The art world witnessed a significant event on May 14th when Christie’s held its first auction to sell pieces from the esteemed collection of the late Miami arts patron Rosa de la Cruz. The event was a momentous occasion, as 25 artworks from the collection fetched an impressive total of $34 million. This auction, despite the current slow art market, saw fierce bidding wars over Rosa’s treasured pieces, underscoring the deep admiration and value attributed to her collection.

Rosa de la Cruz, along with her husband Carlos, amassed over 1,000 pieces of contemporary art, forming one of Miami’s most renowned collections. Rosa’s recent passing in February left a significant void in the art community. The de la Cruz Collection, displayed in their Design District museum, had become a cultural landmark. Following her death, the museum closed, and Christie’s stepped in to facilitate the sale of over 100 works from her collection over the coming months.

The highest sale of the night was Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ “Untitled (American #3),” a poignant work comprising a string of 42 light bulbs. This piece, reflecting themes of loss and memory, fetched a staggering $13,635,000, including fees. It was acquired by the Pola Museum of Art in Hakone, Japan. The de la Cruzes had a personal connection with Gonzalez-Torres, who passed away in 1996, adding sentimental value to this already significant artwork. The piece’s minimalist yet evocative design captured the essence of Gonzalez-Torres’ exploration of love, death, and identity, making it a coveted item for collectors and museums alike.

Hernan Bas, a celebrated artist from Miami, saw his painting “Trying to fit in” sold for $310,000. Bas, known for his evocative and often mystical imagery, continues to be a prominent figure in Miami’s art scene, having recently exhibited at the Bass Museum of Art in Miami Beach. His works often delve into themes of adolescence and identity, which resonate deeply with audiences and collectors who appreciate the intricate narratives woven into his paintings.

Jim Hodges’ work, characterized by its exploration of themes such as love, fragility, and mortality, included a cascade of pink and white flowers that previously adorned de la Cruz’s home. This delicate and emotionally resonant piece sold for $400,000. Hodges’ ability to transform simple materials into profound statements about the human condition has earned him a respected place in the contemporary art world, and this sale further cements his reputation.

Contemporary artists Wade Guyton and Christopher Wool also featured prominently. Guyton’s piece sold for $850,000, while Wool’s work was close behind, selling for $970,000. Both artists are renowned for their innovative approaches to painting and printmaking, pushing the boundaries of contemporary art. Guyton’s use of digital technologies to create his works challenges traditional notions of authorship and originality, while Wool’s text-based pieces confront viewers with provocative phrases and stark compositions.

Ana Mendieta’s works were among the most anticipated at the auction. Mendieta, a feminist artist who fled Cuba through Operation Peter Pan, created poignant works that explore identity, displacement, and the female body. Her “Siluetas” series broke her previous record, selling for $277,200. However, the record was soon surpassed by the sale of her “Sandwoman” sculpture, which fetched $567,025. Additionally, a black-and-white print by Mendieta sold for $130,000, underscoring the high demand and appreciation for her work. Mendieta’s art, often created in nature using earth, blood, and other organic materials, continues to captivate audiences with its raw power and emotional depth.

Christina Quarles, known for her vibrant and dynamic paintings that often explore themes of identity and the human form, saw her work “Don’t they know? It’s the end of tha world” sell for $520,000. This was the largest piece of the evening and was highlighted by auctioneer Georgina Hilton as one of the finest works up for bid. Quarles’ work, with its complex interplay of figures and abstract forms, challenges viewers to reconsider their perceptions of bodies and space, making her a significant voice in contemporary art.

The auction also featured Glenn Ligon’s “Debris Field (Red) #1,” which sold for $280,000. This piece, like many of Ligon’s works, engages with themes of race, language, and identity. Ligon’s use of stenciled text and layered imagery provokes thought and dialogue about social issues, ensuring his works remain relevant and powerful. Shara Hughes’ “No Way Out,” the last painting purchased by Rosa de la Cruz, sold for $450,000. Hughes is known for her surreal landscapes that are rich in color and emotion, making this piece a fitting addition to Rosa’s collection. Hughes’ imaginative and vibrant style invites viewers into fantastical worlds, offering an escape from reality while prompting introspection.

The first auction of Rosa de la Cruz’s collection was not just a sale but a celebration of her legacy and contribution to the art world. Each artwork carries a piece of Rosa’s vision and passion for contemporary art, and the significant sums fetched underscore the enduring impact of her collection. As Christie’s continues to auction more works from her collection, the art community will have further opportunities to honor and reflect on Rosa de la Cruz’s remarkable influence. This auction serves as a testament to the lasting power of art to connect, inspire, and transcend, reminding us all of the profound ways in which art shapes our world and our lives.

Epic $34M Auction: Celebrating Rosa de la Cruz's Art Legacy
Epic $34M Auction: Celebrating Rosa de la Cruz’s Art Legacy

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