Diego Rivera painting fetches record $9.7 million

“Los Rivales” is Rivera’s coveted canvas that combines Mexican love for regional traditions with his unique modern sensibility…//

The painting “Los Rivales”, by the Mexican artist Diego Rivera, recently set a new record for the painter in a public auction, and also a historical mark for a Latin American artist, selling for $9.76 million U.S. dollars.

The work, painted in 1931 and part of the collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller, is being sold this week by Christie’s Auction House in New York, and the funds will be used for charitable purposes.

Although it is the highest price reached by a Rivera in an auction, it is not the highest paid for his work by a collector, since on May 20, 2016 the Argentine businessman Eduardo Costantini, in a private operation, paid $15.7 million U.S. dollars for “El Baile de Tehuantepec”.

The Rivera work sold recently from the Rockefeller collection, measuring 152.3 by 127 centimeters, shows a traditional celebration of the state of Oaxaca. The Christie’s house had estimated that the value was between $5 and $7 million dollars.

The auction of “The Rivals” lasted five minutes. The starting price was $4.5 million dollars and in the first minute it reached $7 million, the maximum value estimated by the auction house.

The hammer price was set at $8.4 million dollars, to which were added the premiums that the buyer must pay, so the final value was at $9,762,500 dollars.

As usual in these auctions, Christie’s confirmed to Efe that it could not make public the identity of the buyer of the work.

Diego Rivera was a figure much admired by Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, the mother of David Rockefeller.

In 1931, Abby Aldrich, using her position as co-founder of the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMa), invited the artist to the city to dedicate a solo exhibition, a privilege that only the French painter Henri Matisse had achieved so far.

Rivera visited the Rockefeller house with his wife, the painter Frida Kahlo, and there he brought a new canvas, “Los Rivales”, which soon became one of the jewels of the private family collection.

It is the first time that this canvas of Rivera is auctioned, as for many of the works of the Rockefeller collection that are going on sale.

Rivera completed the work in an improvised studio mounted on the ship “Morro Castle”, which transported Rivera and Khalo to New York to attend the exhibition of the Mexican author at MoMa.

The canvas was exhibited at MoMa in 1931, and since 1937 it has rarely been exhibited in public. Once exposed, Abby Rockefeller gave it as a wedding gift to David and Peggy Rockefeller.

Christie’s Latin American art director, Virgilio Garza, said at the end of the auction that this work allowed Rivera to “solidify his reputation as the most important Mexican modernist muralist in the United States.”

“The Rivals,” added Garza, “combines Rivera’s love for regional traditions with his unique modern sensibility.”

Text and photo: EFE news agency

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