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Collectors crossing over into Latin American art fuels record prices at auction

Historical works were popular

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New York

In a major shift in the market, collectors of mainstream art are moving into Latin American art, judging by Christie’s and Sotheby’s sales in New York in November.

Christie’s sale of Latin American art (21-22 November) brought in a record $21.8m. The strongest sales were in 20th-century painting: Alfredo Ramos Martínez, whose Mujeres Con Flores, around 1938, sold for $1.8m, well above its upper estimate of $450,000 (below).

Colombian artist Fernando Botero continues to sell well with two paintings going for over $1m. Self-Portrait in Costume of Velázquez, 1986, sold to an American collector for $1.1m, (upper estimate $500,000). The sale also produced records for Cuban sculptor Augustín Cárdenas (1927-2001), contemporary Cuban painter Tomas Sánchez and Mexican surrealist Alfredo Castañeda.

Of increasing interest to buyers are works dating from the 19th century, a previously overlooked area. Arturo Michelena’s, Firma del Acta de la Independencia, a historical painting recognising Venezuelan independence from Spain, (undated), sold for $688,000.

Over at Sotheby’s, sales on 20 and 21 November were also strong, realising a total of $17.3m over two days. The top lot, Fernando Botero’s Jugadoras de Cartas II, 1989, sold to an American collector for $1.7m. According to Sotheby’s expert Carmen Melián: “Buying was very international, with new bidders entering the market.”

Contemporary abstract art continues to increase in both value and interest for collectors. Mexican Gunther Gerzo’s painting Paisaje, 1957, brought in $620,000, far exceeding its upper estimate of $300,000.

A surprising result was the weak performance of colonial religious art from Mexico and the Andean region. This is an area where collectors could have found great bargains, but it seems to have fallen out of favour: out of the first nine lots at Sotheby’s, seven failed to find buyers.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as ‘Crossover collectors fuelled record prices'

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