Botero, Torres-Garcia paintings lead Latin American art sales in NY

NEW YORK Thu May 29, 2014 10:46am EDT

The painting ''Man Going to Work'' by artist Fernando Botero is seen during a press preview at Christie's auction house in New York May 27, 2014. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

The painting ''Man Going to Work'' by artist Fernando Botero is seen during a press preview at Christie's auction house in New York May 27, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - A family portrait by Colombian artist Fernando Botero and works by Uruguayan artist Joaquin Torres-Garcia and Brazilian sculptress Lygia Clark led Latin American art auctions in New York.

Christie's sold a total of $17.6 million and Sotheby's $15.1 million in the sales Wednesday, which also set an auction record for Ernesto Icaza, a turn-of-the-century Mexican painter.

"The auction reflected the strength of the current market for Latin American art," said Virgilio Garza, Christie's head of Latin American art. "There were a lot of new buyers, some of them American and South American."

Christie's top lot was Torres-Garcia’s 1931 "Composition TSF" painting, which sold for $1.6 million.

Also known as "Constructivo Universal," its rectangular grids encase symbols of global links, such as wireless telecommunications, sea-borne travel and a hot air balloon.

"Composition TSF suggests a personal and cosmic universe through its arrangements of signs set in a shallow relief within a box-like structure shaded in black, white, grey and ochre," said Marysol Nieves, a Christie’s Latin American specialist.

At Sotheby's, Torres-Garcia's "Grafismo Infinito," from 1937, went for just over $1 million.

In it, he attempts to create a universal pictograph language, including references to Inca stonework and principles in classical Western architecture, said Axel Stein, Sotheby's Latin American art chief.

    At Christie's, Botero's 1969 "Man Going to Work” sold for $1.4 million. It depicts a man leaving his house under the gaze of his much larger baby and wife. The garden is framed by snow-capped mountains and a smoking volcano.

"It is the quotidian made strange,” Garza said. “It has the sense of the uncanny such as in a (painting by Belgian surrealist Rene) Magritte."

At Sotheby's, Clark's 1960 "Bicho-Em-Si-Mid (No. IV) fetched $1.2 million.

The sculpture, which consists of hinged plates, is designed to be manipulated by viewers to create a variety of configurations to recall the limitless forms of a "bicho," a Portuguese word for animal.

Clark, who died in 1988, has drawn growing foreign interest. New York's Museum of Modern Art earlier this month opened a retrospective of her work.

A 12-painting set, which sold for $905,000, depicting charros, or skilled Mexican horsemen and rodeo riders, set an auction record for Icaza.

Mexican Rufino Tamayo's 1939 "Mujer con Sandia" also set an auction record for a work on paper of the artist, going for $473,000.

(Editing by Patricia Reaney and Bernadette Baum)

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