Roberto Fabelo, Ovo, 2014
Courtesy Christie’s

In an interesting turnaround this auction season, Wifredo Lam and his 20th-century contemporaries weren’t the focus for Cuban art. Instead, contemporary Cuban art took the spotlight, turning in solid results and setting impressive new records.

The season began with a notable sale for Carmen Herrera in the Phillips international contemporary sale. Her 1956 canvas, Untitled (Orange and Black), estimated at $700,000–$1,000,000, hit $1,179,000, a new record for the artist at auction. (All prices include buyer’s premium.)

Carmen Herrera, Untitled (Orange and Black), 1956
Courtesy Phillips

In this week’s Latin American sales, Roberto Fabelo leaped into a new price range with the Tuesday evening sale of Ovo, a diptych painted in 2014, at Christie’s. Had it simply met its high estimate of $180,000, the sale would have set a new record for the artist, but it zoomed  to $250,000.

Earlier that day at Phillips, Alexandre Arrechea’s Sherry Netherlands sculpture, 2012–13, more than doubled its high bid of $30,000 to fetch $62,500. At Sotheby’s contemporary day saleSerie Structure, 2017, a stainless steel work by The-Merger, rocketed past its high estimate of $60,000 to reach $187,500.

Alexandre Arrechea, Sherry Netherlands, 2012–13, from the series NOLIMITS
Courtesy Artsy

Tomás Sánchez also realized strong results with his 2017 canvas, A veces la gracia parece una cascada, the lead-off lot in Christie’s Latin American evening sale. Carrying a high estimate of $80,000, it reached $143,750. A second Sánchez lot in the Christie’s sale, El otro en el canal interior, 2017, also surpassed its $80,000 high estimate—although less dramatically—at $93,750.

Continuing on Wednesday morning, Christie’s Latin American sale saw El rostro del agua, a 2010 work by Manuel Mendive, hit $75,000, well above its high estimate of $40,000.

Manuel Mendive, El rostro del agua, 2010
Photo: Cuban Art News

Among 20th-century artists in the Christie’s sale, the 1941 canvas Mujer con gallo by Mariano Rodríguez performed above its high estimate, reaching $372,500. At Phillips, Mario Carreño’s 1952 oil-and-stucco Geométrico sold for $137,500, above its $120,000 high estimate.

Mario Carreño, Geométrico, 1952
Courtesy Phillips

Other lots did not fare as well. El Jardín, a 1943 work by Amelia Peláez estimated at $400,000–$600,000 in Sotheby’s Latin American sale, sold at $375,000. And after the record-breaking sale at Phillips, Carmen Herrera’s 1952 black-and-white canvas Diagonal, estimated at $500,000–$700,000, failed to sell.

Overall, said Cuban Art News publisher and art collector Howard Farber, the Latin American sales were uneven at best. “The market took a pause,” was his assessment. “But contemporary Cuban art is slowly gaining strength, and in some cases—like the Roberto Fabelo—it’s making some real leaps forward.”