Category Archives: Auctions

Save the date : Christie’s fall sales of African and Oceanic art in Paris, 21-22 November 2017

Dear all,

just a short message to inform you about the dates of our upcoming fall sales so you can mark them in your agenda. On Tuesday 21 November, Christie’s will be selling an exceptional private collection of African, Oceanic and Northern American Art. I can’t reveal much just yet, but this evening sale of around 180 fresh-to-the-market objects will be a not to be missed event. The next day, on Wednesday 22 November, we’re having a day sale with 60 carefully selected objects sourced from different private collections. So now you can imagine what I’ve been up to lately, hence the silence on the blog..

The preview of both sales starts on Wednesday 15 November at 10 am and closes on Monday 20 November at 6 pm. We’re open daily from 10 am to 6 pm, except on Sunday 19 November, only between 2 pm and 6 pm. An invitation to the cocktail will accompany the catalogue once it is ready around early October.

Our next sales of African, Oceanic and North American Art thus will already take place in Paris in November instead of the traditional mid-December date, just as the Laprugne sale was moved ahead to a more favorable April instead of June date. Our main, dedicated collecting base, which is strongly European, as well as our top collectors from the United States and around the world, have responded favorably to our new agenda which is more in line with the current market’s rhythm. This spring in Paris we saw exceptional prices among which two new world records at auction, for a Kota Sango figure from the Laprugne Collection (€938,500) and for the iconic Rasmussen-DeHavenon Dogon mask (€2,370,500). As previously reported, these strong results made us market leaders for African and Oceanic art in Paris for the first half of 2017. Furthermore, in April, an archaic Sepik mask from Papua New Guinea sold for seven times its low estimate (€290,500), confirming the growing appetite for quality works from Melanesia. Our day-sale on 22 November will therefor again present a strong selection of fresh-to-the market Oceanic art; this time with a focus on the art of New Ireland and New Britain. The below archaic Hemba figure, once sold by the famous taste-maker Jacques Kerchache, is one more of the many objects to look forward to.

We’ll hope to see you in Paris for Parcours de Mondes, starting on Tuesday 12 September, during which we will also show a small selection of highlights of both sales at our Paris headquarters. Should you be in Paris on any other moment before or after, don’t hesitate to get in touch for a private viewing.

But for now, let me just wish you a fantastic summer, full of joy, good company and great art.

Very best,

Bruno

 

Christie’s market leader for African and Oceanic art in Paris for the first half of 2017

 

With the first half of 2017 behind us, I’m proud to announce that Christie’s is now the market leader for African and Oceanic art in Paris. As the above graph shows we sold for more than 1 million euro worth of art more than our nearest competitor. Our innovative new auction calendar, the strengthening of our team (enter Victor Teodorescu), the company-wide support, the tightly curated selection, the experienced directorship of Susan Kloman and the presence of ‘the legend’ Pierre Amrouche in our team all steered us towards this goal. And, it is our intention and strong ambition to maintain this position onwards. For now, I can’t reveal much about the second half of the year, but I promise you even more fireworks. As we say in our office, team work makes the dream work!

But for now, happy holidays everybody*!! I hope to see you in Paris for Parcours des Mondes during which we will already preview some masterpieces of our fall sales at our Paris headquarters.

*not for us obviously as such auctions don’t make themselves 🙂

 

“Timeless: Masterworks of African Art”, Christie’s, New York, 19 May 2017

I’m proud to announce our May sale in New York, “Timeless: Masterworks of African Art“; you can browse the catalogue online here. This exceptional sale features only twelve masterworks of African Art. As the exhibition and auction will coincide with Christie’s major 20th Century Week sales, which always attract huge crowds to our Rockefeller Center viewing rooms, we wish to confront these new audiences with only the best of the best. As last year’s curated sale, Evolution of Form, the twelve works will be in good company and spread throughout the viewing rooms.

