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Catalogue online: “African and Oceanic Art”, Christie’s, Paris, 10 April 2018

I’m very proud to announce the catalogue for our African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian Art auction of 10 April in Paris is now online; you can find it here. Now you know what I’ve been up to these last months. You can come preview the sale in Paris on these days:

Thursday 5 April, 10am – 6pm
Friday 6 April, 10am – 6pm
Saturday 7 April, 10am – 6pm
Sunday 8 April, 2pm – 6pm
Monday 9 April, 10am – 6pm
Tuesday 10 April, 10am – 4pm

The auction is that Tuesday, the 10th, at 4pm. During the preview days, there also might be some objects on view that we will sell later this year.. (#teaser), so I can guarantee it’s definitely worth the trip to Paris! I hope to see you there and, as always, don’t hesitate to get in touch if I can be of any service. Best, Bruno

Save the date: Christie’s, Paris, African and Oceanic Art, 10 April 2018

Please be so kind to note in your agenda that Christie’s’ next African and Oceanic art sale in Paris will take place on Tuesday 10 April 2018. After successfully implying our new agenda in 2017, we thus continue to have sales early April. The viewing days will be:

– Thursday 5 April, 10am-6pm
– Friday 6 April, 10am-6pm
– Saturday 7 April, 10am-6pm
– Sunday 8 April, 2 pm-6pm
– Monday 9 April, 10am-6pm

We’ll be selling about 95 objects, about half of them originating from Oceania. For the sale we’ve reunited 3 objects from the La Korrigane expedition and rediscovered many more polynesian and melanesian treasures. I’m also very excited about the 20 unknown Congolese masterpieces I uncovered in a very private Belgium collection. Furthermore, there’s an historical Luba stool which was already exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum in 1937. The cover piece will be an exquisite Fang statue of which you find a teaser above. We’ll also be selling a part of the private collection of Hans Sonnenberg – famous in The Netherlands, but yet unknown outside the country (below you can find a short biography I wrote for the catalogue). We have also relaunched our Pre-Columbian art department earlier this year – with Fatma Turkkan-Wille as its director, and on Monday 9 April we’ll be selling the prestigious Prigogine Collection; more info about that sale here. Anyway, I can’t reveal too much other information just yet, but I can guarantee you it will be worth a trip to Paris! We might have some objects of other upcoming sales on view as well..

Hans Sonnenberg in his living room in 1997 with the painting ‘Suga Ray Robinson’ by Jean-Michel Basquiat from 1982, sold by Christie’s in New York on 13 November 2007. Photo Archives Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.

Hans Sonnenberg (1928-2017), a Rotterdam art dealer and collector, was best known as ‘Mr. Delta’, after the gallery with which he had a huge impact on the Dutch art scene for more than 50 years. In addition to his job as a port agent (which he would keep until 1972), Sonnenberg was already an avid art collector at an early age. In 1954, he organized his first exhibition, and in 1958 he met Piero Manzoni, from whom he would later exhibit and sell several so-called Achromes. In 1958, Sonnenberg’s active role in the art world began as he founded the group Zero (not to be confused with its German counterpart with the same name), which included artists such as Piero Manzoni, Emil Schumacher and Jan Schoonhoven. The group’s work was related to the French art informel and American abstract expressionism and put on the map by Sonnenberg in the Netherlands through a number of expositions curated by him at Galerie Eroz.

When it opened in 1962, Sonnenberg’s Gallery Delta was the first in Rotterdam to focus solely on showing and selling art from living artists. With numerous exhibitions, it promoted successive emerging national and international art movements (such as Cobra, Popart and the ‘Nieuwe Wilden’) in The Netherlands. Sonnenberg exhibited works by Castellani, Appel, Constant, Jorn, Hockney, Oldenburg, Warhol, Lichtenstein, Haring, Scharf and emerging Rotterdam artists. The sale of the work of these avant-garde artists unfortunately never really took off, and commercial success failed to materialize (one client even returning a Warhol). In 1982, Sonnenberg for the first time exhibited the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat in the Netherlands. However, none of the five works purchased in the artist’s studio in New York would sell. Due to this disappointing success of foreign artists from the 1980s on Sonnenberg would focus more than before on Dutch artists, for who he had discovered a local collector base.

