Colonial Art Gets More Attention with High Prices and Museum Shows

Look at this pair of Casta paintings (see below for info on Castas) that fetched $641,000 at Sotheby's Latin Art Modern & Contemporary Sale! They were estimated at $80,000-120,000, which was very modest but to reach this level is really remarkable. Various museums and private collectors have focused on Colonial art, and good Casta paintings are always in demand especially in America. LACMA, Denver Art Museum, Brooklyn Museum, the Met in New York and Philadelphia Museum of Art have all been putting big exhibitions, building on collections, and dedicating new departments to this field. Some have been doing it for years, others are just beginning. Even the Louvre in Paris is joining the trend, as they put on “Mexican Art at the Louvre: Masterpieces from the 17th and 18th Centuries” in 2013. We are curious if they will be able to extend their collection of Mexican paintings, which at the time of the exhibition there was only one!

Castas were a genre of Spanish colonial paintings which illustrated the varied population of the New World and their surroundings. Castas were usually done in series of six or more and contained depictions of the local economies as well as of flora and fauna. Many Casta series were done to be sent back to Spain to show the wealth of the New World and, to entice new settlers to the fruitful continent. The genre of Casta painting became very popular in Mexico but was much rarer in the other Spanish colonies of the Americas.