Latin American Art
7PM, November 15, 2005
Sale 1576
"Watchman, What of the Night" by Matta
Lot 23, "Watchman, What of The Night?" by Matta, oil on canvas, oil on canvas, 118 by 391 1/4 inches, 1968

By Carter B. Horsley

This evening auction of Latin American Art at Christie's November 15, 2005 is highlighted by a spectacular and huge oil on canvas by Matta (1911-2002), entitled "Watchman, What of the Night?" that inexplicably is being deaccessioned by The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The monumental work measures 118 by 391 1/4 inches and was executed in 1968. It was given to the museum in 1984 by Alexander Iolas of Athens.

The painting, the catalogue entry for this lot maintained, "is an epic mural that brings together Matta's vocabulary of abstract forms - biomorphic lines and fluid shapes in explosive yellows, reds and greens against the nocturnal penumbra - along with characters that seem born of nightmarish visions. Masterful draftsmanship and sublime painterly effects create an expansive, vastness of space shifting before our eyes. It is the stage for an apocalyptic scene in which fallen bodies and imploring figures capitulate to weapon-bearing creatures in the midst of this incendiary landscape in flux."

The lot has a very conservative estimate of $500,000 to $700,000. It sold for $990,400 including the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this article. It was the highest price realized in the evening sale in which about 75 percent of the 65 offered lots sold for $9,031,600. The pre-sale estimate for the evening session $9,880,000 to $13,010,000.

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