Live Now on Artnet Auctions: This Masterful Wifredo Lam Painting Captures the Richness of the Cuban Modernist’s Heritage

'Untitled' (ca. 1972) is featured in "All in Americas: Spotlight on Cuba."

Wifredo Lam, "Untitled," circa 1972. Available now in All in Americas on Artnet Auctions. Est. $250,000-350,000.

Wifredo Lam’s style of lyrical, Cubist-inspired Surrealism is unmistakable. As the son of a Chinese father who emigrated to Cuba and a Congolese and native Taíno mother, Lam’s art naturally amalgamated distinct visual and spiritual cultures. Multicultural Cuba provided the vernacular he digested to capture the character of the Americas.

His Untitled (ca. 1972) is available now in “All in Americas: Spotlight on Cuba” on Artnet Auctions, a sale presented in partnership with Raphael Castoriano that celebrates the most sought-after artists from the American continents. The work depicts a subject integral to Lam’s narrative: family.

Executed circa 1972, Untitled recalls pyramidal compositions of the Holy Family from the Italian Renaissance. But it also draws inspiration from Lam’s Afro-Cuban religion of Lucum, or Santería. The ghostly, polymorphic inhabitants of this painting first appeared in his “Fata Morgana” drawings of 1940 to 1942. Here, they are conjured on canvas in oil paints, seemingly merging both man and beast, their forms emerging from a hazy, earth-toned plane of umber and sienna.

Lam’s gracious line work has still another influence: the Chinese ink painting which he practiced with his father, a scribe and calligrapher for the Chinese community in Cuba. In both style and substance, this work represents Lam’s own family and the intersectionality of his heritage. 

Of course, famously, during his time living in Europe, Lam worked with Pablo Picasso, absorbing the influence of Cubism. The magical elements of Lam’s Surrealism were applauded by the father of the Surrealist movement, André Breton. Such intersections with European Modernism further lend Lam’s work its enduring international appeal. 

Works by Wifredo Lam consistently sell for more than their high estimate, signaling an increasingly high demand.

In recent years, several high-profile exhibitions have boosted Lam’s growing market. A traveling retrospective debuted at the Centre Pompidou in Paris in 2015, moving on to the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid and the Tate Modern in London. As international audiences develop an even more voracious appetite for Surrealism, Lam is poised to ascend even higher.

For the past six years, Lam’s works have consistently outperformed their high estimates at auction, as his star has risen in marquee Post-war and Contemporary Art sales. Lam’s value hit a record high in 2020, when his work Omi Obini (1943) sold for over $9 million. The present work, estimated at $250,000-350,000, offers the unique opportunity to collect an authenticated piece by the artist as his market continues its ascent.

As is true for all Cuban masterworks, strong provenance and documentation are crucial for collectors looking to acquire Lam’s paintings, given that his growing fame has led to many imitations. Untitled (ca. 1972) is featured in the artist’s Catalogue Raisonné, and is accompanied by a Certificate of Authenticity issued by Lam’s late wife, ​​Lou Laurin-Lam. Don’t miss the rare opportunity to add a distinctive Lam painting to your collection: Bidding on “All in Americas: Spotlight on Cuba” is live now through October 6.

Please don’t hesitate to contact the specialist for this work, Johannes Vogt, with any questions or concerns.

Head of Contemporary Art

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