Generations Dutch art lovers, collectors, museum directors, curators and gallery owners started their career with a visit to Gallery Delta. As an art promoter pur sang, Sonnenberg for decades had a large and stimulating input on the Rotterdam and Dutch art scene. In 2000 he donated an important part of his personal collection of paintings to the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam, including works by Basquiat, Manzoni, Arman, Hockney, Hamilton, Kusama, etc. The same museum in 2012 honored him with the exhibition ‘Mr. Delta’, following the 50th anniversary of his gallery.

Sonnenberg’s collection of African and Oceanic art belonged to his private domain; it formed an integral part of his apartment, where the important group of Malagan objects from New Ireland occupied a considerable part of the living room. Sonnenberg started collecting at the start of the seventies of the last century. His archives unfortunately contain little information about this part of his life as a collector. From sparse old correspondence we know, however, that he bought from traders like Jan Visser in Amsterdam and also frequently traveled to Brussels and Paris. He also exchanged statues with Jaap Wagemaker (one of his artists) and with Joop Schafthuizen, the partner of Gerard Reve. Visitors to his apartment would always receive a passionate tour through his collection. It should not be surprising that an art connoisseur with such an avant-garde taste for paintings also had an interest in non-European art.

Last days to visit the ‘Les Forêts Natales’ exhibition at the Musée du quai Branly (closing Sunday 21 January)

Tempus fugit! It’s already the last week of the Les Forêts Natales exhibition at the Musée du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac (info and pictures here). If you haven’t had the chance to see this must-see show, please don’t sleep and go visit it. I would suggest to reserve at least 3 hours for it, as you’ll need them. It truly is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see that much iconic masterpieces of Gabon in one single museum. I don’t think any other curator will ever dare to envision such a comprehensive selection – it did take Yves Le Fur more than 3 years to prepare it. With the closing of the Dapper Museum, he of course had the unique chance to lend about 25 of their top objects, but also the holdings of the MqB itself, the Barbier-Mueller Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and numerous private collectors proved indispensable for the success of this exhibition. The catalogue, which unfortunately is only available in French, is also recommended but does not prepare you for the real-life experience. Furthermore, not all exhibited works are included in it. Personally, I saw the show three times, and still I don’t have the feeling I have seen enough of it. Several sections of it (Fang, Kwele, Kota, Tsogho) easily could have been standalone exhibitions and still would be incomparable. I will never forget that wall of Kotas (more than 100 in total!) – see above.

Kuddos as well to the Friends of the Musée du quai Branly for their innovative thinking to include the source communities of this exhibition by organizing several ‘web tours’ (info). Several Mondays (when the museum was closed), they organized live broadcasted guided tours which could be followed in several places in both Gabon and Cameroon:

• Fondation Gacha à Bangoulap au Cameroun
• Musée des civilisations de Dschang au Cameroun
• Musée National de Yaoundé au Cameroun
• Galerie Doual’art à Douala au Cameroun
• Galerie MAM à Douala au Cameroun
• Institut Français de Yaoundé au Cameroun
• Institut français de Douala au Cameroun
• Institut Français de Libreville au Gabon
• Etablissement scolaire Le Ruban Vert à Libreville au Gabon
• Lycée français Victor Hugo à Port-Gentil au Gabon

A wonderful initiative, and a first I think. The Gabonese president, Ali Bongo Ondimba, also visited the expo – as can be seen below. He was rightfully very proud.

