Uruguay's Torres-Garcia tops Sotheby's NY Latam art sale

NEW YORK Wed May 29, 2013 12:43pm EDT

1 of 5. Fernando Botero's 'Dancers' is photographed by a passer-by as it sits in front of Christie's Auction House in New York, May 27, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Carlo Allegri

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Pioneering South American abstract artists, led by Uruguay's Joaquin Torres-Garcia, Brazilian Sergio Camargo and Venezuelan Carlos Cruz-Diez, were the top sellers at Sotheby's Latin American art auction.

Torres Garcia's 1931 "Composition Constructive," fetched $1.4 million in the Tuesday evening sale, which totaled $14.7 million with records set for works by Venezuelan artists.

"Latin American art abstraction was keenly sought after," said Axel Stein, Sotheby's Latin American art chief.

An unidentified South American buyer purchased "Composition Constructive," which uses a grid to encase kitchen utensils, vases and pitchers in squares and rectangles, and adds triangles to portray a standing man and double-masted sailing ship.

Camargo's 1969 "Untitled (Relief No. 263)," a labyrinth of whitewashed cylinders, tips slanting in myriad directions amid dark recesses, sold for $845,000, and Venezuelan Carlos Cruz-Diez's 1975 "Physichromie UBS Rouge" sculpture fetched $845,000, setting a world auction record for the artist.

Along with other Venezuelans, Cruz-Diez helped to pioneer kinetic art. Typically the genre's abstract sculptures play with optical illusion, seeming to vibrate as viewers walk past.

The 18-foot (5.6-meter) tall "Physichromie UBS Rouge" consists of acrylic paint and Plexiglas coated elements on aluminum. The work displays almost the entire color spectrum with red remaining dominant throughout, according to Sotheby's.

Fellow Venezuelan kinetic artist Jesus Rafael Soto's 1965 "Grand Relation Bleu et Noir" sold for $485,000, exceeding its top pre-sale estimate of $300,000.

Contemporary Venezuelan abstract artist Arturo Herrera set an auction record for his work with the $389,980 sale of an untitled 2003 printed-paper cutout, which features snippets of classified ads and comic strips.

Colombian artist Fernando Botero's 1986 oil on canvas "Arcangel San Miguel" (Archangel St. Michael), sold for $815,000, the fourth-highest price achieved at the auction.

"Arcangel San Miguel closely follows the iconography of the angel in Andean tradition, showing the archangel in a large straw hat sporting the royal feature plumes of Inca nobility," Sotheby's said.

(Reporting by Walker Simon; Editing by Patricia Reaney and Leslie Gevirtz)

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