Tarsila do Amaral Work at Center of Legal Dispute Sells for Record Price in Brazil

A painting by Brazilian modernist Tarsila do Amaral sold for a record-setting 57.5 million reais ($11.2 million) at a São Paulo auction last week, making it the most expensive work by the artist ever sold at auction and one of the most expensive works by a Latin American artist ever […]

A painting by Brazilian modernist Tarsila do Amaral sold for a record-setting 57.5 million reais ($11.2 million) at a São Paulo auction last week, making it the most expensive work by the artist ever sold at auction and one of the most expensive works by a Latin American artist ever to sell on the block.

A caipirinha (1923) came to sale by court order from the collection of banker Salim Taufic Schahin, who is the subject of a lawsuit over unpaid debt to 12 creditors. Schahin was a partner at investment firm Schahin Group, which went bankrupt in 2018. The Brazilian government denied a request to block the auction, filed by Schahin’s son, who claimed he purchased the painting in 2013 and gifted the work to his father.

The canvas was sold at the São Paulo–based Bolsa de Arte auction house, where it sold above its estimate of $47.5 million reais ($9.25 million) after drawing 19 bids, ultimately going to a Brazilian buyer. That puts it among the most expensive works sold in Brazil. The price surpasses the previous top result achieved by a Brazilian artist when Alberto da Veiga Guignard’s Vaso de flores sold in 2015 for 5.7 million reais ($1.12 million dollars). Prior to that, Brazilian artist Lygia Clark’s Modulated Surface No. 4, which made 5.3 million reais in 2013.

“A work of this importance and value has never been sold in Brazil,” said Jones Bergamin, president of Bolsa de Arte, in a statement.

During her lifetime, Tarsila—who often went only by her first name—strove to help define modernism in Latin America. Born and based in Brazil for much of her life, she was recently the subject of an acclaimed survey that showed at the Museum of Modern Art and the Art Institute of Chicago between 2017 and 2018. A separate survey went on view at the Museu de Arte de São Paulo in 2019. Tarsila’s paintings from the 1920s are among her most sought-after works; many are held privately.

The market for Tarsila’s work has ascended since 1995, when Argentine businessman and art collector Eduardo Costantini purchased Abaporu (1928), widely considered to be her most iconic piece, for $1.4 million during an auction in New York. Most recently in the online edition of TEFAF New York this past October, a painting made during the early stages of Tarsila’s career Idílio (1929) was offered with an asking price of $7 million (36 million reais).

The record comes on the heels of MoMA’s acquisition of its first work by Tarsila, A Lua (The Moon), from 1928, which is said to be worth $20 million.

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