Q. I have an original painting by Anibal Villacis that my parents purchased in South America in the late 1960s. It is 48 by 9½ inches. What is its current value?
A. The name Anibal Villacis is not quite a household name in the United States, but he is an important Ecuadorean artist. He died March 7, 2012.
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Villacis was born in Ambato, Ecuador, in 1927. In his early years, Villacis was self-taught. He learned by studying and then re-creating bullfighting posters. Too poor to purchase ready-made art supplies, the enterprising young artist created the materials from clay and natural pigments, and then used them to paint walls and doors throughout Ambato.
Then, in 1952, Villacis got his first big break. The former president of Ecuador, Jose Maria Velasco Ibarra, saw Villacis' work and offered him a scholarship to study in Paris.
Villacis was uncomfortable in Paris because he never became accustomed to the language. After about a year, he asked the Ecuadorean minister of education to switch the site of study to Madrid.
Villacis stayed in the Spanish capital for about six years, and was influenced by an artistic movement called "Informalismo." This "Informalist Movement" led Villacis to co-found "VAN" (Vanguardia Artistica Nacional), which incorporated Informalism with a search for modern interpretations of pre-Columbian art forms. This is also known as "Ancestralism.
He is perhaps best-known for his "Filigranas" (i.e. "Filigree) series, which he began in the early 1960s. For these he used masonite, canvas or wood panels and then used such items as marble dust, sand, metal, plaster, paint, gold and/or silver leaf (or powder) to create pre-Columbian-inspired images.
The painting in today's question looks abstract at first glance, but we think we detect a pre-Columbian-style figure as the central motif (it is hard to tell from the photograph).
There is a myth that as soon as an artist dies the value of his work soars. But this is not necessarily true in every case.
If the work is in fashion and interesting to collectors, the values may indeed take a significant jump. But if the work is not "au courant" or appealing to current tastes, the price might go down.
We found that, in 2010, a Villacis realistic image of an Andean flute player brought more than $8,000 at Christie's in New York City. More-abstract pieces tend to bring a bit less. But the example here is very attractive. This might be worth around $6,000 for insurance purposes at this time.
• Contact Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson at Treasures in Your Attic, P.O. Box 18350, Knoxville, TN 37928.