Auction alert: Christie’s, Art of Africa – Masterworks, New York, May 14, 2019

I’m pleased to announce our Art of Africa – Masterworks sale, which will take place on May 14, 2019 at Christie’s New York. The auction is an exceptional sale featuring nine masterworks of African Art and will coincide with Christie’s 20th Century Week sales. Once more, a meticulously curated sale with only very special objects. You can find more information about them HERE.

Pièce du résistance of this catalog obviously is the Songye Kifwebe mask, the most beautiful and important example of its type remaining in private hands. Through the sculptor’s use of powerful proportion and the waves of graphic lines, the mask creates an optical illusion that can be perceived as hypnotic. The Kifwebe type of mask remains one of the most iconic in all African artistry and has inspired and compelled artist of the 20th century and appears prominently in the works of Alexander Calder and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Therefor, it’s only obvious we’re bringing it to the market at the time of our major modern and contemporary art sales. Extensive research further revealed this mask was already exhibited in Brussels as early in 1933, in the first African art exhibition with works coming from a single private collection, that of Jeanne Walschot, Belgium’s Nancy Cunard and the first ever female African art dealer. Read more about this masterpiece here. Other highlights of the sale include a Picassoesque Grebo/Kru mask from Liberia, an extremely rare black Punu mask and an enigmatic Chokwe costume. Please come preview the sale at the Rockefeller Center on:

7 May, 10am – 5pm
8 May, 10am – 5pm
9 May, 10am – 5pm
10 May, 10am – 5pm
11 May, 10am – 5pm (with a guided tour and champagne at 3:30pm!)
12 May, 1pm – 5pm
13 May, 10am – 5pm

The sale is on 14 May at 6:30pm. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if I can be of any assistance. Hope to see you in New York !

The Lost Gods of Easter Island by David Attenborough (2000)

If you haven’t seen this great BBC documentary written and presented by David Attenborough yet, you can now watch it online HERE. Attenborough embarks on a personal quest to uncover the history of a wooden Easter Island statue which he bought at Christie’s in the 1980s. We follow him on an investigation to uncover the mysteries of his statue; a journey that takes him from Russia to Australia, England, the Pacific, a Tahiti beach and finally to one of the most remote places on earth, Easter Island.

Yours truly recently also made a short documentary about an Easter Island statue. You can see me talking about the moai kavakava from the James Hooper collection HERE – we’ll be selling it next week in Paris among many other Oceanic masterworks (info).

Catalog online: Christie’s, African, Oceanic and North American Art, Paris, 10 April 2019

I’m very proud to announce the catalog of our April 10th auction in Paris is now available online HERE. I hope it explains the radio silence on these pages these last few months. Indeed, in 2018 Christie’s for the second year in a row was the market leader for African and Oceanic art! Hence I did not have much time to blog. Our forthcoming sale features a strong selection of Oceanic art, coinciding with the exhibition Oceania at the Musée du Quai Branly after its first stop at the Royal Academy in London earlier this year. In response to this momentum we have chosen to respond with a tightly curated group of Oceanic masterpieces. The crown jewel of this group is an iconic moai kavakava statue from Rapa Nui. Formerly in the legendary James Hooper collection, is was last seen at auction exactly 40 years ago at Christie’s London, and it is broadly considered as being one of the most classical of its type. The Oceanic section further includes the Sepik collection of an anonymous Dutch collector, amassed over a period of 30 years and showing the genius of Sepik sculptors through a broad range of first-class objects. Additionaly, from various important private collections, we have brought together a strong group of works from New Ireland (including two Uli’s, on which a monograph will appear later this year) and several top pieces from the Maori. The sale starts with an exciting group of Alaskan treasures from the collection of the French painter Antoine Tzapoff. The African section features a section dedicated to the trailblazing French dealer Maine Durieu, who left us too soon 3 years ago. A group of 12 objects from one of her loyal clients celebrates this much missed taste-maker. Last but not least, and a personal favorite, is the below Kongo couple, collected by Edmund Dartevelle in 1936, among many others exciting works fresh to the market. I sincerely hope you’ll find these 121 objects worthy of your attention and would love to welcome you in Paris during our preview days starting on April 5th. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if I can be of any assistance..