A celebration the diversity of form and innovation of African artistry, from the West coast, to Central and to South Africa, these rare works are fresh to the market and maintain distinguished provenance, which is further enhanced by their exhibition histories and published literature. From incarnations of gods, supreme beings and oracles to works of virtuosity and idealized beauty this presentation is highly rich and was brought together not only to present classical examples, in addition to the Dogon maternity, such as the Bédiat-Huston Baule mask and Matisse Fang Figure, but foremost works of innovation rarely seen on the market – such as the Grebo mask, the Pindi dancing fgure, the Mfumte fgure and the Tsonga female fgure from South Africa. Although these masterworks have only become ‘art’ rather recently upon their arrival in Europe and the United States in the 20th century, Timeless aspires to reveal their universal qualities and demonstrate their rightful place on the great world stage of art throughout time and space.

The sale is on Friday 19 May at 10AM. The viewing days are:

6 May, 10am – 5pm
7 May, 1pm – 5pm
8 May, 10am – 5pm
9 May, 10am – 5pm
10 May, 10am – 5pm
11 May, 10am – 5pm
12 May, 10am – 5pm
13 May, 10am – 5pm
14 May, 1pm – 5pm
15 May, 10am – 5pm
16 May, 10am – 5pm
17 May, 10am – 5pm
18 May, 10am – 5pm

I hope to see you there!

ps If you were wondering.. the sale’s theme was partly inspired by a text by André Malraux, Promenades imaginaires dans Florence, from 1975:

On this earth of ours where everything is subject to the passing of time, one thing only is both subject to time and yet victorious over it: the work of art.

Catalogue online: Christie’s, Paris, 4 April 2017 (African and Oceanic art from the Laprugne collection & various owners)

I’m very proud to announce that our new catalogue is ready; you can find it online here. Now you know why it was so silent on these pages these last few weeks.. The first part of this sale will be dedicated to the Laprugne collection (comprising 78 lots), and the second section will present objects from various owners. Now at the vanguard of the auction season, Christie’s’ African and Oceanic Art department has shifted its auction calendar to coincide better with the rhythm of the market. Coinciding with the highly anticipated opening of the “Picasso Primitif” exhibition at the Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac, it surely will be worth a trip to Paris.

Built over several decades, the Laprugne collection spans all continents and is the lifework of Mr. and Mrs. Laprugne. Starting in the 1970s, Jean-Pierre Laprugne ran the Parisian gallery ‘Mazarine 52’, which specialized in African and Oceanic art. In his early twenties, abandoning his position as a teacher early on, Jean-Pierre Laprugne saw it as his life mission to save these works of art from oblivion and reveal their origins and artistic merits in his gallery. In a classical French tradition, he honed his knowledge through tireless visits to flea markets at dawn and a large network of amateurs which he also frequently met at Hotel Drouot. Over time, this would yield countless treasures. His gallery quickly became a popular meeting spot in the Saint-Germain quarter thanks to Jean-Pierre’s knowledge, open mind and good humor. He inspired a whole generation of likeminded collectors and dealers with his contagious passion. Through the years he was able to build up an exquisite private collection, discretely safeguarding the masterpieces he found for his private sanctuary. At the heart of his collection is a unique group of 7 Kota reliquary figures from Gabon, displaying the unique diversity these guardian figures can show. This exciting collection contains many more unseen and unpublished treasures never before on the market.

The sale of the Laprugne collection continues into the various owners sale, including two dedicated sections. A first group of objects, all miniatures under 20 centimeters, demonstrates the virtuosity of African artists when sculpting small-scale objects. A second section presents a carefully selected group of African and Oceanic masks from the highest quality showing the incredible creativity in the reinvention of the human face. Amongst these masks, a rediscovered archaic Sepik River mask from Papua New Guinea which has remained in the same family since being acquired at the famous auction of the collection of André Lefèvre in 1965 (lot 96). With these focused selections we respond to the current market’s desire to explore categories in-depth. Normally considered in the context of a museum, this comparative approach represents a fresh perspective in the auction model to appeal to seasoned collectors and new audiences alike. Last but not least, and a bit hidden in the middle of the catalogue, is the iconic Dogon mask formerly in the collections of Rene Rasmussen and Gaston de Havenon – lot 82 (on which I will write more later).

