María Berrío - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Wednesday, May 18, 2022 | Phillips
  • "My characters are part of a full world who can’t exist without others." 
    —María Berrío

    Fusing mythology and biography, Burrow of the Yellow, 2013, is a paragon of María Berrío’s fantastical large-scale collages that teem with chromatic exuberance. Set in a kaleidoscopic room, four women recline with big cats and rabbits in a field of flowers. Here, the figures amalgamate with the surrounding flora and fauna as much as the flowers meld into the patterned wallpaper that extends past the window into the outer world. Blurring interior and exterior, Burrow of the Yellow showcases Berrío’s practice of entwining material and conceptual layers that capture the “magical realism” of her acclaimed oeuvre.i


    Gustav Klimt, The Three Ages of Woman (detail), 1905. Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Rome. Image: Scala / Art Resource, NY

    "In my work, motherhood has produced a protective element…It’s such a deep connection, so when you’re doing something from your unconscious, it’s obviously going to come up."
    —María Berrío

    Based in New York, the Colombia-born artist is known for her ornate depictions of mythical utopias presenting women at one with nature, finding inspiration in South American folklore and her personal life. Based on a dream Berrío had as an expectant mother, Burrow of the Yellow is a highly autobiographical work that manifests how being a mother has influenced her work. “When I was pregnant with my son,” she explained, “I had a dream where I gave birth to a rabbit, which my mother then put into a cage. Then, we all waited for it to turn into a human…it led to me making a painting of women laying on the floor surrounded by rabbits.”ii The female figure cradling the rabbit and the tigers that lay with the women materialize her expression on the protective element of motherhood through her unique visual language, inviting us into the unconscious depths of her mind to “unveil the mysteries and beauty of our world, to explore and touch the unseen.”iii



    "The women who inhabit my paintings are embodied ideals of femininity…These are the women I want to be: strong, vulnerable, compassionate, courageous, and in harmony with themselves and nature."
    —María Berrío

    The floral abundance subsuming the women in Burrow of the Yellow signals to the theme of fecundity from Berrío’s dream while recalling the artist’s oft-cited connection with Gustav Klimt, whose flower-imbedded figures often symbolized the evolution of womanhood. Here, the artist epitomizes the evocation of her predecessor by adorning the canvas with gold leaf and oil paint. Berrío, however, refuses the sensual objectification of her figures through the ghostly pigmentation of their skin to suggest “an otherworldliness [so] they appear to be more spirit than flesh,” in her words.iv By outlining the body of the present figures in bright pink, Berrío further highlights this notion as if to suggest a halo around their bodies through divine femininity.


    Henri Rousseau, The Dream, 1910. Museum of Modern Art, New York. Image: © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY

    The present work features tigers which look to the mythic tales and traditions of the Kogi tribe in Colombia—“people of the Tiger”— which further appear in her monumental 2017 canvas Aluna, Ford Foundation, New York, as well as her major 2019 mosaic project for the Fort Hamilton Parkway station in Brooklyn, There is Magic Underneath it All.v From birds to monkeys, horses to tigers, animals play a key role in Berrío’s oeuvre, which in part look to her upbringing in Colombia where her imagination was stimulated by the natural life around her. Here, Berrío ultimately captures the influence of Hispanic surrealists on her work including Frida Kahlo, Leonora Carrington, and Remedios Varos, who also tapped into mythology and psychology in conveying, as she expressed, the “interconnectedness of the universe...[the] fluidity between person and thing, human and animal.”v


    Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, 1940. Harry Ransom Center, Austin. Image: Erich Lessing / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2022 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    "We are a prism of culture. My work celebrates this diversity—not explicitly, but with fantasy—in an attempt to create a narrative that is as complicated and elusive as reality."
    —María Berrío

    As Burrow of the Yellow demonstrates, Berrío’s signature collage technique of sourcing culturally diverse materials is deeply symbolic. Crafting the composition with myriad layers of Japanese papers which she paints over with washes of watercolor, Berrío establishes a striking dialogue with the very origin of her paper by directly incorporating the imagery of Japanese ukiyo-e artist Utagawa Hiroshige in the background—the landscape pictures on the walls and the distant mountains outdoors deriving from his famous series The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō, 1833-1834. In the present work, Berrío thus materializes the heart of her artistic program. “My work,” as she explained, is “informed by every bit of material layered in it, and by every place the materials hail from. This process of fusing cultural production from a wide range of places is inherent to the form and, more importantly, to the meaning.”vii 


    Henri Matisse, Odalisque in Red Culottes, 1921. Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris. Image: © Michel Urtado / Benoit Touchard / RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2022 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    A notable nod to the work of Henri Matisse, Berrío’s technical process springs from her earlier practice of drawing patterns inspired by wallpaper and fabric samples. Through her mature practice of collage, Berrío brings the French master’s decorative interiors to life in Burrow of the Yellow, evoking his motifs of the open window and floral-patterned walls whilst employing actual paper with botanical designs. Here, one recalls Matisse’s Odalisque in Red Culottes, 1921, in the bottom right figure’s pose and the flowers that blend into décor. By placing this Eden-like scene in a room, Berrío invites the theme of nature indoors in both subject and technique, collapsing the space between the interior and exterior of minds and worlds that define her trailblazing practice.


    Collector’s Digest


    • Testifying to the artist’s meteoric rise to critical acclaim, Berrío received a solo presentation with Victoria Miro Gallery at Frieze Los Angeles this year, on the heels of her major survey debut at the Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach in 2021.

    • Berrío’s work resides at global institutions including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Yuz Museum, Shanghai, among others.


    i María Berrío, quoted in C.J. Bartunek, “As Complicated and Elusive as Reality”: María Berrío’s Many-Layered Collages,” The Georgia Review, Spring 2019, online.
    ii María Berrío, quoted in “María Berrío,” Gossamer, no. 3, 2019, online.
    iii María Berrío, quoted in Amanda Quinn Olivar, ed., “María Berrío,” Curator, 2019, online.
    iv María Berrío, quoted in C.J. Bartunek, “As Complicated and Elusive as Reality”: María Berrío’s Many-Layered Collages,” The Georgia Review, Spring 2019, online.
    v Nicholas J. Saunders, Icons of Power: Feline Symbolism in the Americas, New York, 2013, p. 145.
    vi María Berrío, quoted in C.J. Bartunek, “As Complicated and Elusive as Reality”: María Berrío’s Many-Layered Collages,” The Georgia Review, Spring 2019, online.
    vii Ibid.

    • Provenance

      Praxis Art, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

Property from a Pacific Northwest Collection


Burrow of the Yellow

mixed media collage on canvas
60 x 72 in. (152.4 x 182.9 cm)
Executed in 2013.

Full Cataloguing

$400,000 - 600,000 

Sold for $998,000

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20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 18 May 2022