For Cuban art, the Latin American auctions started well and kept gathering momentum, with more works surpassing their estimates as the week progressed—in some cases, making a stellar leap.
The week launched with the sale at Phillips on Wednesday evening. Several works surpassed their estimates, including Manuel Mendive’s 2000 painting Ex-Votos, which breezed past its $60,000 high estimate to reach $87,500. (All prices include buyers premium.)
Other works that cruised past their estimates include Against the Tide, a 2012 sculpture by The Merger that racked up a whopping $125,000 against a high estimate of $40,000. An untitled 1957 work by Servando Moreno reached $32,500, more than four times its low estimate of $8,000.
But the star of the sale was unquestionably Carmen Herrera, whose 1965 painting Basque—the only Herrera work on offer this week—rocketed past its high estimate of $180,000 to hit a resounding $437,000.
Herrera is the subject of a retrospective planned for the Whitney Museum in autumn 2016.
The sales continued Thursday evening at Sotheby’s. Most of the lots on our watch list turned in prices comfortably within their estimates. Wifredo Lam’s 1962 canvas Les sabots et la main, estimated at $500,000–$700,000, sold at $610,000. (A second Lam canvas, Le miel noir, 1945, did not sell.)
Other works surpassed their high estimates. An oil, burlap, and wood construction by Loló Soldevilla, estimated at $35,000–$45,000, hit $56,250. Mario Carreño’s painting Estructura en rojo, estimated at $60,000–$80,000, reached $112,500. And Inundación del Río de Aguas Blancas, a 1998 canvas by Tomás Sánchez, fetched $370,000 against a high estimate of $350,000.
Two dramatic leaps came at the next morning’s day sale. Another Mendive work, a 2010 sculpture De la serie energías vitals, soared past its high estimate of $35,000 to hit $100,000.
Even more impressive, René Portocarrero’s 1961 canvas Paisaje de la Habana, modestly estimated at $10,000–$15,000, rocketed to $106,250.
Two Lam works dominated the Christie’s evening sale. Femme nue, III, a 1944 oil on paper laid on canvas, blew past its high estimate of $250,000 to fetch $509,000. La Barrière, a 1964 oil on canvas, zipped past its high estimate of $600,000 to reach $725,000.
The Tomás Sánchez painting that opened the sale, Contemplar al Meditador de la Isla, 2014, jumped past its $80,000 high estimate to bring $118,750. Mars, a 1994 canvas by Julio Larraz, also did well, fetching $170,000 against a high estimate of $120,000.
Equinoccio, a 1950 work by Mario Carreño, reached $125,000 against a high estimate of $90,000.
As with Sotheby’s, the Christie’s day sale brought two dramatic leaps, one of them again involving René Portocarrero. His 1965 Segundo Retrato de Flora, estimated at $35,000–$45,000, reached $112,500.
Roberto Fabelo’s 1996 canvas El equilibrista en el pequeño teatro, carrying a high estimate of $60,000, zoomed to $112,500—possibly a record for the artist at auction.