An Oceanic masterpiece moving between museums via Christie’s

Mask. Saibai Island, Torres Strait (Northern Islands, Australia), pre 1870, wood, human hair, shell, seedpod, fiber, pigment, melo shell and coix seeds. Collection Toledo Museum of Art, Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey, 2015.

Mask. Saibai Island, Torres Strait (Northern Islands, Australia), pre 1870, wood, human hair, shell, seedpod, fiber, pigment, melo shell and coix seeds. Collection Toledo Museum of Art, Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey, 2015.

The Toledo Museum of Art has just announced they purchased the rare Saibai Island mask that was sold at Christie’s in Paris on December 3, 2015. Estimated €750,000 – €1,200,000, the mask was hammered down for € 1,665,500 (buyer’s premium included, info) – making it the most expensive Oceanic mask ever sold at auction. Deaccessioned by the de Young Museum (where it was part of the Jolika Collection), the mask was collected by Samuel MacFarlane circa 1870 and had already spend some time (from 1886 to 1974) in another museum before (the Staatlichen Museum für Völkerkunde in Dresden, Germany). I’m happy to learn it will stay on public view.

In the press release Dr. Brian Kennedy, president, director and CEO of the Toledo Museum of Art, commented that “This is an extraordinary, spectacular example of the sculptural tradition of mask making in the Torres Strait Islands. We have rarely seen such a striking and memorable mask. We are thrilled to have acquired an object of such rarity which expands the global range of the Toledo Museum of Art’s celebrated art collections.” You can learn more about the mask here.

ps the Toledo Museum does have a small collection of African art (search on ‘Africahere; and they also possess Modigliani’s iconic portrait of Paul Guillaume.

Paul Guillaume by Amedeo Modigliani, 1915. Image courtesy of the Toledo Museum (1951.382).

Paul Guillaume by Amedeo Modigliani, 1915. Image courtesy of the Toledo Museum (1951.382).