A smoking Punu mask in “Ball im Savoy” (1935)

A very nice discovery by Ingo Barlovic, the man behind the About-Africa website: the 1935 Austrian movie Ball im Savoy, based on an opera by Paul Abraham, contains a funny little scene with a Punu mask. While in previous scenes an actual mask was hanging on the wall, here it appears to be replaced by a woman made up like such a mask, including the typical scarification patterns on the temples and forehead. It’s very well done I must say; see the full scene below (starts at the right moment):

10 Reasons to come to Brussels in January

In two weeks time Brussels will again be the epicenter of the African art circus, with BRAFA and the winter edition of Bruneaf taking place at more or less the same time. Didier Claes (president of Bruneaf and vice-chairman of Brafa), just send out the above (full version here), which I thought was not a bad idea – as a paucity of public relations has been hampering both events in the past. After a short hiatus, Claes is president again of Bruneaf and it’s up to him now to bring the organization into the 21th century. An anticlimax had been last summer’s exhibition Finalité sans Fin, which brought together a fantastic group of iconic masterpieces, accompanied by an excellent catalogue – but which did barely get any promotion and was therefor not really noticed outside the regular crowd. A shame, as a lot of effort had gone into it – but not in promoting it. However, this sad episode served as a wake-up call and now Bruneaf is even on Instagram. It’s my sincere hope this historical event can continue successfully and learns from previous mistakes.

The strengthened presence of African and Oceanic Art at the Brussels Art Fair (BRAFA), shown by 12 (!) dealers, certainly has heightened the effort put into the winter edition of Bruneaf (which originally used to be the less exciting brother of the summer edition, now branded Cultures, confusing isn’t it). While the non-European presence used to be very small, BRAFA truly has become a not to be missed event in our field. Participating galleries are: Didier Claes, Dartevelle, Yann Ferrandin, Jacques Germain, Bernard de Grunne, Grusenmyer-Woliner, Monbrison, Ratton (both father and son!), Guilhem Montagut (for the first time!), Serge Schoffel, and Galerie Schoffel de Fabry – all of them combined, that’s a lot of great art!

Talking about insufficient public relations, no. 3 in Claes’ list, the Oceania exhibition at the Cinquantenaire Museum in Brussels deserves a special mention, as it must be the least publicized exhibition of Oceanic art ever. A shame as it is, although not very big, a great introduction to the art of this region, and, extra points from a young father here, very kid friendly! Fingers crossed that the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, reopening in June after years of renovation, is taking note and preparing a serious media campaign! Anyway, apologies for the rambling – as Didier Claes, I just wanted to invite you to Brussels this month, it’s worth the trip!

New book: “The Benin Plaques, A 16th Century Imperial Monument”, by Kathryn Wysocki Gunsch (2018)

Great news on the book front: Kathryn Wysocki Gunsch, Department Head for the Arts of Africa and Oceania at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, just published her eagerly awaited research on Benin plaques as a book. As her academic publisher is not really making any promotion for it (which it rightfully deserves), I thought I gave a little feature here. The blurb reads:

The 16th century bronze plaques from the kingdom of Benin are among the most recognized masterpieces of African art, and yet many details of their commission and installation in the palace in Benin City, Nigeria, are little understood. The Benin Plaques, A 16th Century Imperial Monument is a detailed analysis of a corpus of nearly 850 bronze plaques that were installed in the court of the Benin kingdom at the moment of its greatest political power and geographic reach. By examining European accounts, Benin oral histories, and the physical evidence of the extant plaques, Gunsch is the first to propose an installation pattern for the series.

Gunsch spend more than four years on the subject, traveling the world to handle as many plaques as possible. If you are as obsessed as me with these, this is a must-read. I thought I’d do a small interview with her to tell us more about this research project.

What brought you to Benin plaques ?

I began studying Renaissance art history when I began my masters/PhD program at the Institute of Fine Arts, at NYU. I thought I would minor in African art history, because I had spent a lot of time in Nigeria, Kenya and Rwanda in my former career in international development. I was surprised at how anthropological the discourse in African art history was, especially compared to Renaissance art, and I realized I had more to contribute in this field, so I made African art history my main subject in my second year and never looked back. I have always loved 16th century bronzes — first in Italy and then in Nigeria — and so the Benin bronzes were a natural fit for a topic.

There’s already a lot of literature of the art of the Benin Kingdom, when did you realize you could add something to the existing scholarship?