Catalogs October 30th Christie’s African and Oceanic art sales online

I’m happy to report you can now browse the catalogs of our upcoming sales taking place in Paris on Tuesday October 30th; you can download the catalogue of the Stoclet collection on this page (as previously announced here), or browse the lots of our second sale here. This auction (taking place immediately after Stoclet) includes property from various distinguished private collections: fresh to the market Oceanic treasures from the Fortess collection, a selection of objects from the collection of Claude Berri (the famous French movie director), an anonymous French private collection assembled with great taste by a female collector from the 1960s until the 1980s, and the collection of Jacques and Denise Schwob, assembled before 1955 and unseen for more than half a century (including the cover lot). The catalogs are printed and on their way. I hope to see you in Paris for the viewing days on:

Wednesday 24 October, 10am – 6pm
Thursday 25 October, 10am – 6pm
Friday 26 October, 10am – 6pm
Saturday 27 October, 10am – 6pm
Monday 29 October, 10am – 6pm

The sales are on Tuesday 30 October at 4pm. As always, don’t hesitate to get in touch if I can be of any service.

Christie’s announces sale of African and Oceanic art from the Adolphe Stoclet Collection

I’m very proud to announce Christie’s will be selling African and Oceanic masterpieces from the collection of Adolphe Stoclet in Paris on October 30th. Highlights will be on view this week in Paris for the occasion of Parcours des Mondes on Wednesday from 2pm to 6pm, and on Thursday and Friday from 10am until 6pm. You’re most welcome to a cocktail celebrating this announcement on Thursday evening at 6:30pm at Avenue Matignon 9.

Adolphe Stoclet was a very important Belgian patron of the arts in the early decades of the 20th century and is most famous for commissioning pioneer Austrian architect Josef Hoffmann and the Wiener Werkstätte with the construction of his private mansion in Brussels. Palais Stoclet, classified as a World Heritage site by Unesco since 2009, was the home of this unseen collection to be sold by Christie’s in October. Stoclet is also remembered as an avid art collector with an avant-garde taste. Long before eclecticism became a trend, he juxtaposed archaic Chinese bronzes, early Greek sculpture, medieval bronzes, Italian ‘primitive’ Quattrocento paintings, and African and Oceanic art in his private residence. These rediscovered treasures have never been on the market before and only a few have been published or exhibited. The collection features a strong group of Congolese ivories, an exceptional kifwebe mask from the Songye, an important royal Luba-Shankadi stool, and the best zoomorphic Yaka headrest to remain in private hands. We are still working hard on the catalog, but it should be available online by mid-September.

Besides the Stoclet sale, we are also having a second auction in Paris on October 30th with objects coming from different important private collections. Highlights of this sale will also be on view in Paris later this week. I hope to meet you there!

Jeanne Claessens

I’m happy to report I’ve added another daughter to my collection of kids: Jeanne Claessens was born earlier this month. Both mother and daughter are doing very well and we couldn’t be more happy. As with Felix, and Garance, there’s of course a link with African art, as Jeanne Walschot was the first female dealer of African art in Belgium, and a serious collector as well.

Throwing throwing knives

The US based dealer Ethan Rider, specialized in African knives, had a fun afternoon of experimental ethnology recently when he decided to actually for once try out the Congolese throwing knives he’d been selling for years. The pictures and videos that he produced that day are worth a look and can be found here. Especially the last video, with the Banda knife, is very impressive. It’s amazing to see these flying through the air. Don’t try this at home!

ps in the last issue of Tribal Art Magazine, Ethan also wrote a great expose about fake African knives made by the Austrian blacksmith Tilman Hebeisen together with Wolf-Dieter Miersch; you can read it here.

Famous 1930 Galerie Pigalle exhibition to be celebrated during Parcours des Mondes 2018

Exciting news from Paris, from 11 to 16 September, for the occasion of Parcours des Mondes 2018, one of the famous early exhibitions of African and Oceanic Art, held at the Galerie du Théâtre Pigalle in Paris in 1930, will be celebrated by the publication of a book and a small exhibition featuring some 30 objects shown 78 years ago. Organized by Charles-Wesley Hourdé and Nicolas Rolland, in partnership with Tribal Art Magazine, a dedicated exhibition will be held at the Espace Tribal. A series of conferences will also be organized at the venue that same week. The limited edition publication (344 pages & 500 illustrations!) will include texts by Hourdé and Rolland, and excellent scholars such as Yaëlle Biro, Philippe Peltier and Virginia-Lee Web. Both authors were able to uncover a forgotten cache of amazing installation shots of the exhibition, which will be shown for the very first time this September.

