Diego Rivera painting becomes highest-priced Latin American art

Posted May 10, 2018 11:43 a.m. EDT

— A painting by the Mexican artist Diego Rivera sold for a record-breaking $9.76 million this week.

The painting, titled "The Rivals," became the highest-priced Latin American artwork sold at auction, overtaking the previous record set by a work by Frida Kahlo, who was Rivera's wife.

The sale was part of a three-day auction at Christie's in New York, which featured more than 1,000 works of art and fine objects collected by the late banker and philanthropist David Rockefeller and his wife, Peggy.

"It's undoubtedly one of Rivera's masterpieces," said Virgilio Garza, head of Latin American Paintings at Christie's. "It's a much more intimate scene focused on regional traditions, and the brushwork is deliberately looser."

"The Rivals" was commissioned by Abby Aldrich Rockefeller in 1931 and given as a wedding gift to her son David and his wife. The oil-on-canvas painting depicting a festive and colorful scene hung for decades in the couple's home in Maine.

"The viewer's gaze recedes in stages, from the men in the foreground, to the brightly dressed women under the hanging papel picado. Rivera's brilliant composition of intersecting planes creates a cinematic narrative," Garza added.

The sale on Wednesday exceeded the previous record for Latin American art at auction held by Kahlo's "Two Nudes in the Forest," which sold for $8 million in 2016.

Both highly celebrated Mexican artists, Rivera and Kahlo married in 1929 and had a tumultuous relationship. The couple divorced in 1939, only to remarry the following year.

"The Rivals" was one of many Rivera paintings owned by the Rockefeller family, many of which were donated to the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

The Rockefellers' enormous collection has already become the most valuable sold at auction, netting $646 million on Tuesday, the first night of bidding. Proceeds will go to charities supported by David and Peggy Rockefeller during their lifetimes.

David Rockefeller was the last surviving grandson of John D. Rockefeller, founder of the Standard Oil Co., when he died last year. Peggy Rockefeller died in 1996.