NEW YORK (Reuters) - A dream-like painting of children releasing kites by Brazil's Candido Portinari sold for $1.4 million at Christie's Latin American art sale and set a world auction record for the artist.
Portinari's 1941 "Meninos Soltando Pipas" was the top seller at the Wednesday evening sale, which totaled $16 million and set benchmarks for other Latin American artists.
"The strength of the Brazilian market reigned supreme," said Virgilio Garza, Christie's Latin American art chief.
Portinari, who died in 1962, left a prolific legacy including monumental murals for the U.S. Library of Congress and the United Nations headquarters in New York.
Colombian Fernando Botero's 2000 bronze "Dancers," which fetched $1.14 million, was another top seller. The work, coated in brown patina, shows a heavily muscled nude man and a woman, her left hand on his right shoulder.
Mexican Alfredo Ramos Martinez's "Mujeres con Frutas (Women with Fruit)," a portrait of two young Mexican Indian women, sold for $1.07 million.
Ramos Martinez created the piece shortly after relocating to Los Angeles in the late 1920s to obtain expert medical care for his daughter. Hollywood luminaries of the time collected his work.
Art experts had high hopes going into the Latin American art sales amid a buoyant market, sparked by a record-breaking sale of contemporary art earlier this month. Christie's contemporary art sale hauled in $495 million - the highest of any art auction ever.
During Wednesday's auction, records were set for Peruvian Tilsa Tsuchiya with the $339,750 sale of her 1974 oil on canvas "Mujer Volando," and for Venezuelan Francisco Narvarez, whose untitled ebony wood sculpture of a kneeling woman fetched $267,750.
Brazilian artist Milton Dacosta also hit an auction record with the $171,500 sale of "Figura," a 1954 oil on canvas, and Mexican surrealist Remedios Varos' "Vista al Pasado," a 1957 graphite and pigment on paper, sold for $291,750, a record high for her work on paper.
Other highlights included three works by Brazilian artist Afredo Volpi including "Fachada (no. 1331)," which sold for $783,750, "Bandeirinhas horizontais com mastro (No. 1330)," which fetched $651,750 and "Bandeirinhas com mastro. (No. 2133)" which went for $507,750.
Reporting by Walker Simon; Editing by Patricia Reaney and Vicki Allen