At Sotheby’s: Wifredo Lam, Le Miel Noir, 1945
Courtesy Sotheby’s

This week, the autumn Latin American sales come to Phillips, Sotheby’s, and Christie’s, bringing a solid mix of contemporary Cuban art, modern and vanguardia, works, and a full dozen lots by Wifredo Lam.

The major retrospective now at the Centre Pompidou may have heightened the auction interest in Lam, whose lots carry estimates from the low five figures to $700,000.

Auction regulars Tomás Sánchez and Julio Larraz are well represented at Sotheby’s and Christie’s, while the Phillips catalogue carries a high proportion of contemporary Cuban works.

Here’s our take on this season’s auction-house trends, what to watch for, and best bets for new collectors.


Wednesday, November 18

6 p.m.

At 25 lots of 129, Phillips has the highest percentage of Cuban works in its sale. There’s a great selection by established artists like Los Carpinteros, Manuel Mendive, and Kcho, among others. Estimates that generally run in the low to mid-five figures make this sale a good starting point for collectors new to Cuban art.

Among the works we’re keeping an eye on are Lot 3, the 2006 watercolor Piso de Madera (Cocina) by Los Carpinteros, and Lot 4, the 2002 wall sculpture Light Bridge (From the Series New Architectures)by Carlos Garaicoa.

Los Carpinteros, Piso de Madera (Cocina), 2006
Courtesy Phillips

Phillips has one Wifredo Lam on offer: Lot 30, an untitled 1960 oil on canvas, estimated at $400,000–$600,000.

They also have the only Carmen Herrera in this week’s sales: Lot 10, Basque, a 1965 acrylic on canvas.

Carmen Herrera, Basque, 1965
Courtesy Phillips

Herrera, who recently turned 100, has a major retrospective opening at the Whitney next fall, and 2016 may see more of her work coming to market.


Thursday evening, November 19

Modern 7 p.m. Contemporary 8 p.m.

Friday, November 20

Modern 10 a.m. Contemporary 11 a.m.

Sotheby’s has separated its Latin American offerings into two sales, running one after the other on Thursday night and Friday morning. On both dates, modern art comes first, followed by contemporary.

There are separate online catalogues for the modern and contemporary sales too.

Two top-lot Lams will be offered on Thursday evening: Lot 8, Le miel noir, a 1945 canvas estimated at $600,000–$800,000, and Lot 19, Le sabots et la main, a 1966 canvas estimated at $500,000–$700,000.

We’re also keeping an eye on Lot 12, Inundación de Río de Aguas Blanca, a 1998 painting by Tomás Sánchez carrying an estimate of $300,000–$500,000; and Lot 18, an Agustín Cárdenas sculpture from 1957, with an estimate of $150,000–$200,000.

There’s also a untitled c. 1950 construction by Sandú Darié (Lot 41), estimated at $100,000–$150,000.

Alexandre Arrechea, A Few Days Before Katrina (Diálogo), 2008

Like the Darié, most of the contemporary Cuban art is scheduled for the day sale on Friday. Well-estimated pieces include Lot 175, Alexandre Arrechea’s 2008 watercolor A Few Days Before Katrina (Diálogo); Lot 176, Carlos Garaicoa’s undated screen print and light box, New York; and Lot 180, Manuel Mendive’s 2010 sculpture De la serie energias vitales, all carrying estimates of $25,000–$35,000.


Friday, November 20

7 p.m.

Saturday, November 21

2 p.m.

Closing out the week, the Christie’s sale is notable for having the most Lams on offer—seven—including Lot 31, La Barrière, a 1964 canvas estimated at $400,000–$600,000.

They’ve also got the week’s top-estimated Sánchez: Lot 56, the 1998 painting Meditador en la orilla, at $300,000–$500,000.

And the week’s top-estimated Larraz: Lot 55, the 2004 painting Diva, at $150,000–$250,000.

Julio Larraz, Diva, 2004

There’s also a strong selection of 20th-century Cuban art, with works by Victor Manuel, Mario Carreño, Carlos Enriquez, and Amelia Peláez, among others, and no fewer than five lots by René Portocarrero.

There are also two beautiful Roberto Fabelo works. Lot 107, El equilibrista en el pequeño teatro, an oil on canvas done in 1996, is estimated at $40,000–$60,000. Lot 108, Pequeña oración domestica de Suyú, 2006, is an acrylic on embroidered silk laid on linen, with an estimate of $50,000–$70,000.

Roberto Fabelo, El equilibrista en el pequeño teatro, 1996

Contemporary works we’re watching also include Lot 215, José Bedia’s Juega, Gana, Pierde, 1994, estimated at $35,000–$45,000; and Lot 106, Manuel Mendive’s Aves y Plumas, estimated at $25,000­–$30,000.