At Sotheby’s: Sandú Darié, Untitled (Estructura transformable), c. 1950
Courtesy Sotheby’s

Next week brings the spring Latin American sales to New York City, and with them, a strong slate of contemporary and 20th-century Cuban works.

As a major Wifredo Lam retrospective moves from Paris to Madrid and then to London later this year, next week’s sales will see a greater number of his works coming to market, carrying estimates ranging from a low of $15,000 to a high of $800,000.

Auction regular Julio Larraz has works in all three sales. Tomás Sánchez has relatively few works on offer—one at Sotheby’s and two at Christie’s—with the Sotheby’s lot carrying a high estimate of $400,000.

With a major survey show opening at the Whitney Museum in September, Carmen Herrera’s Black and Green, 1975, will be worth watching at Phillips. Last November, her 1965 canvas Basque shot past its $180,000 high estimate to reach $437,000 (including buyer’s premium).

Herrera also has a small, early painting on offer at Christie’s, and that may be another lot to keep an eye on.

Perhaps sparked in part by last year’s Concrete Cuba at David Zwirner and The Illusive Eye, which just closed at El Museo del Barrio, this season’s offerings have seen an uptick in lots by mid-century abstract and concrete artists, including Loló Soldevilla, Sandú Darié, Salvador Corratgé, and José Ángel Rosabal. Scattered through all three sales, their works carry, for the most part, modest estimates.

Last November, many works with modest ranges surpassed their high estimates, and similar outcomes could occur with this season’s sales. Manuel Mendive saw a work of his soar past its modest estimate to hit six figures in the November sale.

The same for Roberto Fabelo, who saw one of his works in the November sale zoom past a high estimate of $60,000 to reach $112,500 (including premium). With an estimate of $60,000-$80,000, one of his works at Christie’s could conceivably go higher.

Here are our thoughts on artists and works that bear watching, and may be poised for breakthroughs at next week’s sales.

Carmen Herrera, Black and Green, 1975
Courtesy Phillips


Monday, May 23  6 p.m.

At 135 lots, the Phillips sale is the smallest, with the highest proportion of Cuban lots. Herrera is the headliner here, with Black and Green, 1975, estimated at $250,000-350,000—a considerable jump from the $120,000-$180,000 estimate for Basque, last November’s 1965 canvas.

Mario Carreño, Cabeza (Face of a Woman), 1937
Courtesy Phillips

Among 20th-century artists, notable lots include Mario Carreño’s Cabeza (Face of a Woman), a 1937 duco on wood estimated at $200,000-300,000, and Pescados grises, c. 1931, a still life by Amelia Peláez carrying an estimate of $180,000-$250,000.

Amelia Peláez, Pescados grises, c. 1931
Courtesy Phillips

Among contemporary artists, Larraz, Alexandre Arrechea, and Manuel Mendive have well-estimated lots on offer, and several other artists are represented in the $20,000 and under range.

Lots we’re watching include Mendive’s Se alimenta mi cabeza, me alimento yo, 2001, estimated at $30,000-$50,000; Arrechea’s large-scale 2008 watercolor Mississippi Bucket (New Orleans), estimated at $20,000-$30,000; and Los Carpinteros’ Sala de Lectura (Prototipo), a small 2009 sculpture made of compressed wood, number three in an edition of five, estimated at $12,000-$18,000.

Manuel Mendive, Se alimenta mi cabeza, me alimento yo, 2001
Courtesy Phillips


Tuesday, May 24 

Session 1, 11 a.m.  Lots 1–64

Session 2, 2 p.m.  Lots 80–189

A related work by Los Carpinteros leads off the 11 a.m. sale at Sotheby’s: Sala de Lectura Origami, 2015, a large-scale watercolor carrying an estimate of $40,000-$60,000.

Los Carpinteros, Sala de Lectura Origami, 2015
Courtesy Phillips

Roberto Fabelo’s Pájaro lindo, 2009, an oil on fiber relief, also carries a $40,000-$60,000 estimate. Another work worth watching: Domos de fuerza, a large-scale watercolor by The-Merger, executed in 2014 and estimated at $20,000-$30,000.

Roberto Fabelo, Pájaro lindo, 2009
Courtesy Sotheby’s

Last November saw a 2012 sculpture by The-Merger zoom past its high estimate of $40,000 to reach $125,000 (including premium).

The top estimate for a contemporary Cuban work at the sale goes to A La Orilla, a 1996 canvas by Tomás Sánchez, estimated at $300,000-$400,000—the highest estimate among his three works offered this season.

Mujer con pescado, a colorful oil painting by Mariano Rodríguez, is estimated at $200,000-$300,000. The same estimate applies to an untitled 1965 canvas by Wifredo Lam.

Mariano Rodríguez, Mujer con pescado
Courtesy Sotheby’s

Also notable in the Sotheby’s sale: Untitled (Estructura Transformable), a painted wood assemblage executed c. 1950 by Sandú Darié. At $70,000-$90,000, it carries the highest estimate of the artist’s lots next week.


Wednesday, May 25  7 p.m.  Lots 1-64  

Thursday, May 26  2 p.m.  Lots 70-244

The largest of the three sales, Christie’s is also offering the biggest trove of works by Wifredo Lam—11 lots in all, including the one carrying the highest estimate next week: Le Sabbat (Immagine No. 5), a1964 canvas estimated at $600,000-$800,000.

José Ángel Rosabal, Getting Up
Courtesy Christie’s

Four other Lam works at Christie’s bear six-figure estimates, but the remaining six are more modestly positioned, with five-figure estimates ranging from $15,000 to a high of $90,000.

Among contemporary Cuban works are several by Julio Larraz, which are offered in both the evening and day sales—including Bay of Rainbows, a 1990 oil on canvas estimated at $100,000-$150,000, the high estimate among the Larraz works on offer next week.

The week’s second work by Carmen Herrera is also in the Christie’s catalogue: Untitled, 1947, a small canvas measuring less than a foot in either dimension.

The majority of the lots by contemporary Cuban artists are scheduled for the Thursday afternoon sale. Among them are works by José Ángel Rosabal, Salvador Corratgé, and Ana Mendieta. But the lots to watch may be the three by Manuel Mendive, and the three by Roberto Fabelo—particularly his 2015 canvas Arte Culinario IV. With a high estimate of $80,000, it could signal a new breakthrough in the artist’s results at auction.

Roberto Fabelo, Arte culinario IV, 2015
Courtesy Fabelo Studio