The 1930 show more or less has a mythical status among people who care about such things. Not alone was the quality of the selected objects very high, the list of lenders to the show also reads as a who’s who of African and Ocenanic art in Paris in 1930: Charles Ratton, Pierre Loeb, Tristan Tzara, Pablo Picasso and André Derain all ensured the success of the exhibition and its lasting renown.

The original catalog, which is impossible to find, did list the 425 exhibited works, but only had a few illustrations. Charles-Wesley Hourdé and Nicolas Rolland however have managed to trace down most of the objects, so the book and show are definitely something exciting to look forward too. Many compliments to both for making this happen!

Good curating: “Mobile Worlds” at the MKG Hamburg

A bit under the radar and running until 14 October 2018, the exhibition Mobile Worlds or The Museum of our Transcultural Present at Hamburg’s Museums für Kunst ind Gewerbe is worth your attention. The blurb on the museum’s website reads:

The exhibition “Mobile Worlds” draws inspiration from the collection housed at the Museums für Kunst und Gewerbe in Hamburg. The MKG collection is in turn inspired by the great world exhibitions held in London, Paris and Vienna in the 19th-century. Now the world of the 19th century is passé, and with it the central position that the West has long claimed for itself. Even though our world knows many centers today, many Western museums still present themselves as though the traditional, museological division into geographies, nations, epochs, art and non-art were universally valid.

I can think of a museum or two where this indeed is still the case, so this central premise is relevant indeed. You can discover more about the show’s themes here. An interesting review in the New York Times was just published by Jason Farago; please find it here. Farago makes some excellent points:

When Europeans of the 18th and 19th centuries established their grandest museums, each building meant to unite the world’s cultural heritage under a single roof, they had no doubt as to who should explain it all: themselves. They took a Eurocentric view, categorizing the spoils of colonial enterprise by nation and region, splitting art from craft, and nature from culture.How much has really changed in this so-called postcolonial era? Apologies are made for the pillaging; diverse populations are invited to “respond.” But the museums’ old assumptions, their methods of classification and display, remain largely untroubled. How might you reorganize a universal museum for the 21st century, an age of migration and of perpetual exchange? One of the boldest answers yet is to be found in “Mobile Worlds,” at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, an applied arts museum in the northern German city of Hamburg that has a similar standing to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London or the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.

And,

By and large, “Mobile Worlds” delivers on its contention that European museums need to do much more than just restitute plundered objects in their collections, important as that is. A 21st-century universal museum has to unsettle the very labels that the age of imperialism bequeathed to us: nations and races, East and West, art and craft. It’s not enough just to call for “decolonization,” a recent watchword in European museum studies; the whole fiction of cultural purity has to go, too. Any serious museum can only be a museum of our entangled past and present. The game is to not to tear down the walls, but to narrate those entanglements so that a new, global audience recognizes itself within them.

The curator Roger Buergel, best known for serving as artistic director of Documenta 12, hypothesis for a more conscionable museum is spot on. And as Farago points: “The past is hideously violent, and these institutions won’t be regenerated overnight. But history, “Mobile Worlds” reminds us, never stops moving forward — and museums won’t be reformed at all if we don’t put in the work.” The time is now!

African art on record covers: Basa Basa

In a previous life I used to be a dj and record collector, so I’m always thrilled when I discover a record with African art on the cover. I recently came across the above lp by Basa Basa, which features this great drawing of a Kota reliquary figure from Gabon. This album was recorded at Decca Studios in Lagos, Nigeria in 1979 and performed by the Basa Basa band which was The Nyaku twins from Ghana and Themba Matebese who played synths and keyboards and also produced it. The connection with a Kota is therefor a bit mysterious. Also note how the empty space between arms and legs is white, so the graphic designer clearly did not know this area was empty on the original thing. The Amsterdam based label Vintage Voudou recently re-released this hard to find album, you can buy the lp here; it’s great. Happy weekend !