An intimate and compelling work by Frida Kahlo, dating from 1939, resonated with a telephone bidder at Christie's Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale on May 12. The sale's total slid to $141,532,000 with sell-through rates of 86% by lot and 89% by value. The total beat its $134.3 million low estimate, even while seven lots went unsold and five of the top 10 high-priced lots barely made their low estimate after Christie’s commission.
Kahlo’s Dos desnudos en el bosque (La tierra misma), or "Two Nudes in the Forest (The Land Itself)," achieved $8,005,000, establishing a new world auction record for the artist and for any Latin American artist at auction.
Reflecting painful feelings caused by the Mexican artist's ill health and separation from her husband, Diego Rivera, the painting was the first major work by the artist to come on the market in several years.
Estimated to bring $8 million to $12 million, the work just reached its low estimate, but far exceeded Kahlo's previous auction record of $5.6 million.
Christie's describes the Kahlo:
The two female central figures may be seen to represent the competing forces of Frida Kahlo’s heritage and personality, their faces expressing gentle compassion and intense contemplation. In setting such oppositional images against an intentionally distressed background, the work portends a storm brewing around an otherwise idyllic moment. Embedded in the emotion are Kahlo’s conflicts — questions about her sexuality, her mixed ethnicity and contemplation of mortality and death. The nude figures underscore a purity and an elusiveness that suspend the scene in a confrontation between dream and reality.
The top lot of the night was a waterlily scene by Claude Monet (1840-1926), Le bassin aux nymphéas, an oil on canvas, painted in 1919, which sold for $27,045,000, within estimates. London dealer Glenn Fuller was the only bidder, reports The Wall Street Journal.
A single bidder also won Monet's 1874 river scene, “At Little Gennevilliers,” which went for $11.4 million, below its $12 million low estimate.
Several bidders pursued Barbara Hepworth’s blue-gray, egg-shape sculpture from 1946, “Sculpture with Color (Eos),” up to $5.4 million, far exceeding its $1.8 million high estimate.