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The Latin American Art Market on the Rise

Breaking The Barrier
by Alejandra Villasmil, Arte al Dia International magazine

In the course of the last decade, the Latin American art market has experienced a solid growth, judging by the results obtained by the auction houses Sotheby's and Christie's. This expansion does not cease to amaze both neophytes and experts in the business, all of whom forecast a steady strengthening catapulted by the growing appetite of collectors for the great Latin American masters, and for kinetic art, geometric abstraction and the art of the 1960s and 1970s in general as a relatively recent tendency.

“The prices of modern and contemporary art render them unbuyable, and this is leading people to invest in Latin American art, which is still extremely accessible”, says León Tovar, an art dealer with more than twenty years experience. To his judgment, “Latin American art is still too cheap”, and in fact “a Matta or a Tamayo cost 25 percent of what they should actually cost in the international art market”.

The assessment of the auction houses' annual results is a way of measuring the strengthening of the Latin American art market. The first of these sales, celebrated at Sotheby’s in 1979 under the guidance of prestigious art dealer Mary-Anne Martin, then director of the Latin American Art Department, totaled a million dollars, a figure which may currently represent the value of a single Latin American artwork, but which was very significant at that time.

Since then, Sotheby’s annual sales have increased from 7.5 million dollars in 1985 to 28 million dollars in 2005 – the highest annual figure recorded until now at the Latin American auction sales – while those of Christie's, its direct competitor, have risen from 2.8 million dollars in 1985 to 19.8 million dollars the past year...
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