October 18, 2011 / 8:35 PM / 8 years ago

Tamayo watermelon painting to lead Latam art sale

A painting of watermelon wedges by Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo is seen in a handout photo. REUTERS/Sotheby's/Handout

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A painting of watermelon wedges by Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo, which is valued at up to $2 million, is expected to lead Sotheby’s Latin American art sale next month, the auction house said on Tuesday.

Painted in 1950, “Watermelon Slices” shows the pitted fruit, set on a stand against a background of swirling shades of red and pumpkin.

Sotheby’s said the work held a personal significance for the artist because as a young man he helped his aunt sell the fruit at a Mexico City market stand.

“‘Watermelon Slices’ fuses both the international modernist aesthetics of Cubism with a local subject matter and symbolism,” Sotheby’s said in a statement. “The simple two-dimensionality, sparseness and geometric forms are an essential part of Tamayo’s art from the period.”

Tamayo, who died in 1991, is widely considered by art experts as one of the four towering figures of Mexican 20th century art, along with Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco and David Siqueiros.

Never totally abstract, his work often placed stylized representations of objects and people, against a background of colors reminiscent of the landscape and flora of Mexico.

“Watermelon Slices” is being sold by The Museum of Modern Art in New York to raise money for its acquisition fund. It will be auctioned on November 16 in Sotheby’s Latin American art fall sale.

The auction will include seven other Tamayo works, tracing his artistic development from his surrealist roots in “Frutero y Dominio,” from 1928 to “Tres Figuras,” which was painted in 1966 and has a high estimate of $950,000.

Tamayo’s record sale at auction was for his 1945 painting “Trovador” which sold for $7.2 million in May 2008 at Christie’s in New York.

Reporting by Walker Simon; editing by Patricia Reaney

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