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Rufino Tamayo Painting to Highlight Sothebys Latin American sale

Watermelon Slices, a major work by Rufino Tamayo depicting one of his signature themes is to be among the highlights of Sotheby’s auction of Latin American Art in New York on 16 November 2011.

The painting is being sold by The Museum of Modern Art in New York to benefit the Acquisitions Fund and is estimated to fetch $1.5/2 million*. It has been in the museum’s collection since 1953, three years after it was created, and has been included in exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and Tate Gallery in London.

Carmen Melian, Head of Latin American Art at Sotheby’s said: “This is one of the most important Tamayo Watermelon paintings to appear on the market for several years. Collectors are sure to gravitate towards a work of this iconic subject matter from an important period that also boasts such distinguished provenance.”

Watermelon Slices was painted in 1950, the year Tamayo participated in the Venice Biennale. Two years before, he had been lauded by Mexican art critics and the public during his retrospective at the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes which was installed in the galleries of the Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico’s premier cultural space. By the time he created Watermelon Slices Tamayo was already considered one of the most acclaimed artists of his generation, a reputation that has only grown in the ensuing years.

Watermelon Slices fuses both the international modernist aesthetics of Cubism with a local subject matter and symbolism. The simple two-dimensionality, sparseness and geometric forms are an essential part of Tamayo’s art from this period. The red, white and green watermelons echo the colors of the Mexican flag, but as well as this symbolism, watermelons held personal significance for Tamayo, who as a young man helped his aunt sell the fruit at her market stand in Mexico City.

Watermelon Slices is part of a retrospective view of Tamayo’s work from various consignors in the sale. Seven other paintings by the artist trace his artistic development from his surrealist roots in Frutero y Domino from 1928 (est. $275/375,000), to Tres Figuras from 1966 (est. $750/950,000).

Image: Rufino Tamayo, Watermelon Slices, 1950. Estimate: $1.5/2 million. Photo: Sotheby’s.

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