I had a pit in my stomach when I walked into my first meeting about the project with Susan Vogel, who supervised my dissertation with Jonathan Hay. I had done a preliminary literature survey and couldn’t find the installation proposal for the plaques — I was sure I had somehow missed a major publication. When Susan said there hadn’t been any installation proposal, I knew I had something to offer. It still boggles my mind that no one has tried to reconstruct the 16th century audience hall before — but then again, it is a lot easier to do now that I can organize images of this 850+ corpus on Flickr!

A mock-up of a view of the courtyard from the entryway (using just two plaques as examples in the drafting program). Image courtesy of Kathryn Gunsch.

What do you see as the biggest revelation in your book ?

My biggest revelation in the research was that when you look at the entire series, there are overlooked clues to dating and workshop method, as well as the original installation plan. I saw more than 640 plaques in person and another 100 by photograph, and looking at so many helped me find new insights. For example, all of the wide plaques have one of three patterns on their flanges, the small collar of brass perpendicular to the left and right sides of the plaque surface. In the book, I explain how these flange patterns are likely a signature of the head of the brass-casting guild, and that they certainly mark a progression in time. You can see how plaques with one pattern are in lower relief and show less daring use of the medium than the plaques with other patterns, a sign that the brass-casting guild is learning as it completes the commission. Looking at the reverse of the plaques, and the way the river-leaf pattern is applied to the front, I believe we have evidence for a guild production method that shrinks the dating of the corpus to less than 60 years. This is the more objective ‘new news’.

An example of the patterns on a plaque flange. Image courtesy of Kathryn Gunsch.

I’m curious to see what readers have to say about my more hypothetical proposal, that pairs and near-identical series can support a theory of which plaques were installed on the same pillar as each other, and why. It turns out that 36% of the known plaques have a near-identical pair. That’s not easy to achieve in lost-wax casting, where the clay mold is destroyed in the casting process. My installation proposal argues that the pairs and sets structure the corpus, giving the installation a framework within the enormous architectural space of the court. I’m trying to explain why the brass-casters would have gone to the extreme effort to make these pairs and sets, and what the Obas reigning at the time — Esigie and Orhogbua — could have achieved with this monumental commission.

Did you get to answer all the questions you had ?

No! We never get to answer all our questions, right? I am still not sure why the first set of plaques has a strict width of 30cm, and the narrow plaques are nearly all 19cm wide, but the later sets are more variable in their width. But if I had answered all my questions, what would I do next?

How was the experience of going to Benin City yourself ?

I loved visiting Benin City. I had spent a lot of time in Abuja and had visited Lagos before, but coming back to Nigeria and spending time in Benin City made me appreciate the importance of the kingdom’s art history today. This isn’t a dead subject — Oba Ewuare II reigns over a thriving court, with all the politics that entails. Seeing his father, Oba Erediauwa, during a title ceremony really brought that home. Thinking about Oba Erediauwa’s commissions in the Ring Road at the city center helped me focus on what kings achieve with the art works they sponsor. I didn’t have an audience with the Oba, but his brothers and other high court officials were gracious and patient with my questions, as was the then-new head of the brass-casting guild, Kingsley Inneh, and his uncle Daniel Inneh. I wish I could go back more often.

What are your future plans ? Is there already another book/project in the pipeline ?

I’m currently working on a theory that the altar figures are paired, just as the plaques are — and I mean paired to the centimeter, not just having similar iconography. It seems that triadic symmetry is a main feature of Benin aesthetics, and I wonder what we can learn about the heads and the altar figures if we apply that idea. I’m not sure it will be enough material for a book, but we’ll see!

I’m looking forward to that; thanks for the interview Kathryn.

If you want to learn more, you have to buy the book; you can can order it here !

Exhibition tip: Beyond Compare – Art from Africa in the Bode Museum in Berlin

I wanted to share some pictures of this unbelievable exhibition currently on view at Berlin’s Bode Museum. This beautiful museum, known for its outstanding collection of European sculpture, now temporarily houses 70 masterpieces from the Ethnologishes Museum (which closed last year) until they will relocate to the newly build Humboldt Forum (to open at the end of 2019).

