Auction review: Sotheby’s, Paris, 18 June 2014

Some statistics from yesterday’s Sotheby’s sale (all prices excluding the premium, and only taking the African art into consideration):

  • The sale made € 5,131,300 – a little below the middle of its total estimate of € 4,682,000 – € 6,552,500.
  • From the 53 lots, 18 (or 34 %) failed to sell.
  • 14 lots (or 26,5 %) sold under their low estimate, 14 (or 26,5 %) within the estimate and 7 (or 13 %) above their high estimate.
  • The top lot was the Fang-Mabea figure (lot 36), featured on the front cover, which sold for € 3,800,000 – € 300K above its high estimate and responsible for more than half of the total result of the sale. Fang remains a market darling; especially with a history like this one.
  • Three high-estimated lots failed to sell: the Yaure mask (estimated € 350K-450K), the Sangu reliquary (lot 72) (estimated € 130K-160K) and the second Cameroon Fang figure in the sale (lot 77), estimated € 150K-200K.
  • The ex Tristan Tzara Bete-Guro mask (lot 40) which was exhibited in 1935 at the MOMA, failed to sell – notwithstanding its prestigious provenance.
  • My favourite object was the Luluwa figure, which at € 300K sold spot on the money.

Overall the sale obviously did better that the second Allan Stone auction last month (reviewed here). The top lot sold and made the sale, but there weren’t any surprises. With almost a third of the African art lots unsold it wasn’t an overwhelming success. Personally, I found the estimates on the high side again – 40 % of the 35 sold objects were in fact hammered down below the low estimate. Prices for African art are getting more realistic again, but the estimates often still need to follow that trend.

Fang Mabea Sotheby's Fenon