A small selection of highlights (including the Dogon mask) will go on view this Thursday 16 March until Tuesday 21 March (daily from 10 am to 6pm).

The viewing days of the sale are:

Wednesday 29 March: 10am-6pm
Thursday 30 March: 10am-6pm
Friday 31 March: 10am-6pm
Saturday 1 April: 10am-6pm
Sunday 2 April: 2pm-6pm
Monday 3 April: 10am-6pm
Tuesday 4 April: 10am-1pm

The sale will take place on Tuesday April 4th at 4pm. Don’t hesitate to contact me for any more information, condition reports or additional pictures. Hope to see you in Paris!

 

Auction ‘surprise’ of the day: a rediscovered Maori flute (putorino)

These last few days there was a lot of buzz in the air in the circles of collectors and dealers in Maori art. Did you hear about this previously unknown flute in a small UK auction? Of course one did! Thanks to the well-consulted live online auction site The saleroom even the smallest British auction house (in this case in the small village of Haslemere, Surrey) now can reach a global audience. Even if mislabeled, so many aficionados are browsing these sales, that no sleeper stays unnoticed. Estimated at only £50-100, this masterpiece was bound to make a top price.

A few were somewhat skeptical about this offering. Surely it should be clear, even to the untrained eye, this is not a pipe. A one second google search would make that very obvious. They got the culture right, at least. In my view, just five minutes on google would eventualy end at the beautiful Maori flute we sold at Christie’s Paris last year. So, the auctioneers, or didn’t do their homework – but why then illustrating the lot with so many professional pictures ? – or did know the object would make what it is worth anyway and hoped to generate a lot of extra buzz with the low estimate. It did work if that was the case, as this exceptional Maori flute sold for £140,000 (without premium) this afternoon. With costs, the total price is around £180,000 or € 210,000 ($ 225,000). This might sound as a lot of money compared with the estimate, but in fact this still is a very good price for it and I’m sure we’ll see it again sooner or later.

Now, you’re probably wondering how these flutes sound like ? Well, you can hear (and see) Richard Nunns play an early 19th century putorino form the Oldman collection below..

Christie’s, Paris, 4 April 2017: African, Oceanic and American Indian art from the Laprugne Collection & Various Owners

I’m proud to officially announce our next auction on April 4th 2017. The first part of this sale will be dedicated to the Laprugne collection (comprising 79 lots), and the second section will present objects from various owners. Now at the vanguard of the auction season, Christie’s’ African and Oceanic Art department has shifted its auction calendar to coincide better with the rhythm of the market. Coinciding with the highly anticipated opening of the “Picasso Primitif” exhibition at the Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac, it surely will be worth a trip to Paris.

Built over several decades, the Laprugne collection spans all continents and is the lifework of Mr. and Mrs. Laprugne. Starting in the 1970s, Jean-Pierre Laprugne ran the Parisian gallery ‘Mazarine 52’, which specialized in African and Oceanic art. In his early twenties, abandoning his position as a teacher early on, Jean-Pierre Laprugne saw it as his life mission to save these works of art from oblivion and reveal their origins and artistic merits in his gallery. In a classical French tradition, he honed his knowledge through tireless visits to flea markets at dawn and a large network of amateurs which he also frequently met at Hotel Drouot. Over time, this would yield countless treasures. His gallery quickly became a popular meeting spot in the Saint-Germain quarter thanks to Jean-Pierre’s knowledge, open mind and good humor. He inspired a whole generation of likeminded collectors and dealers with his contagious passion. Through the years he was able to build up an exquisite private collection, discretely safeguarding the masterpieces he found for his private sanctuary. At the heart of his collection is a unique group of 7 Kota reliquary figures from Gabon, displaying the unique diversity these guardian figures can show (see the teaser photo above). This exciting collection contains many more unseen and unpublished treasures never before on the market.

