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Bali, Andes paintings soar in Latam art auction

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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) – A sensuous scene in Bali and Andean-inspired landscapes scored artist records at Christie's Latin American sale but demand was weak for works by Fernando Botero while prices soared for lesser-known artists.

Painted in Bali, Mexican Miguel Covarrubias' 1932 "Offering of Fruits for the Temple" fetched $1.02 million in Thursday evening's $16.64 million sale.

He was one of nine artists setting new records, some going for several times previous highs.

"We are very excited at some of the prices achieved by very important Latin American artists who haven't had the market recognition at that level," said Virgilio Garza, Christie's Latin American art chief.

Created during Covarrubias' honeymoon in Bali, the painting shows topless young women in crimson and lime green skirts. Atop their heads are triangular baskets of green fruit.

"This particular work really appeals to a very national audience and Covarrubias is known for those pictures there," said Garza, adding bids came from Indonesia.

"There is whimsy to it, a sense of humor, a joy of life."

During his life, Covarrubias won fame for caricatures of celebrities and politicians in 1930s Vanity Fair, which still sells pricey reproductions of his Greta Garbo cover.

Cuban-born Julio Larraz's 1996 painting "Bingham at Noon" set a record for the artist at auction, going for $326,500. It evokes a movie-like scene set in a desert, with a solitary figure in a dark gray suit and hat surveying a stark landscape, standing aside a light brown tent.

Record prices for South American works stemmed from the brisk bidding by Chilean, Argentine and Brazilian buyers.

Ecuadorean Oswaldo Guayasamin's 1960s oil on wood "Quito en Rojo" went for $314,500. Dominated by a pair of volcanoes, the sweeping view of Ecuador's capital is a palette of lava red, flame orange, mahogany, tea green and saffron yellow.

Peruvian Fernando de Szyszlo's "Paclla Pampa (Campo Desolado)," an abstract landscape featuring red and black, sold for $182,500.

Mexico's Rufino Tamayo, whose artist auction record for a mural tops $7 million, set a sculpture record for "Figura sideral" at $494,500.

Records included an untitled painting by Mexican Ricardo Martinez which sold for $146,500. Uruguayan Julio Alpuy's oil on canvas "Paisaje constructivista de Montevideo" fetched$110,500.

Several Botero pieces failed to sell, including "Colombian Landscape," valued by Christie's at up to $1.2 million. Bids fell short of the $800,000 low estimate.

In contrast, Sotheby's sold nearly $7.5 million of Botero's work Wednesday evening, drawing bids worldwide.

"This spring, there are a lot of Boteros out there." he said. "Even though the market for Boteros is super healthy, it can only absorb so much."

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