The Top Ten of contemporary Brazilian artists



Friday is Top day! Every other Friday, Artprice publishes a theme-based auction ranking. This week: the top ten bids for contemporary Brazilian artists

The Top Ten of contemporary Brazilian artists
Rank Artist Hammer Price Artwork Sale
1 Beatriz MILHAZES $1,800,000 « Meu Limäo » () 14/11/2012 (Sotheby’s NEW YORK NY)
2 Adriana VAREJAO $1,527,980 « Parede com Incisões a la Fontana II (Wall with Incisions a la Fontana (2001) 16/02/2011 (Christie’s LONDON)
3 Beatriz MILHAZES $1,400,000 « Palmolive » (2004) 13/05/2014 (Christie’s NEW YORK NY)
4 Beatriz MILHAZES $1,245,680 « O Elefante Azul (The Blue Elephant) » (2002) 27/06/2012 (Christie’s LONDON)
5 Beatriz MILHAZES $1,153,728 Dança dos Reis (1998) 12/10/2012 (Sotheby’s LONDON)
6 Adriana VAREJAO $1,000,610 « O Milagre dos Peixes (Miracle of the Fishes) » (1991) 25/06/2013 (Christie’s LONDON)
7 Adriana VAREJAO $975,000 Trois Petites Morts (2003) 14/11/2012 (Sotheby’s NEW YORK NY)
8 Beatriz MILHAZES $957,840 « O Moderno » (2002) 27/06/2011 (Phillips de Pury & Company LONDON)
9 Beatriz MILHAZES $900,000 « O Mágico » (2001) 15/05/2008 (Sotheby’s NEW YORK NY)
10 Beatriz MILHAZES $896,224 « Madame Caduvel » (1996) 11/10/2012 (Christie’s LONDON)


The top ten Brazilian bids went to only two artists – and both women at that, in a secondary market that is traditionally swifter to favour the male gender. The best hammer prices for Beatriz MILHAZES and Adriana VAREJAO reveal a Brazilian top ten of over $11.8 million in ten hammer strokes: seven for the former, the clear leader with a record of $1.8 million for a painting sold in November 2012, and three for the latter, who set a record equal to $1.52 million in London in February 2011.

Neither of the two owes her success to Brazil’s national auction market, which is not established firmly enough to be an international player. The artists have been thrust onto the international scene essentially through the commitment of Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips, the leading auction houses in contemporary art, which have staged sales in London and New York and presented the women’s work in global contemporary auctions, i.e. outside sales strictly dedicated to the Latin American scene.
Furthermore, on top of their fine performances, the two Brazilian artists are part of the contemporary trio with the highest price index in the whole of Latin America, together with Felix GONZALEZ-TORRES (an American of Cuban origin, who was born on 26 November 1957 in Guáimaro and died on 9 January 1996 in Miami). His candy installation Untitled (Portrait of Marcel Brient) – a metaphor of love, desire and impermanence – garnered $4 million in 2010 (Phillips de Pury & Co.’s New York sale of 8 November 2010).

The highest-priced work in Brazilian contemporary art is Beatriz Milhazes’ monumental Meu Limäo (« My Lemon » in Portuguese). This acrylic on canvas in explosive colours doubled its already substantial estimate of $900,000 on 14 November 2012. Finally knocked down for $1.8 million, Meu Limäo changed hands for over $2 million including the buyer’s premium. The demand at international level is certainly there, and all the fiercer since very few works are available on the market (the artist produces little). Christie’s managed to present one of her paintings at its recent sales in May 2014. Now a guarantee of success, this went hand in hand with a generous estimate of $1 to 1.5 million. And success there was for this piece, Palmolive (198.7 cm x 250 cm), which once again took the artist over the million mark with a final price equivalent to $1.685 million including the buyer’s premium (13 May 2014 in New York).
Milhazes also excels in engravings, with large format prints. Although considerably more affordable, these already fetch high prices. The latest screenprints to appear at auction sold for between $8,000 and $25,000 on average, and last year, one plate from an edition of 20 even went all the way up to $35,000 at Phillips: around $44,000 including the buyer’s premium.Her compatriot Adriana Varejao is more affordable as regards her reproducible works. Her limited edition large format photographs can be had for around $10,000 at auction, and sometimes come up for sale in New York and London, as well as in São Paulo.