The sale of the Laprugne collection continues into the various owners sale, including two dedicated sections. A first group of objects, all miniatures under 20 centimeters, demonstrates the virtuosity of African artists when sculpting small-scale objects. A second section presents a carefully selected group of African and Oceanic masks from the highest quality showing the incredible creativity in the reinvention of the human face. Amongst these masks, a rediscovered archaic Sepik River mask from Papua New Guinea which has remained in the same family since being acquired at the famous auction of the collection of André Lefèvre in 1965. With these focused selections we respond to the current market’s desire to explore categories in-depth. Normally considered in the context of a museum, this comparative approach represents a fresh perspective in the auction model to appeal to seasoned collectors and new audiences alike.

The viewing days are:

Wednesday 29 March: 10am-6pm
Thursday 30 March: 10am-6pm
Friday 31 March: 10am-6pm
Saturday 1 April: 10am-6pm
Sunday 2 April: 2pm-6pm
Monday 3 April: 10am-6pm
Tuesday 4 April: 10am-1pm

The sale will take place on Tuesday April 4th at 4pm. Hope to see you there!

ps click here for an interview with Jean-Pierre Laprugne from 2003.

SAVE THE DATE: Collection X, Christie’s, Paris, 4 April 2017

 

Please mark your calendar, the next Christie’s sale of African, Oceanic and Northern American Art will take place on Tuesday April 4th at 4pm. Highlights will also be on view mid-March during the preview days of the Impressionist and Modern art sale. Also during TEFAF Maastricht, a small selection of objects will be on view in our Paris HQ.  If you would find yourself earlier in Paris, please note that we’re always open during weekdays and happy to give you a private preview of the objects in our upcoming sales. We’re at your service.

The viewing days are:

Wednesday 29 March: 10am-6pm
Thursday 30 March: 10am-6pm
Friday 31 March: 10am-6pm
Saturday 1 April: 10am-6pm
Sunday 2 April: 2pm-6pm
Monday 3 April: 10am-6pm
Tuesday 4 April: 10am-1pm

Yes, we’re moving away from the tradition of having our sale in June to be at the vanguard of the spring season. In fact, we’ll have two sales: an unknown private collection full of treasures and a various owners sale with two curated sections – more info coming soon… In total we’ll be offering more than 150 objects, in all price ranges and from across the world, so it surely will be worth a trip to Paris.

Historic results for the historic sale of the Madeleine Meunier collection

I’m very proud to report about my first “White Glove Sale” (an auction in which every single lot sells, for a perfect 100 percent sell-through rate): Aristide Courtois, Charles Ratton: At the heart of the Madeleine Meunier Collection, sold by Christie’s, in collaboration with Millon, last week in Paris. You can find the pdf of the catalogue here.

The sale made a total of € 4,5 million, doubling the pre-sale total high estimate! You can browse the results here. Many world records were broken, the star of the show of course being the beautifully complex Luba-Shankadi headrest of the Master of the Cascade Coiffure that graced the front cover. This masterpiece of African art was sold to a distinguished private collector for € 2,295,078 – a new record for a work of this artist.

I intentionally used the word ‘historic’ two times in this posts’ title, because it truly was such a moment. Never again will we see a collection like this appear at auction. None of these objects had been on the market before and all had passed through the hands of two important champions of African art: Aristide Courtois and Charles Ratton. It was a privilege for me to work with such a collection and very rewarding to see that everybody was at the appointment; thanks for your interest and participation.

These objects are in fact just at the beginning of their ‘career’; none of them had been published or exhibited before, but I’m sure we’ll see many of them again soon. Carefully safeguarded by Madeleine Meunier for almost half a century, these treasures surely will bring much joy to their new owners.

At Meunier’s specific request the sale took place at Drouot, where Charles Ratton himself had organized so many historic auctions, and this resulted in a very special atmosphere in the packed auction room during the sale. From the start, one object after the other shattered its estimate. Of course we deliberately had kept these low to stimulate the bidders’ enthusiasm, which resulted in some intense bidding wars – just like in the good old days. There surely was a lot of passion in the room! Also during the viewing days, it was such a delight to meet and discuss the objects with so many passionate collectors, scholars and dealers.

