The results of Sotheby’s eBay adventure

As I reported here last week, Sotheby’s is now selling African art via eBay. Now that the auction is over, it’s time to have a look at the results.

Several objects apparently were removed from eBay (the website states: This listing was ended by the seller because the item is no longer available) – either that or they were not sold. Among them the Songye kifwebe mask, Mambila figure, and a Dogon figure. Strangely enough the Allan Stone provenance is no longer listed. Five objects from his estate were sold: a great Makonde mask, estimated at $ 3-5K and starting at $ 1,500 (which was estimated $ 8-12K last year) was sold for $ 6,500*; a Chokwe (?) mask, estimated $ 6-9K (originally $ 15-25K here), sold for $ 4,800; an Akan head was sold for $ 1,800 (est. $ 2-3K); a second Makonde helmet mask sold for $ 2,400 (est. $ 3-5K); and a Sudanese throwing club sold for $ 850 (estimated $ 800-1,200).

*It’s interesting to note that during the second Allan Stone sale, this Makonde mask was passed; the last bid being $ 3,750. It was indeed overlooked during the sale itself and deserved a second chance.

The 3 objects from the Segy estate were not sold (a Bamana headdress, a Bamana mask, and a Fon staff). A Guro antelope mask and a Mossi container also remained unsold, while a Dan miniature mask made $ 2,000 and a Dan mask $ 6,500 (est. $7-8K). I thus wouldn’t call this sale a huge success. From the 15 objects, 7 were sold – (except from the Makonde mask) all under or around the low estimate, in total generating $ 24,850 (I guess without the buyer’s premium).

I wonder if that $ 25K was worth the damage to their carefully created image of no. 1 auction house for African art?

I guess the decision was made higher than the individual departments in Sotheby’s corporate structure.