The African works are placed in smart juxtapositions with the permanent collection creating fascinating dialogues across time, place and religions. Unexpected similarities and differences become apparent: Michel Erhart’s late Gothic Virgin of Mercy appears next to the famous Kongo power figure, which, like the Madonna, was also created to protect a community. Mythical heroes from central Africa take their place among late Gothic Christian figures and open up new perspectives on both collections. The show address major themes of human experience, such as power, death, beauty, memory, aesthetics, and identity. For each of them, the curators (Julien Chapuis, Jonathan Fine and Paola Ivanov) were able to find great object pairings.

Beyond Compare is just one spectacular view after the other. One room downstairs contains the majority of works, but the remainder is spread across the museum, so it is sometimes a bit of treasure hunt (which cleverly makes you explore the whole building). I must say it is one of the most beautiful exhibitions I have ever seen in our field. I’ve become somewhat tired of seeing African art juxtaposed with modern and contemporary Western art, making up links which are not necarilly there. This show merely endeavors to find common themes and for once it is not about who inspired who (although links between St. Sebastian, Madonna-and-child statues and Kongo figures are vaguely suggested).

The installation as well is top-notch; it is clear the Bode Museum has a lot of experience presenting three-dimensional wooden works of art, and many objects can be walked around. It was amazing, as well, to see the standing statue of the Buli Master all by itself, without a case. The Benin leopard in the big staircase is a view I will never forget and the Benin queen (famous from the front cover of Tom Phillips’ Art of a Continent) paired with a Donatello sculpture, as well in bronze, is just genius.

Another plus is the excellent selection, it truly gives you a new perspective of the scope and importance of the Ethnologisches Museum’s collection, showing many masterpieces that hadn’t been on view at the Dahlem for a very long time (the Hemba ancestor figure, for example). This ‘conversation of continents’ is a big success and I would highly recommend a visit. I dream of seeing the Louvre or the Metropolitan doing something like this one day.. but Berlin did it first!

Kuddos to the museum as well for publishing an English version of the catalogue (Musée du quai Branly, please take note!). You can out more about Beyond Compare on the Bode-Museum’s website here. I’ll just let my snapshots do the talking (click to magnify), as you’ll see Beyond Compare truly lives up to its title.

Update: a reader comments, the primitive art indeed pairs very well with the African art 🙂

Christie’s leader in the African and Oceanic Art market in 2017

The year coming to a close and all action behind us, I’m very proud to report that Christie’s in 2017 has been the market leader in the African and Oceanic Art market. Our four sales combined (three in Paris and one in New York), we sold for a total sum of about € 30 million (against € 27 million at our closest competitor). Furthermore, we had the most successful sale of a single-owner collection sale in a decade in Paris with the sale of the Vérité collection, which achieved € 16,7 million, and broke the world record for the most expensive Oceanic art object ever sold at auction: the Hawaiian God statue from the Vérité collection selling for € 6,3 million. Our innovative new sale calendar, our strengthened team, our concept of tightly curated sales, and our top notch catalogues, all were pivotal for this unparalleled success – and there’s still a lot room for growth! We have already been working hard on our next sale in Paris, on April 10th, which will include two exciting fresh-to-the market collections. And there’s much more in the pipeline, not yet to be revealed…

I want to thank you all for the continued support and hope to see you again at Christie’s in the new year. But for now, let me wish you some magical holidays and a great 2018!

Very best,


ps above my favorite view of the year, with four of the Oceanic masterpieces of the Vérité collection in one picture; I’m very grateful to have had the chance to work with these objects. The success at work unfortunately has come at one small price; it has never been so quiet on this blog before, for which I apologies – although you know to what I’ve been up to 🙂

R.I.P. Tim Hunt

Tim Hunt, ca. 1985. Image courtesy of Christie’s.