To finish, my favorite view of the exhibition: our ‘Kuyu’ room, highlighting the 2 Kuyu statues and 2 Kuyu heads collected by Aristide Courtois in Congo Brazzaville, here presented together for a very last time (after being together for almost a century) before they parted ways..

Auction surprise of the month: a rediscovered Austral Islands necklace

auction-surprise-sleeper-bruno-claessens-cook-islands-necklace-whalebone

Austral Islands necklaces are among the rarest and most sought after of all Polynesian artifacts. It was thus no surprise that when a newly discovered example popped up in a small auction in the UK, listed as an ‘ethnic carved bone and antler necklace’ and with an estimate of only £60-100, it was sold for £125,000 (including premium).

The lucky seller runs a house clearance firm and found the item among the contents of an empty property he had been tasked to clear. He had no idea of its value and arrived at a jumble sale with a view of selling it for £15. But he had a change of heart at the last moment and decided to pop across the road to an auction house for experts there to have a look at. They believed it to be an 18th century ethnic carved bone and antler necklace and told him it might be worth between £60 and £100. However, Auctioneer Chris Ewbank started to suspect he underestimated the item in the days leading up to the sale when potential buyers booked up phone lines and left preliminary bids. And when it went under the hammer on 2 December at Ewbank’s Auctions of Surrey (UK), three bidders forced the bidding up to a staggering £99,000. With fees added on the Paris-based winning bidder will pay £125,000 for it.

austral-islands-necklace-sleeper-oceanic-art-sperm-whale-bone

Mr Ewbank reacted in this interview: “It is what we in the business call a sleeper, it came out of nowhere. It can make the auctioneer look slightly silly because they failed to spot a gem. There’s no point in trying to hide the fact that we got this one wrong.” In 2010, Sotheby’s sold a similar necklace from the Niagara Falls Museum for £ 200,000. Julien Harding wrote in the catalogue note:

