Next week brings the New York Latin American sales at Phillips, Christie’s, and Sotheby’s. Here’s our take on the season’s trends in Cuban art at auction, what to watch for, and best bets for new collectors.
Phillips – Monday afternoon, November 24
For a buyer new to Cuban art, we think the Phillips sale is a great place to start. Of the 122 lots on offer, 16 are by Cuban artists, almost all of them contemporary. You won’t find any Wifredo Lam or Tomás Sánchez here, but a good selection of well-estimated works by artists like Alexandre Arrechea, Abel Barroso, Belkis Ayón, and Rubén Torres-Llorca, among others.
Of note: two works by Carlos Garaicoa, including Rivoli, 2002, from his light-box series (Lot 80), a beautiful 2008 oil and crayon on canvas by Carlos Estévez (Lot 109), and The Raft (La Patera), 2002, a print by Armando Mariño offered here for the first time.
Christie’s – Monday evening, November 24 and Tuesday, November 25
This is the one to watch. Of 231 lots, 51 are by Cuban artists, including long off-the-market vanguardia works from two private collections. El Hurón Azul, 1953 (Lot 28), by Carlos Enríquez, was acquired in 1960 from the artist’s daughter and has remained in the same collection ever since. It carries an estimate of $200,000–$300,000. A second Enriquez, Elegía a Jesús Menéndez, 1953 (Lot 30), is estimated at $100,000–$150,000.
Among several works by Wifredo Lam, the top lot is the 1952 painting Oiseau caraïbe (Lot 33), estimated at $400,000–$600,000. Two important lots by Amelia Peláez are also included: Naturaleza Muerta (Still Life, Lot 15), a 1947 gouache estimated at $120,000–$180,000); and a second gouache, Untitled (Olimpia), 1955, (Lot 29), estimated at $30,000–$40,000.
There’s also an outstanding work by Carlos Alfonzo, Figura azul (Alegoría de San Sebastián flechado), 1989 (Lot 216), estimated at $40,000–$60,000. Several works by Tomás Sánchez are also on offer, including the 1996 painting Basurero verde para falsos ecologistas (Green Garbage Dump for False Ecologists, Lot 57), the artist’s top lot by estimate at $250,000 –$350,000.
Sotheby’s – Tuesday evening, November 25 and Wednesday, November 26
Of the 178 lots in the sale, only 13 are by Cuban artists. Of these, the top lot is Tomás Sánchez’s 1999 painting Contemplador del Blanco (Lot 48), estimated at $200,000$250,000. Of note: Zilia Sánchez’s shaped-canvas Topología Erótica (from the series Las Amazonas), 1968 (Lot 111), estimated at $25,000–$35,000, and a suite of three drawings from 1989 by José Bedia (Lot 114), estimated at $10,000–$15,000. Other Cuban artists in the sale include Agustín Fernández, Agustín Cárdenas, Julio Larraz, The Merger, Sandú Darié, and Mario Díaz Bencomo.