Fang figure, Gabon. Image courtesy of Lucas Ratton.
TEFAF Maastricht, “the fair that defines excellence in art”, this year welcomes a new participant specialized in African art: Lucas Ratton. He will join Didier Claes, Bernard de Grunne, Entwistle and Galerie Meyer, strengthening the position ethnographic art holds at the fair.
Jean-Baptiste Bacquart, also from Paris, this year is one of the five exhibitors chosen for TEFAF Showcase – which gives dealers a one-off chance to take part in the fair offering them a smaller space in a separate area (both Claes as Ratton also first were present at TEFAF through the Showcase initiative).
As a teaser for the fair, which will take place from 13 to 22 March, you can already browse all ethnographic art that is to be featured in the catalogue here.
Frieze Masters tents in Hyde Park. Image: BC.
If you need an excuse for a London trip, Frieze Masters from 15 through 19 October might be it. It was my favorite fair last year. It’s a nice walk from St. Pancras and the venue is beautifully located in Hyde Park. The offerings are very eclectic and the quality level exceptionally high. From the ca. 130 participants, Entwistle, Galerie Meyer, Donald Ellis and (new this year) Pace Primitive will be showing African, Oceanic and native American art. Across the park Frieze is featuring over 160 of the world’s leading contemporary galleries at another venue.
A rare anthropomorphic Bamana boli figure. Height: 40 cm. Published in Schaedler’s “African Art in Private German Collections” (#37). Shown at Galerie Frank Van Craen. Image courtesy of the Africarium collection.
Apologies for the radio silence; my excuse: the 13th annual edition of Parcours des Mondes. This year, 67, yes 67, participants, of which half from abroad, again did their utmost best to impress. More than ever, there were many curated exhibitions; often dedicated to the arts of a single culture. For example the Teke at Alain Lecomte, the Baule at Maine Durieu, the different Ekoi peoples at Alain Dufour and the Senufo at Olivier Castellano. Though from a dealer’s perspective a bit of a gamble (one excludes all collectors not interested in the culture you’re exhibiting), each of them presented an impressive and varied selection. Many other thematic exhibitions took place, 37 in total. Two personal favorites were the African jewelry show at Galerie Noir d’Ivoire and Serge Le Guennan’s musical instruments exhibition. A small, but beautiful collection of Sapi & Kissi stone figures from Sierra Leona was shown by Alain Bovis – a type of art still unrightfully underappreciated in my humble opinion. On a different level, Arte Y Ritual presented a selection of objects they sold in the last 30 years, many of them well established masterpieces; maybe even too much of them to fill a single room. It was a bit crowded, but the quality level was unsurpassed. Anyhow, I returned so many times that a week later I still have the piano-loop that was playing continuously in the background in my head. Across the street, as a first time participant, Martin Doustar made quite the introduction with his skull exhibition. All these ancestors from all over the world concentrated in one gallery was a very powerful and unique experience. Apparently the show took four years to make, and one could tell. You can download a preview of the catalogue here. Clearly, a dealer to keep an eye on. However, I was happy that not everybody had organized a thematic exhibition. While very didactic, it’s still fun to enter galleries with no idea whatsoever about what you’re about to see. Discovery remains key, as is the excitement of seeing an unknown object for the very first time. For many foreign collectors Parcours des Mondes has become an annual tradition; being the only time a year they visit the Parisian galleries. In so much there’s this festive atmosphere, this year helped by the wonderful weather. One runs into old and new friends from all over the world and stories and gossip are shared over coffee, lunch or dinner in the beautiful surroundings of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Each visitor has its own background and life at home, but in Paris we’re all the same passionate aficionados of tribal art. For me, it’s this temporary microcosmos that Parcours creates which makes it such a successful event – where else in the world can you discuss with random strangers how that one Bamana boli figure left you speechless…
ps The New York Times’ Scott Reyburn also wrote an interesting review, you can read it here.
Update: another review (discussing sales & Cafe Tribal – a praiseworthy initiative I unfortunately failed to attend due to a busy schedule).