The iconic status of these ornaments is enhanced by a certain mystery which has surrounded their place of origin. In establishing this it will be helpful to begin with the “testicle” pendants which are known in a variety of sizes and materials (ivory, bone, wood). In the official account of Captain Cook’s last voyage we find a description of the natives of Atiu, one of the southern Cook Islands: “Some, who were of a superior class, and also the Chiefs, had two little balls, with a common base, made from the bone of some animal, which hung round the neck, with a great many folds of small cord” (Cook, 1784).
William Wyatt Gill of the London Missionary Society noted that such objects were worn as ear ornaments by the chiefs of Mangaia, the southernmost of the Cook Islands (Gill,1894).
Later, E.L.Gruning, who lived in the Cook Islands from 1905 to 1914, carried out an exploration of Atiu during which he had himself lowered into a cave of unknown depth at the end of a makeshift liana rope. His courage was rewarded by the discovery of human skeletons and two “phallic ornaments”, one suspended from braided human hair, in the manner of a Hawaiian lei niho palaoa. He notes that these ornaments “are reputed to have been worn only by champion warriors of the island, who had the right of possessing any woman, married or single, while wearing one” (Gruning, 1937). The term “phallic”, used by several authors to describe these pendants, is of course a mistake. They may well represent testicles but certainly not a phallus.
It is thus certain that individual testicle pendants were worn as chiefly ornaments in at least two of the Cook Islands in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Very possibly they were similarly used in the neighbouring Austral Islands since there was canoe contact, both deliberate and accidental, between the island groups.
If we now turn to the composite necklaces themselves we find the evidence of origin much less clear, no doubt because early records for the Austral Islands are extremely sparse. In his monumental Album (1890) Edge-Partington published a fine example, attributing it to Mangaia (plate17, no.2). Te Rangi Hiroa (Peter Buck, 1944) gave a detailed account based on the ten necklaces known to him and held in various institutions: British Museum (2), Cambridge University Museum, England (2), Royal Scottish Museum, Edinburgh (1), Boulogne Museum (1), Peabody Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts (1) and the Oldman Collection (3). He also attributes these necklaces to Mangaia, but suggests a close connection with Rurutu in the Austral group. Significantly, Buck states that the pig was unknown in Mangaia but was present in Rurutu (ibid.).
More recently Roger Duff pointed firmly to the Australs as the origin for these necklaces on the basis of old missionary attributions for three examples not known to Buck. Two, now in the Canterbury Museum, New Zealand, were previously in the Wisbech Museum, England, where they were described as “Necklaces from Rurutu, Austral Islands. Composed of the fibres of cocoanut, human hair and bones; worn as a memorial of friendship. Rev. Wm. Ellis 26.8.1841”. Duff notes that a third necklace, in the Saffron Walden Museum, England, is also attributed to the Australs and specifically to the island of Tupua’i (Duff, 1969).
A persuasive argument in favour of the Austral Islands derives from comparative morphology. The famous figure of A’a in the British Museum (Harding, 1994) is certainly from the Australs – it was given up to John Williams of the London Missionary Society in 1821 by a party of Rurutu islanders. The small figures (“demigods”) carved on this sculpture closely resemble those on a whalebone bowl of typical Australs form (Oldman collection no. 476, now in the Auckland Museum). This bowl has a handle in the form of two pig figures identical in style to the one on the present necklace.
Thus, on the available evidence, we can safely attribute these beautiful necklaces to the Austral Islands, those specks of land to the south of Tahiti which produced some of the finest art of the Pacific. The Australs culture, briefly glimpsed by Captain Cook in 1769 and again in 1777, was more or less intact when Fletcher Christian and the other Bounty mutineers arrived there in 1787. Missionary influence and introduced diseases effectively destroyed the old way of life and today this is merely a remote corner of French Polynesia with a total population of 6500 and virtually no trace of the original culture. The survival of a few Australs masterpieces, such as the necklace offered here, is of the greatest importance. These objects are silent witnesses to a tradition of superb craftsmanship which has disappeared for ever.
The necklace may be compared with three examples in the Oldman collection (illustrated in Oldman, 1943, plate 21, nos. 477, 478, 479) and with three in the Hooper collection (illustrated in Phelps, 1976, plate 83, nos. 654, 655, 656). Understandably, very few Australs necklaces have ever appeared at auction. One of the Hooper examples (no.654) was sold at Christie’s, London, June 17, 1980. After many years in the De Menil collection this reappeared at Sotheby’s, New York, auction on November 22, 1998. Another Hooper necklace (no. 656, the Edge-Partington example previously mentioned) was sold by Christie’s, London, July 3, 1990.

Catalogue Madeleine Meunier Collection Online

aristide-courtois-charles-ratton-at-the-heart-of-the-madeleine-meunier-collection-christies-bruno-claessens

I’m very proud to announce that our new catalogue is ready; you can find it online on this page. Now you know why it had been so silent on these pages these last few weeks 🙂 It has been an honor to work on this historical collection; one truly felt the spirit of Charles Ratton holding the objects he once cherished. In 2014, when I wrote about the Master of the Cascade Coiffure on this blog (here), I could not imagine I would once be so closely involved in the sale of a long lost work of this master carver myself. Besides the obvious masterpieces, even the ‘smaller’ works of this sale are able to fascinate – I highlighted some in an interview with Aurore Krier-Mariani on the Imo Dara blog here – and it is our hope that all types of collectors (with all kinds of budgets) will be able to participate in the dissemination of this important collection.

Note that at the specific wish of Madeleine Meunier the sale will take place at Drouot in Paris. From 9 to 13 December, everything will be on view at the Christie’s headquarters in Paris, before moving to Drouot, where there’s an additional viewing on 14 and 15 December. The sale is on 15 December at 6:30pm. I hope to see you in Paris – do let me know if I can be of any assistance.