Isabel De Obaldía: Metates 2012

This short film documents the preliminary stages of the artist’s process for creating a group of large sand cast glass metates made at Wheaton Arts in Millville, NJ.

Film and original music by Pedro Joaquin Icaza.

“The work with the most direct visual links to Panama’s archaeological past is De Obaldía’s series of cast-glass metates, based on the Pre-Columbian stone ceremonial ‘thrones’ found in Panama and Costa Rica. Stone metates, used to grind maize and other foodstuffs, were probably incorporated into ancient rituals and the decorative quality of some Central American examples certainly suggests a ceremonial function. Carved from porous volcanic stone, they often have protruding animal heads and tails and are covered in geometric relief carving. Linked to rites of fertility, it has also been suggested that some of the larger and more ornate examples may have served as thrones for rulers.”

-Susan L. Aberth, “Emissaries from the Primordial Realms: The Presence of Pre-Columbian and Indigenous Art in the Work of Isabel De Obaldía”, essay from the catalogue for Primordial: Paintings and Sculpture by Isabel De Obaldía at Museum of Art | Fort Lauderdale, Nova Southereastern University, 2011-2012

“Primordial: Paintings and Sculpture by Isabel De Obaldía” Now on View at the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale

Primordial: Paintings and Sculpture by Isabel De Obaldía opened to the public on September 25. The show received a glowing review from Rod Stafford Hagwood of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Hagwood interviewed Irvin Lippman, director of the museum, who said that De Obaldía’s work, “is a powerful expressive force [that] really captures the spirit of nature.” Hagwood also spoke with Susan Aberth, assistant professor of art history at Bard College, who added “Her work has a great dramatic presence.  There is a light-enhanced quality but the pieces are also very heavy looking. They speak to the past. And then there’s the size of them. There is a psychological weightiness there. They feel almost alive…They look ancient…animals with fangs and spikes and things that attack…menacing males, mostly stern and holding a weapon of some sort.” The exhibition continues through May 27, 2012. read more…

Isabel De Obaldía Retrospective to be held at The Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale

The Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale will present a mid-career retrospective of Isabel De Obaldía’s work, opening to the public September 25, 2011. The show, titled “Primordial: Paintings and Sculptures by Isabel De Obaldía, 1985-2011,” will feature approximately 100 works by the artist, as well as a number of pre-Columbian objects that relate to her artistic process. The exhibition has been scheduled to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Studio Glass Movement in the United States and will be on display through May 27, 2012.

To view the official press release from the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale, click here.

Arte Al Día Commemorates Women Gallerists

The current issue of Arte Al Día International magazine focuses on the growing significance of Latin American art in the global art world. One article in particular, titled “Latin American Art in the Visionary Eye of Women Gallerists,” addresses the role a number of noteworthy women gallerists have played in shaping this sector of the art market. The author, Janet Batet, notes that,

The first name that comes to mind for historical reasons is that of Mary-Anne Martin, who developed a praiseworthy effort towards the recognition of modern Latin American artists from her position at the auction house Sotheby’s New York. She was responsible for three capital events for the Latin American Art market which would lead to the creation of Sotheby’s Latin American Art Department. These were: the inclusion in the 1976 modern art auction sale of thirty pieces of Mexican art and their successful sale, the first auction sale of Mexican works in the United States in 1977, and later, in 1979 the first Latin American art auction sale.

In 1982, Mary-Anne left Sotheby’s to establish her own gallery and fulfill a task which has been crucial for the launching of such figures as Gunther Gerzso and Francisco Toledo, among others.

To read this article in full please visit the magazine’s website at and click on the current issue.

The New York Times Reviews Master Drawings in New York

Frida Kahlo, "El Verdadero Vacilón (The True Tease)", pencil on paper, 8 1/2 x 10 3/4 inches, signed and titled, 1946

MAM/FA’s Surrealist drawing show received a favorable mention in Roberta Smith’s article in The New York Times Arts section on January 27, 2011. Ms. Smith featured an image of Frida Kahlo, “El Verdadero Vacilón,” noting how the drawing is a “dense, extended doodle, it embeds a lexicon of Kahlo motifs — a hand, veins, some eyes, several breasts — in a geodesic constellation fraught with stars and spirals that seem straight out of late Kandinsky.”

View the full article and slide show.

Thirteen of the Questions Most Frequently Asked Me…

…by confused collectors who know I worked thirteen years in an auction house:

—Mary-Anne Martin, Winter 1996

  1. How can it save me money to ask a professional to bid for me at auction?

    An experienced bidder can hear when there is real interest from the room or the phone and can also tell when no one is really bidding except the auctioneer (in behalf of the owner). In the latter case you are not really in a competitive situation, i.e., the cost of the work is not market driven. If you are simply bidding against the owner, you may well be paying too much.

  2. read more…

The Latin American Market Comes of Age

Some thoughts on the past twenty-one years.

—Mary-Anne Martin, 1988

Twenty-one years ago the Latin American art market didn’t exist. Not to say that works by artists from Latin America weren’t being sold in various places, but they were not marketed as a collecting category. Much has occurred since I organized the first Mexican sale in 1977. It began as an experiment, a way to make my life at Sotheby’s more interesting and to attract the attention and approval of my superiors, who were focused on Impressionist and Contemporary paintings, the big money makers. My early experience with this field was completely accidental. I had been trained at Sotheby’s as an expert in Modern European pictures and none of my graduate school courses ever touched on the Mexicans or the artists of Latin America. There were no survey books to be had because Latin Americans viewed themselves country by country, not as a group. Sometimes I hear people criticizing the label “Latin American” as an outsider’s term, but I chose it to describe the auctions over “South American,” a term which excluded Mexico and Central America. Others have criticized the idea of separate auctions, since “art is art.” That is true, but there is no doubt in my mind that the huge interest in this field would not exist today if the auctions had not shed light on the art of this vast region with a common, though not homogenous, heritage. read more…