The art collection of the deceased Mexican tycoon Lorenzo Zambrano was auctioned at Sotheby’s New York earlier this week—and despite mixed results, it will be one to remember. “A Vision of Grandeur: Masterworks from the Collection of Lorenzo H. Zambrano” fetched a whooping $17.6 million, breaking the record for a single owner sale of Latin American art.
The most expensive works were by two key female artists of the Latin American avant-garde: Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo, who both achieved new records. The Temptation of St. Anthony (1945), by the UK-born Mexican-naturalized Carrington, sold for $2.6 million (presale estimate $1.8-2.2 million). According to the artnet Price Database, the sale almost doubled the artist’s previous record: $1483,500 paid for The Giantess at Christie’s New York in 2009.
Hacia la Torre (1960) by the Spanish-born Mexican-naturalized Varo sold for $4,3 million against a presale estimate of $2.5—3.5 million. El Paísreported that Varo’s painting became the second most expensive artwork by a female Latin American artist ever sold at auction. (The most expensive is Frida Kahlo’s Roots , sold for $5.6 million in 2006 at Sotheby’s New York.)
And yet, despite this apparent triumph, only 34 out of 40 lots were sold. Diego Rivera’s monumental mural Río Juchitán (1953-56) failed to find a new home. The highest bid was just $4.9 million, well under the piece’s $6 million presale estimate. Rufino Tamayo‘s Naturaleza Muerta (1935) also stayed behind. Bidding stopped at $2.4 million, too short of its $3—4 million presale estimate.
The failure to sell these two key works was largely responsible for the total reaching $17.6 million, just a little more than half its $30 million presale estimate.
Axel Stein, Sotheby’s head of department of Latin American Art and senior vice president, preferred to look on the bright side. “I feel very satisfied,” he told El País. “Given the current circumstances, it’s been a good sale. And I am positive that the Rivera mural will be sold in due course. The problem was its large size, too big for the clients we had last night,” he explained.
The majority of works were purchased by collectors from the US, Mexico, Canada, UK, Venezuela, and Colombia. According to El País, some works by the likes of Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and José Clemente Orozco, are considered Mexican national heritage, so, in keeping with the country’s regulations, they had to be sold to Mexico-based collectors.
Lorenzo Zambrano was the president of Cemex, one of the largest concrete companies in the world. He died of heart attack last May, during a business trip in Madrid. Zambrano had amassed a major 20th century Latin American art collection. Zambrano did not marry nor had any children, so proceeds from the auction will go to his next of kin.