico, Spain, France, Italy, and Chile, absorbing a wide array of stylistic influences, eventually landing in New York during the 1940s, where he took up residency and taught at the New School for Social Research. Ajedrez, Spanish for ‘chess,’ is one of very few sculptures the artist ever made. Originally executed in wood and later in bronze, this sculpture incorporates stylized forms of the more important pieces in the game — the king, queen and bishop.
Wifredo Lam, Yemaya
Wifredo Lam (1902-1982), Yemaya; signed and numbered 'LAM 10/30' (on the lower edge); gilt bronze pendant, 2 x 1 1/3 in. (5 x 3.4 cm.); Executed in a numbered edition of 30 by Artcurial, Paris. Estimate $2,000-3,000.
A truly international artist, Cuban-born artist Wilfredo Lam left his native country at a young age to study in Spain, and later Paris, where he befriended Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Joan Miró, Fernand Léger, and many other artists. The outbreak of World War II sent Lam back to the Caribbean, where he lived in Cuba for a decade before splitting his time between Paris, New York and, later, Italy. Much like Picasso, the Cuban artist was a great innovator who worked in a variety of media, from painting and sculpture to jewellery and ceramics.
This striking gilt bronze pendant was modeled after a bronze sculpture that Lam unveiled in Paris for the 1979 Artcurial exhibition Wifredo Lam, Oeuvres Historiques, Oeuvres Récentes: Peintures, Pastels, Sculptures, Bas-reliefs. The title of this pendant, Yemaya, refers to the name of the Santería goddess, or orisha, who is said to be the mother of all living things. References to Santería, a Caribbean syncretic religion, are a defining characteristic of Lam’s work.
Jesús Rafael Soto, Homenaje al Humano
Jesús Rafael Soto (1923-2005), Homenaje al humano; signed and numbered 'Soto, 113/175' (on the reverse); painted wood on metal relief, 19¾ x 26 x 4¾ in. (50.1 x 66 x 12 cm.); Conceived in 1975 and executed by Transworld Art, New York in an edition of 175. Estimate $10,000-15,000.
A key figure in Kinetic art, Jesús Rafael Soto’s work explores the concept of movement and space, transforming the static—metal rods, painted lines, wood — into dynamic elements that penetrate the viewer’s space, engaging them in the experience of art. A Venezuelan living and working in Paris for most of his life, Soto was a global figure whose work drew upon his Latin American heritage while actively engaging and informing postwar movements in Europe.
Through his Penetrables series, Soto created whole architectural environments that the viewer is invited to move through, representing the height of his efforts to create an experience through art. Though much smaller in scale, his mid-1970s sculpture Homenaje al Humano (Spanish for “Tribute to the Human”), was created around the same time as some of his earliest Penetrables, a time of intense political turmoil in his home country; with its neatly ordered columns and crisp intersecting planes, Homenaje al Humano seems to offer a similarly idealized conception of humanity’s relationship with space and itself.
These four pieces are featured among a grouping of small-scale Latin American sculptures in Small is Beautiful: The Art of Sculpture online auction, which is open for bidding from 6-20 October.