Category Archives: Collectors

R.I.P. Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller (1930-2016)

I’m sorry to inform you about the passing of a great promotor of African Art (among many other things), Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller. The French newspaper Le Figaro just broke the news of his death here. Coincidently I just had a blog post ready to praise his private museum in Geneva – which must probably be the only museum in the world that is open every day ! Yes, even on Christmas and the 1st of January. They just opened a new splendid exhibition on the art of the Yaure (info), the first ever on the subject and accompanied by an excellent catalogue by Alain-Michel Boyer. Once again, a testament of its founder’s unquenchable quest for knowledge and his bounteous will to share it with the world. We’ll surely see many praiseful tributes to this true connoisseur and renaissance-man in the coming days. The world needs more people like him, that he might become an inspiration for many.

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.

Seward Kennedy’s Cabinet of Curiosities to be sold by Christie’s London

seward-kennedy-collection-of-curiosities-christies-london-cover

On 22 November 2016, Christie’s London will be selling Seward Kennedy’s Cabinet of Curiosities info). This eclectic collection includes a group of African and Oceanic ‘curiosities’ as well; starting with lot 144, a very nice Zande shield from D.R. Congo. You can browse the catalogue here. Below a nice portrait of the man (click to zoom).

seward-kennedy-collection-of-curiosities-christies-london

Exactly 50 years ago today

 

As my boss Susan Kloman mailed me this morning: “Happy Helena Rubinstein day!” 🙂

Today marks the 50th birthday of the landmark sale of her collection of African and Oceanic art by New York’s Parke-Bernet Galleries Inc. 21 April 1966 will forever remain an important turning point in the worldwide appreciation of African and Oceanic art. The unprecedented prices paid for the objects from her collection would radically alter the commercial value of African art ever after. And, together with this sale, the provenance of an object would came to have an increasingly important influence on its value. We included a small tribute to her in the catalogue of our upcoming sale in New York.. (click on it to zoom)

Evolution of form Helena Rubinstein Christie's

 

You can see the full Evolution of Form catalogue here, it includes a fascinating Dan mask, described by yours truly, which can be seen on the below interior shot of Rubinstein’s Paris apartment below.

 

Helena Rubinstein’s apartment on boulevard Raspail, c. 1930. At right, the Rubinstein Dan mask. Photograph by Dora Maar.

Helena Rubinstein’s apartment on boulevard Raspail, c. 1930. At right, the Rubinstein Dan mask. On the left, a Brancusi. Photograph by Dora Maar.

African art collectors with good taste: the Modigliani of Klaus Perls

Crowds sit in front of Amedeo Modigliani's "Nu couche" during the "Artist Muse: A Curated Evening Sale" November 9, 2015 at Christie's New York November 9, 2015. Image courtesy T.A. Clary / AFP / Getty Images.

Crowds sit in front of Amedeo Modigliani’s “Nu couche” during the “Artist Muse: A Curated Evening Sale” November 9, 2015 at Christie’s New York November 9, 2015. Image courtesy T.A. Clary / AFP / Getty Images.

The event that marked the art world last year was the sale of Modigliani’s Nu CouchĂ© for $ 170,4 million at Christie’s New York (info). It became the second most expensive painting ever sold at auction. The painting is one of a series of great female nudes made for LĂ©opold Zborowski that famously caused a scandal nearly a century ago when they were exhibited at Modigliani’s first and only one-man show at the Galerie Berthe Weill in Paris.

Another painting of that exhibition ended up in the hands of a famous African art collector: Klaus Perls, the owner of Perls Galleries. We know Perls for the 153 pieces of Benin art he donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1991. Kate Ezra wrote a great book about this collection, which is available for free here. In 1997, Klaus Perls would donate his Modigliani to the Metropolitan; you can see it on the picture below. It’s strange to think that this one (extraordinary) painting is worth as much as his complete (encyclopedic) collection of Benin art. Anyhow, it’s great to see them together.

The dining room of the Perls home, with Benin art (and a Baule mask) displayed beneath Nu Couché by Amedeo Modigliani, 1918.

The dining room of the Perls home, with Benin art (and a Baule mask) displayed beneath Nu Couché by Amedeo Modigliani, 1918.

ps fourth from the left, the attentive eye can spot a ‘Birmingham bell’, as previously discussed on the blog here.

African art from the Beyeler Foundation

Mumuye figure. Height: 99 cm (including base). Image courtesy of the Fondation Beyeler.

Mumuye figure. Height: 99 cm (including base). Image courtesy of the Fondation Beyeler.

The above Mumuye figure is one of the major objects in the small, but exquisite African art collection of the Fondation Beyeler in Switzerland. You can browse the other objects in their possession here – there’s a small selection of Oceanic art as well. Their Mbembe figure will be shown during Warriors and Mothers: Epic Mbembe Art opening next month at the Metropolitan (info), while the big Kongo nkisi nkondi will be reunited with the other works of this artist during Kongo: Power and Majesty, also at the MET, end 2015 (info).

Accessing the Pitt-Rivers inventories online

Image courtesy of the Pitt Rivers Museum (2012.33.1).

Image courtesy of the Pitt Rivers Museum (2012.33.1).

Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt-Rivers (1827-1900) amassed two large collections of art objects during his lifetime. The first became the founding collection of the Pitt Rivers Museum at the University of Oxford. His second collection was displayed at a private museum in Farnham, Dorset during his lifetime and stayed in his family’s hands. This museum was eventually closed in the 1960s and this collection has now been dispersed. It is listed in nine beautifully illustrated volumes of a catalogue now part of the collections of Cambridge University Library. The Pitt-Rivers museum has made both the accession catalogues of their collection, as well as the above mentioned nine volumes of Pitt-Rivers’ private collection digitally available for consultation here. You can explore the pages of the catalogues by selecting a volume or by searching for a specific term using the ‘Search the volumes’ button. Most of these volumes are beautifully illustrated with detailed color drawings, accompanied by a description, the measures, the acquisition date, the price and the provenance. In other words an incredible research tool. Besides Oceanic and African art (with a focus on Benin art), these catalogues also contain art from other parts of the world. If you’re looking for a specific object, it can take a while (I did find Bulgy Eyes) – but these inventories are so interesting browsing them page by page is a pleasure to do. If you wish to learn more about the life and collections of Mr. Pitt-Rivers, do visit the Rethinking Pitt-Rivers website.

With big thanks to Marc Assayag for the tip. Sharing is caring!

 

Image courtesy of the Pitt Rivers Museum.

Image courtesy of the Pitt Rivers Museum.

Image courtesy of the Pitt Rivers Museum.

Image courtesy of the Pitt Rivers Museum.

Image courtesy of the Pitt Rivers Museum.

Image courtesy of the Pitt Rivers Museum.

Image courtesy of the Pitt Rivers Museum.

Image courtesy of the Pitt Rivers Museum.

Sotheby’s Paris to sell Murray Frum’s collection of Oceanic art

Murray Frum

On 16 September 2014, Sotheby’s Paris will offer the collection of Oceanic art from Polynesia and Melanesia formed by the late Murray Frum. It is the most significant group to come to market in the last thirty years. The Collection of approximately 70 works contains a rich variety of exceptionally rare objects with distinguished provenance. Unique in these times are the group of pre-contact Polynesian pieces, which form the heart of the collection. The collection as a whole is valued at € 6 million to € 9 million; with about a dozen items priced at under € 5,000,-.

Murray Frum (1931-2013) was a Canadian real estate developer. His parents had emigrated to Canada from Poland in 1930, and he grew up in Canada. It was a visit to New York in the late 1950s to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York that sparked his passion for collecting. Over the next fifty years, he assembled an extraordinarily diverse collection of African, Oceanic, Pre-Columbian, Silver, Art Deco, and Renaissance art as well as Canadian paintings. Murray became known not only for his discerning eye and tremendous curiosity about the objects which he displayed elegantly in his home which he built with the modernist architects (Ron Thom, Brigitte Shim and Howard Sutcliffe), but he was also a tremendously generous philanthropic man. He loaned objects from his collection around the world, and his African collection was published and exhibited in 1980 by the great African art curator, William Fagg, ex-keeper of the British Museum. In addition, he gave part of his African art collection to the Art Gallery of Ontario. His deliberate choice of the Art Gallery for his collection demonstrated Frum’s deep conviction that tribal art should be considered as art, and not as ethnographical specimens. Click here for an overview of some of the highlights. This eulogy by one of his sons is also a must read.

UPDATE: click here for a short video of Frumm giving a small tour of his private collection as well as his collection at The Art Gallery of Ontario.

Head of a Staff God, Rarotonga, Cook Islands This magnificent sculpture is a sacred object from one of the rarest sculptural traditions in Polynesia. Formerly in the James Hooper Collection, it is the upper part of a large staff, which would have measured around 12 feet in length. The missionary John Williams claims to have destroyed the majority of these images during his time on Rarotonga between 1827-1828. Only twenty staff gods survived the early 19th century missionary presence on this small island, and most are today in museums. The Frum staff god is the first of this quality to come to auction in nearly 20 years.

Head of a Staff God, Rarotonga, Cook Islands This magnificent sculpture is a sacred object from one of the rarest sculptural traditions in Polynesia. Formerly in the James Hooper Collection, it is the upper part of a large staff, which would have measured around 12 feet in length. The missionary John Williams claims to have destroyed the majority of these images during his time on Rarotonga between 1827-1828. Only twenty staff gods survived the early 19th century missionary presence on this small island, and most are today in museums. The Frum staff god is the first of this quality to come to auction in nearly 20 years. Estimated € 1,5 – 2,5 million.

Auction tip: André Blandin collection of African bronzes

LOMBRAIL - TEUCQUAM André Blandin bronzes

Next Saturday, 5 April 2014, the French auction house Lombrail-Teucquam will sell the AndrĂ© Blandin collection. Mostly bronzes, the sale includes some very rare and hard to find objects. Blandin’s 1988 publication Bronzes et autres alliages, which features many of these objects as well as the cover lot, is still one of the reference books for the bronze collector. The same can be said for Fer Noir from 1992 concerning iron African objects. Blandin’s 400 Objets africains pour la vie quotidienne lastly is essential for the collector of objects of daily use. For me, these three publications perfectly illustrate how a passionate collector can make substantial contributions to the African art scholarship. You can browse the 230 lots in detail here or download the catalogue here.

R.I.P. Jean Willy Mestach (1926-2014)

Jean Willy Mestach March 2008

Last Saturday, 22 March 2014, the quintessential artist-collector, Jean Willy Mestach, passed away. His passion and eye were inspirational for a great many collectors. Mestach understood African art as no other. An artist himself, his collection was unmatched in terms of personal aesthetic choices, generated by a strong emotional and intuitional response to African art. Each object in his collection related integrally to all others, creating an ensemble widely considered as one of the best collections of African art ever and a work of art itself. I was fortunate enough to visit his apartment that looks down over the Sablon once in 2008, which for me was a life-changing experience. In his studio, a magical place, Mestach lived, worked and slept among his masterpieces, slowly and unconsiously becoming one himself. His continuing influence will forever be felt in the world of African art. The 2007 publication on his collection, L’Intelligence des Formes, the catalogue of the exhibition Mestach l’Africain, is a must-have. Rest in peace, Mr. Mestach.