Spring Auction Preview: Contemporary Cuban Art


A rare early work by Los Carpinteros leads a strong slate at Christie’s. A report from Cuban Art News.

With a 1995 assemblage by Los Carpinteros its top contemporary Cuban lot, Christie’s Latin American saletakes the auction spotlight this season.

The sale, which runs next Wednesday and Thursday, May 23–24, is buttressed by Christie’s online Latin American sale, which opens today and runs through May 30.

One lot of great interest to collectors is Catedral (1995) by Los Carpinteros. A rare early assemblage work, Catedral is an oil painting set into an elaborately carved, sculptural frame depicting the Catedral de la Virgen María de la Concepción Immaculada, a landmark of Habana Vieja. The wooden structure includes the cathedral bell tower, complete with bell.

“The inset painting depicts the cobblestoned Plaza de la Catedral, among the city’s most pleasantly situated squares, in painterly, ocher tones,” wrote Abby McEwen in the Christie’s catalogue essay. “Gazing vacantly into space are two figures modeled after American sculptor Duane Hanson’s Pop-inspired Tourists (1970), life-casts that satirize the camera-toting, souvenir-buying vacationers that have long flocked to the Caribbean.”

Wrote McEwen: “The tourists appear oblivious to the painted figure of Arrechea himself, who asks them for a stick of chewing gum, a scarcity at the time; “a very Cuban gesture of those years,” he [Arrechea] explains of the sign he makes, it ‘obviously becomes a wink to American art.’”

Detail of Los Carpinteros (Dagoberto Rodríguez, Marco Castillo, Alexandre Arrechea), Catedral, 1995

A rare assemblage by Los Carpinteros to come to auction, Catedral carries an estimate of $200,000–$300,000.

Roberto Fabelo is well represented, with five works in the Christie’s sale. His top lot (Lot 60) is Omega 3, an oversized canvas painted in 2014. Its estimate of $100,000–$150,000 continues the six-figure trend set with Ovo, the 2014 Fabelo diptych presented at the Christie’s sale last fall.

Roberto Fabelo, Omega 3, 2014

Preceding these two works is Manuel Mendive’s Occuni  (Lot 59), a 2003 painting with cowrie shells. It is estimated at $60,000–80,000.

Manuel Mendive, Occuni, 2003

In last spring’s sale at Christie’s, a large-scale 2015 assemblage by Mendive, Energías para el amor y la bondad, shot past its high estimate of $60,000 to reach $125,000 (including buyer’s premium.)

Tomás Sánchez has one work in the Christie’s sale: Visión de orilla (Lot 39), a 2009 canvas carrying an estimate of $400,000–$600,000.

Tomás Sánchez, Visión de orilla, 2009

Among 20th-century artists, Wifredo Lam has a substantial number of works in the sale, from the small 1937 watercolor-and-gouache Untitled (Mujer sentada) (Lot 90), estimated at $18,000–$22,000, to the 1949 oil painting Figure (Lot 16), with an estimate of $1,200,000–$1,800,000.

Wifredo Lam, Figure, 1949


The Christie’s Latin American Art Online Sale includes several lots by Cuban artists, well-priced for collectors.

The 20th-century works include Desnudo (Lot 51), a 1948 ink drawing by Carlos Enríquez; Antonio Gattorno’s 1947 work Ascención (Lot 47), estimated at $6,000–8,000; Orchestra (Lot 48), a 1926 drawing by Jaime Valls; and Bacanal con perro negro (Bacanal), a 1948 ink drawing by Mariano Rodríguez, also estimated at $6,000–8,000.

Jaime Valls, Orchestra, 1926

Courtesy Christie’s


The online sale also features three works by Servando Cabrera Moreno, including the 1981 drawing El corazón del plátano (Lot 50), estimated at $2,000–4,000.


Mariano Rodríguez, Bacanal con perro negro, 1948

Courtesy Christie’s

Also online: Ellos durmieron, a 2000 watercolor by Roberto Fabelo (Lot 58), estimated at $25,000–35,000, and José Bedia’s 2006 canvas Isla esperando (Lot 62), estimated at $18,000–22,000.

Christie’s Latin American sale takes place next Wednesday evening, May 23, at 5 p.m. and Thursday morning, May 24, at 11 a.m. The online sale opens today and runs through May 30.

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