Is Uruguay the Art Market’s Next Big Thing? –

uruguay1 Is Uruguay the Art Markets Next Big Thing?   artmarketblog.comOn the 10th of January 2013, Uruguayan auction house Castells held a sale of Modern and Contemporary Art at their Montevideo saleroom which for all intense and purposes was a big success.  The top price of the sale went to a marble sculpture by renowned Uruguayan artist Pablo Atchugarry which sold for USD$68,000.  The price was nowhere near the artist’s auction record of £102,500 (US$200,490) but was still a good result considering the size of the sculpture. Although many of the top auction prices for Atchugarry were set during 2007/2008, a price resurgence in 2012 saw the artist’s In the Way of Harmony sell for $194,500 – the second highest price for the artist at auction –at Christie’s 22 – 23 May 2012 Latin American Sale.

Perhaps more significant than the USD$68,000 Atchugarry sculpture was the new auction record set by Castells for the little-known but important Uruguayan abstract artist Antonio Llorens (1920-1995).  Castells sold the artist’s Composición for USD$30,000 during their January 10 sale – more than triple the previous auction record for a work by the artist. Llorens was an influential proponent of geometric and abstract art in Uruguay.  He was a founder of the Uruguayan Group of Abstract Art and exhibited in numerous MADÍ group exhibitions.

Uruguayan artist Joaquín Torres-García (1874–1949) is considered to be one of the most influential artists to have emerged from Latin America in the early 20th century. He founded the Asociación de arte constructivo (Association of Constructivist Artists) in 1935 and published extensively on the theory of art. Prices for Torres-García’s work also rose in 2012 during which Christie’s set the second highest price for the artist at auction of  USD$1,426,500 with the painting Grafismo universal sobre fondo gris.

One of the key factors in the development of the Uruguayan art market is the support afforded to their artists by the country’s strong cultural sector.  Leading the way is the Museo Nacional de Artes Visuales which is situated in Uruguauy’s capital Montevideo.  Other major cultural institutions include the Espacio Arte Contemporáneo and the Bohemian Gallery and Museum of Contemporary Art (BG MOCA MVD).  Another significant advancement for Uruguay’s art market was the development of the Montevideo Biennale in 2012.

According to the BBC, “Uruguay has traditionally been more affluent than other countries in South America, and is known for its advanced education and social security systems and liberal social laws.” Known as “the Switzerland of South America”, Uruguay is a small but thriving nation that appears poised to challenge other South American countries for the title of “emerging art market to watch in 2013”.


Joaquín Torres-García (Uruguayan 1874-1949)
Grafismo universal sobre fondo gris
signed ‘J.TG’ (center left) and dated ‘MCMXXXVII’ (upper right quadrant)
tempera on board laid on panel
39 5/8 x 31 5/8 in. (100.6 x 80.3 cm.)
Painted in 1937.

*Nicholas Forrest is a Sydney/London based art market analyst, art consultant and writer.  He is the founder of the Art Market Blog ( which offers independent commentaries as well as research and analysis on the current art market, and has recently been published in Fabrik magazine, Verve magazine, Visual Art Beat magazine, Australian Art Collector magazine, Art & Investment magazine and many others.  Nic has made several radio appearances (both nationally and internationally) as an art market expert and has received press from the likes of the New York Times, Conde Nast Portfolio and Times of London.

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