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Diego Rivera Painting Sells Privately for $15.7 Million

  • Associated Press

FILE - Muralist Levi Ponce paints a portrait of Mexican artist Diego Rivera in the Pacoima section of Los Angeles, June 6, 2015.

FILE - Muralist Levi Ponce paints a portrait of Mexican artist Diego Rivera in the Pacoima section of Los Angeles, June 6, 2015.

A Diego Rivera painting has sold privately for $15.7 million, setting a world record price for any Latin American work of art, Phillips auction house said Friday.

The price for “Dance in Tehuantepec” nearly doubles the figure paid at auction last month for a painting by Frida Kahlo, Rivera's wife whom he later divorced. Her “Two Nudes in the Forest (The Land Itself)” set a new auction record for Latin American art.

The private sale was facilitated by Phillips.

The buyer, Argentinian collector Eduardo Costantini, told The Associated Press that he has waited 20 years to acquire “Dance in Tehuantepec,” which he unsuccessfully tried to purchase in 1995 when it came up at auction at Sotheby's.

It has been out of public view since then.

“I always wondered who had bought the painting and where it was,” Costantini, founder and president of the Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires (MALBA), said in a phone interview from Buenos Aires.

“Dance in Tehuantepec,” created in 1928, depicts a group of dancers performing the folk dance “zandunga” under a banana tree. It is one of the largest canvases the acclaimed Mexican muralist painted during his lifetime. It measures 79 inches by 64 inches.

Costantini said he plans to exhibit the painting at his museum next March. Prior to that it will be shown at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the fall and at the ARCO Madrid next February.

The painting is the most important Rivera work in private hands outside of Mexico, said August Uribe, deputy chairman of the Americas at Phillips.

It first appeared in 1930 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and was included in a major Diego Rivera retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York a year later.

Uribe said the painting shows Rivera's efforts “to establish a national identity by breaking from European modernism and embracing Mexicanism.”

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