Category Archives: Auctions

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.

Catalogue online: “African and Oceanic Art”, Christie’s, Paris, 22 November 2017

I’m proud to announce the catalogue for our African and Oceanic Art sale of 22 November in Pars is now online; you can find it here. As the appetite for Oceanic art has never been so strong, we actively sourced top material to be included in this sale. We’re very proud of the result, with more than half of the sale being Oceanic in nature and many exceptional objects one rarely encounters at auction (for example the Fiji statue, the Tahiti statue, the Hawaiian game board, and especially the Hawaiian god staf). The African art section is also very strong, including one of the most iconic Dan masks known (shown during African Negro Art at the MOMA in 1935), a top-notch Songye kifwebe mask (never on public view before), and of course the cover lot: an ancient Northern Hemba statue once owned by Jacques Kerchache – an exceptional masterpiece in an amazing condition for its age. There are much more goodies in the sale of course, but I’ll let you discover them yourselves. Now that this catalogue is ready, it is finally time for this blog to come out of hibernation mode! It’s my hope to be able to post more frequently again and I regret not having more time to spend writing for the blog. I hope to see you in Paris for the preview, the dates:

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
Sale 22 Nov, 4 pm

Don’t hesitate to get in touch if I can be of any assistance.

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..