An interview with Tambaran Gallery’s Maureen Zarember

Maureen Zarember. Image courtesy of Tambaran Gallery.

Maureen Zarember. Image courtesy of Tambaran Gallery.

Click here for a nice interview with Maureen Zarember, who’s been running Tambaran Gallery since 1979. It includes a great story about the above Fang figure:

This figure lay on its back on the floor of a glass case in Sotheby’s auction house, approximately 25 years ago. Almost discarded, not worth standing upright, not attracting attention. Bidding was slow and uninteresting—almost boring—so I won the bid. Afterwards, I was told I had bought a fake, and not to pay for it. However, I was approached by a senior collector who congratulated me and stated, “It’s published,” but couldn’t remember where. I searched books on Fang and Gabon at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, unfortunately without success.

Several years later, a Parisian dealer asked me if I still had that old thing, and enquired if it was for sale. I answered, “No, it is published, but I am still hunting for the book.” After several attempts, offering a very handsome profit, the dealer finally realized I would not part with it. I researched and traced the Fang to Pierre Loeb and Pierre Matisse, as it was photographed by Walker Evans for an exhibition at the MoMA in 1935. We have no record of its whereabouts after 1935 until it surfaced at Sotheby’s, a bit shabby for wear. It had traveled widely, as it was found in California, supposedly in the garbage. During my possession, it started to sweat—the libation palm oil was coming to the surface—and it acquired a wonderful dark patina. What tales we might hear if she could speak! Happily, the torso was loaned to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the “Eternal Ancestors” in 2007, and published in their catalog (plate 29).

I did some research and Ms. Zarember paid $ 27,500 for the Fang in 1992 (Sotheby’s, New York, 18 May 1992. Lot 181); it was indeed sold without any provenance. Certainly an incredible story! Research always pays off.