| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Nov 20 A rare, life-size, anonymous
portrait of Aztec emperor Moctezuma II and a ground-breaking
surrealist painting by Chilean artist Roberto Matta were among
the top-selling works at a Latin American art auction at
The Monday evening sale also set records, at prices above $1
million each, for Mexican landscape artist Gerardo Murillo,
Chilean Claudio Bravo and pioneering Venezuelan kinetic sculptor
Jesus Rafael Soto.
"This evening sale demonstrates the demand for Latin
American art across all periods and mediums," said Axel Stein,
director of Latin American art at Sotheby's.
The $19.3 million in art sold included works drawn from four
"Portrait of Moctezuma II," which was painted in the late
17th century sold for $1.65 million, a record for Latin American
colonial art, Sotheby's said. The only other colonial work of
the same scale and subject is in a museum in Italy, Stein said.
Moctezuma II was an Aztec chieftain killed by Spanish
conquistadors. The portrait shows him as melancholy, his head
downcast. But Sotheby's said X-ray images reveal it originally
depicted him with his head erect, with a more assured
expression, that was later modified.
Matta's 1943 "Nada" (Nothingness) fetched $1.82 million. The
work includes plant-like forms that hurl outward with their
stems ringed by sloping rays. A butterfly-like shape ejects
"Matta opened a whole new world. He was as interested in
what was going on inside matter as he was in cosmic realities,"
said Stein. "No surrealist had ever gone there because
surrealism had been about how the mind works and what happens in
Another highlight of the sale was a sweeping 1942
landscape, "Manana Luminosa" (Luminous Morning), by Murillo. It
sold for $1.65 million, setting a record for the artist better
known as Dr. Atl.
At 10-feet (3-meters) wide, "Manana Luminosa" is one of his
largest landscapes. It shows a semi-arid plateau, framed by
craggy rocks up close and snowcapped volcanoes in the distance.
"Angelis," by Claudio Bravo, who died last year, fetched a
record for the artist's work at $1.51 million. The 1999 painting
resembles high-resolution photographs and is a study of drapes
tied in a loose knot. Folds, pleats and wrinkles are depicted in
Venezuelan Jesus Rafael Soto's 1960 sculpture "La Scie a
Metaux (The Hacksaw)," also sold for more than $1 million. Made
of paint, plaster and metal on hardboard, it is an early example
of kinetic art, in which even a slight change in viewing
position creates a perception of vibration.
The $638,500 sale of 1971 "Recticularea Cuadrada" (Squared
Rectangular Area) set an auction record for Venezuelan abstract
sculptor Gertrude Goldschmidt, known as Gego. The work is a bent
grid made of stainless steel and iron.