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Painting goes from trash to $1 million treasure
NEW YORK |
NEW YORK (Reuters) - An oil painting by Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo that was plucked from a sidewalk trash heap several years ago sold for more than $1 million on Tuesday at Sotheby's auction of Latin American art.
The auction house had estimated that "Tres Personajes" ("Three Personages"), which was stolen from a Houston warehouse after being bought at auction in 1977, would sell for between $750,000 and $1 million, but the work ended up selling for $1,049,000 including commission.
The oil-and-sand canvas was rescued from oblivion when a New York woman, Elizabeth Gibson, spotted it in a pile of trash at a curbside on Manhattan's Upper West Side and decided to bring it home.
Gibson walked by the vibrant, 38-inch by 51-inch (97 by 130 cm) work, then "immediately knew I had to go back. I knew I had to take it," she said weeks before the auction.
"It was a huge, powerful and beautiful painting and I said to myself, 'It is wrong to be in the garbage,'" Gibson added. She was told that shortly after her find, a trash collecting truck had come by and hauled away the refuse.
Gibson eventually researched the work and learned of its worth and history through an Internet site.
Sotheby's did not identify the seller, but Gibson was to receive a $15,000 reward for returning "Tres Personajes" to its rightful owners, plus an undisclosed percentage of the auction price.
Apart from the Tamayo, the auction was a relatively staid affair, with 20 of 70 lots on offer going unsold. In all it took in $15.235 million, coming in under the pre-sale estimate of $16.5 million to $21.6 million.
The top lot was Fernando Botero's "Le Dejeuner sur L'Herbe," which fetched $1,329,000, missing its low estimate, which was $1.4 million.
Roberto Matta's "Et At It," which was expected to sell for $2.5 million to $3.5 million, failed to sell. Another Tamayo, "Bodegon con Mujer," also failed to sell.
By contrast Christie's auction on Tuesday totalled $21.7 million, the second best ever for auctioned Latin American art and just under the $22 million record Christie's set in May.
(editing by Patricia Zengerle)
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