I’m sorry to report on the passing of Tim Hunt, who died of cancer last weekend. Tim was one of my predecessors and began his career at Christie’s in London (1980–1986), where he worked alongside Hermione Waterfield and William Fagg in the African and Oceanic art department. He subsequently moved to New York to work for The Andy Warhol Foundation (1987–2014), where he served primarily as an “in-house” dealer, selling works from the artist’s estate on behalf of the Foundation. Since 2016 he owned a gallery on the Upper East Side in New York. He participated at Parcours de Mondes in 2016 with a very inventive exhibition ‘Visages: crées et trouvés’, including many found objects resembling masks. I last saw him in his Manhattan gallery last year, where he was entertaining a group of female collectors after the MATA event with the kind hospitality he was famous for. Tim was a widely loved, genial Brit like they don’t make them anymore, he will be missed by many. Rest in peace.

Catalogue online: “Collection Vérité” – Christie’s, Paris, 21 November 2017

Begun nearly a century ago, the Vérité Collection astounded the world and shattered records when these treasures of African and Oceanic art came to market in 2006, and created a new benchmark at auction (selling more than 500 objects for almost € 44,000,000!). Imagine the amazing surprise today, 11 years later, that more masterpieces, the ones they kept, could emerge again as the last secrets of Ali Baba’s cave! It has been a fantastic journey to be able to work on this catalogue, which is now available online here.

Pierre Vérité (1900-1993) began collecting in the 1920s, at the dawn of French art market and a time when someone with a knowledgeable eye and a sharp sense could secure unimaginable masterpieces of African and Oceanic art. Like magicians, together with his son, Claude (b. 1928), they quietly ‘hid in plain sight’ and continued their collecting endeavours into the golden age of the 1950s and 1960s, with no one fully knowing the extent of their treasures.

At the heart of this momentous strand of last pearls is the Hawaiian god figure (lot 153). A work that Claude Vérité always remembers from his childhood and amongst the most coveted. As with most of the Vérité works, its origin is unknown. Possibly found in the English countryside, or brought to the gallery in exchange for another ‘piece of wood’. What we know today is that is can now be appreciated amongst the greatest works of art ever created – equal on the great world stage to any other iconic sculpture to which it could possibly be compared. It was created at the apogee of Hawaiian sculpture during the late 18th century and the sovereignty of Kamehameha I, who associated himself with the great god of war – Ku ka ‘ili moku – whom this figure surely represents. His name means – land snatcher – and his power and purpose was fully aligned with the mission of Kamehameha I to so-called ‘unite’ the islands under his reign. This is what we now call the famous Kona style – a hallmark being the broad, figure-eight mouth, nearly extended tongue inside a prognathous jaw- also called ‘the mouth of disrespect’ – distended eyes and the posture of a wrestler. It is surely the same masterhand as another famous sculpture in the British Museum (LMS 223) collected by Tyerman and Bennett in 1823. Important to note that they are each carved from the same wood – metrosideros – or ohi lehua. A symbolic tree found only in the high mountains with red flowers and once cut the core looks like raw flesh.

Another major sculpture is the Walden-Kraemer-Loeb Ancestral Figure called Uli for the Malangaan in New Ireland (lot 145). With its deep, black patina and tight posture and carving details, it is an archaic style of one of the most celebrated sculptural figures of the South Pacific – the ancestral Uli. As with most Vérité objects, it had a secret life. It was only in recent months that we unlocked its font of history and provenance – from its collection in a New Ireland village in 1909 to its home in the famous collection of Pierre Loeb – the important avant-garde modern art gallerist, scholar, voyager and collector of les ‘arts premiers’ – by 1929 to the last time it was seen in public in 1930. It was seen at the landmark exhibition at Galerie Pigalle, and as one of the few Oceanic works of art presented, it was featured in an editorial review of the show penned by Carl Einstein, another luminary of the early 20th century, a critic and historian who championed both modern and African and Oceanic art.

