Colombia's Botero, Mexico's Tamayo lead NY Latam art sales

NEW YORK - A Fernando Botero reworking of Paul Cezanne's "The Card Players" and a Rufino Tamayo portrait of women are expected to be the top-selling works in Latin American art auctions next week in New York.

Sotheby's predicts sales of up to US$29.6 million (S$37 million) for its two-day sales on Nov. 20-21, and Christie's says its total for auctions on Nov. 19-20 could reach US$22.2 million .

The Latin American art auctions follow record-breaking sales of post-war and contemporary art this week. Francis Bacon's"Three Studies of Lucian Freud" fetched $142.4 million, making it the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction.

Records were also shattered for works by Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons, whose "Balloon Dog (Orange)" sculpture sold for US$58.4 million, the highest auction price for a living artist. "I think we have a beautiful sale and it is very varied,"said Axel Stein, Sotheby's Latin American art chief. "It focuses fundamentally on surrealism, Botero, (Chilean painter Roberto) Matta, Venezuela and Brazil."

Botero's 1991 "Card Players," which is expected to fetch as much as US$2 million, recasts Cezanne's male quartet with a nude woman ogled by two males. All of the figures are glimpsed by a nearly hidden Catholic clergyman. "You are transported to Medellin's bars and small brothels that abound in the city," said Stein, referring to the Colombian artist's hometown.

Another Botero work, the 1966 "Nuestra Senora of New York"(Our Lady of New York), has a pre-sale estimate of up to US$1 million for Sotheby's sales.

Mexican Tamayo's 1946 "Women Reaching for Moon" leads Christie's auctions with a top estimate of US$1.8 million. "They almost give us a feeling of weightlessness," Virgilio Garza, Christie's Latin American art chief, said about the women depicted in the work.

Another Tamayo painting, the 1978 "Dos Mujeres en Rojos"(Two Women in Reds), with its burgundy, cherry, pink and orange colors, has an US$800,000 high estimate.

Argentine artist Antonio Berni's large 1956 painting "Los Emigrantes" (The Emigrants), showing 16 impoverished passengers huddled on deck in a ship's bow, could bring in up to US$1.2 million, according to Sotheby's.

Another of its top lots is Matta's 1939 "Morphologie Psychologique (Fleureur),' or Psychological Morphology (Fleureur), valued at up to US$1 million.

At Phillips, also an art auctioneer in New York, Brazilian Lygia Clark's 1960 aluminium sculpture "Bicho Invertebrado"(Invertebrate Animal) is the lead work with a US$1.8 million high estimate for a Nov. 21 auction.