The catalogue of Parcours des Mondes is online; you can find it here. This edition has a lot of side activities: apart from the usual signature sessions at Librairie Fischbacher (among others, Heinrich Schweizer’s book on the Malcolm collection will be presented), there are multiple lectures under the header ‘Café Tribal’. Read all about them here – there will even be a performance of a Guro zahouli mask! At the Grand Palais, it’s also the 27th edition of the Biennale des Antiquaires. Bernard Dulon & Didier Claes will both be exhibiting at this prestigious venue – Bernard de Grunne will also be showing a small selection at the stand of Dominique Levy. Lastly there are previews of the upcoming auctions of Christie’s and Sotheby’s NY, as well as the sale of the Frum collection at Sotheby’s.
In two weeks more than 60 dealers will reunite in Paris for the 13th annual edition of Parcours des Mondes which will again present an unsurpassed scope of offerings. Earlier this month the organization launched their new website where you can already find a preview.
Last year, while everybody and their mother was gossiping about the Hampatong figure at Galerie Schoffel de Fabry (info), art history was in the making when a New Jersey based collector acquired the male pendant of an important female Urhobo figure already in his collection. They were carved by the same artist around 1850 and previously were separated for at least four decades. You can read all about this reunion in an excellent article by Urhobo specialist Perkins Foss in the latest issue of Tribal Art Magazine (No. 73, pp. 130-135).
Pair of Urhobo shrine figures. Mid 19th century. Height: 143,5 cm & 138 cm. Image courtesy of the Africarium collection.
Image courtesy of Galerie Flak.
Earlier this year BRUNEAF announced it would participate in the International Antiques Fair in Hong Kong (which runs from 23 to 26 May). Members were given the chance to consign an object from their inventory. You can download a small catalogue here and some pictures of the BRUNEAF booth can be found on the Facebook-page of Galerie Flak. As Henry C.C. Lu writes in his foreword: No matter if in Hong Kong or in Mainland China, tribal culture and art have not as yet been taken seriously. Let us hope this event can change something. Compliments to Bruneaf for trying to break into the Asian market.
As always, Bernard de Grunne had made the effort to prepare a special themed exhibition for TEFAF. This year a presentation of 13 Senufo tefalipitya or ‘champion cultivator staffs’ took place. You can view the catalogue on de Grunne’s recently redesigned website, here. Highlights of his booth at Tefaf was the Bamana chiwara illustrated below. Extremely interesting was a big bronze antelope. Clearly an archeological find, this important piece was listed as “Djenne” (Inland Niger Delta), but with such ancient objects that just seems an arbitrary classification to me. Click here for a related example sold by Sotheby’s in 2010.
“It’s not what you say, but how you say it” has always been a popular marketing phrase. One dealer who’s very aware of this, is the Brussels based Didier Claes. Today, I received the catalogue for his exhibition at TEFAF. It was packaged in a very fancy black bubble wrap envelope. Once again, Claes is raising the bar for his fellow dealers. Participating as a full member of Tefaf for the first time*, a statement had to be made of course. Inserted in a luxurious slipcase, the catalogue presents 24 carefully selected objects – my favourite being the superb Luba caryatid stool illustrated below. Talking about Tefaf-quality! The book features texts by Agnès Lacaille, Marc L. Felix, François Neyt, Manuel Jordan, Louis Perrois and yours truly.
*In 2008, he had already participated as part of Tefaf’s showcase program.
UPDATE: you can download the French edition of the catalogue here.
This spring, 26 Parisian galleries participate in a new event called Paris Tribal. It’s clear that in order to compete for the attention of collectors, galleries are creating more and more events like this. The rapid growth of such happenings is changing the way galleries operate on a substantial level. As we can read in the press text, most participants prepared a thematic exhibition. In the short period of 4 days, they of course hope to make significant sales. A combined marketing budget, should be able to lure many visitors. Apparently, this event is also a bit about positioning. On the website, we read that Paris Tribal “confirms Paris as capital of tribal arts“. I’m always suprised by this nationalistic reflex in the globalized world we live in today, but I guess competition is stiffer then ever. Anyhow, it sounds like a great excuse for a trip to Paris.
A nice video documenting Serge Schoffel’s Fon exhibition during BRAFA.