The magnificent range of Kota reliquary figures is of a level not seen together in public in many years – apart from what we can see at the current major exhibition at the Musée du Quai Branly Jacques Chirac and featuring works of art from Gabon, ‘Les Forêts Natales’ – here in the Vérité collection we see 11 (!) variations on this classical, evergreen form appreciated for its abstract form, astonishing range of variation on a theme and the assembly of materials in wood and precious metals. From a Kota by a masterhand we could call the ‘Stieglitz Master’ for being the same atelier as another formerly in the collection of Alfred Stieglitz and now at the Musée Dapper – to a delicate Shamaye and Sango type – and a rare Mahongwe. The most important piece from this group is a Kota of the N’Dassa, which is estimated at €200,000-300,000 (lot 94).

Another amazing discovery is a beautiful and classical Hemba figure from the Democratic Republic of Congo (lot 115), representing a heroic ancestor among his clan. Apart from the famous Hemba in the Antwerp museum, very few of these sculptures made their way to Europe before the 1970s. It was clearly created by an important Hemba artist who thoughtfully made a signature style with diamond-shaped eyes, which are echoed in the shape of the navel – the center of the life and portal to the supernatural realm. In a chance discovery, we found that it was part of the landmark 1935 exhibition – African Negro Art – at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), when at the time it was part of the collection of Pierre Loeb. The catalogue entry demonstrates it was still an unknown style and he is simply referred to as being from Tanganiyka in the Congo.

Some history of the Vérité Collection:

In 1934, Pierre and Suzanne Vérité opened their first shop called – Arnod, Art Nègre – on the Rue Huyghens, in Montparnasse. The address, suggested to them by their friend and neighbour, the American artist John Graham, was illustrative of those early years and synergistic time when in 1916, the Lyre et Palette gallery, located a little further down the street, held the first Parisian exhibition that combined Modern art (Matisse, Picasso and Modigliani) with African art. Art dealers and collectors such as Paul Guillaume, Charles Ratton, Pierre Loeb and André Portier met and mingled at the Vérités’ gallery, alongside members of the Parisian avant-garde – the Surrealists Paul Eluard, André Breton and Tristan Tzara – and the international avant-garde, including Helena Rubinstein and James J. Sweeney, to whom Graham introduced the Vérités.

In 1937, they moved to the heart of Montparnasse on boulevard Raspail, and there Galerie Carrefour was born. More than ever, the Vérités were at the nexus of haute- Parisian cultural life in their salon. ‘Welcome to my forest’ – Pierre’s affectionate gallery greeting to his gallery and its inhabitants from Africa and Oceania – was likely spoken to the virtual constellation of 20th century modernists – Matisse, Picasso, André Lhote, Marcoussis, Breton, Eluard, Ernst, Derain, Lipchitz, Magnelli, Léger &c.

Pierre and Suzanne Vérité acquired most of the masterpieces of their personal collection during the 1930s, however their collection was not revealed to the public until 1950s when a few exhibitions came to light with works from their collection: 1951 at Galerie La Geintilhommerie, ‘Arts de l’Océanie’, 1952 and 1955 at Galerie Leleu, ‘Chefs-d’Oeuvre de l’Afrique Noire’ and ‘Magie du Décor dans le Pacifique’; ‘Art Afrique Noire’ 1954 at the Musée Réatu in Arles organized by such luminaries as Michel Leiris, Pierre Guerre, Charles Ratton, Pierre Vérité himself, and LeCourneur and Roudillon – here it was the last time that objects from the collection would be named as such. Later, though they remained generous in their loans and contribution to the academic knowledge of African and Oceanic art, their names only appear episodically, or not at all for instance the loan of the great Fang Ngil to the Museum of Modern Art’s ‘Primitivism’ in 1984 – anonymous.


The sale of the collection is on 21 November 2017 at 3pm and promises to be the event of the year; you are more than welcome to come preview the final treasures from this collection on:

15 Nov, 10am – 6pm
16 Nov, 10am – 6pm
17 Nov, 10am – 6pm
18 Nov, 10am – 6pm
19 Nov, 2pm – 6pm
20 Nov, 10am – 6pm
21 Nov, 10am – 2pm

I hope to see you there! Don’t hesitate to get in touch if I can be of any assistance.