Category Archives: News

Jeanne Claessens

I’m happy to report I’ve added another daughter to my collection of kids: Jeanne Claessens was born earlier this month. Both mother and daughter are doing very well and we couldn’t be more happy. As with Felix, and Garance, there’s of course a link with African art, as Jeanne Walschot was the first female dealer of African art in Belgium, and a serious collector as well.

Famous 1930 Galerie Pigalle exhibition to be celebrated during Parcours des Mondes 2018

Exciting news from Paris, from 11 to 16 September, for the occasion of Parcours des Mondes 2018, one of the famous early exhibitions of African and Oceanic Art, held at the Galerie du Théâtre Pigalle in Paris in 1930, will be celebrated by the publication of a book and a small exhibition featuring some 30 objects shown 78 years ago. Organized by Charles-Wesley Hourdé and Nicolas Rolland, in partnership with Tribal Art Magazine, a dedicated exhibition will be held at the Espace Tribal. A series of conferences will also be organized at the venue that same week. The limited edition publication (344 pages & 500 illustrations!) will include texts by Hourdé and Rolland, and excellent scholars such as Yaëlle Biro, Philippe Peltier and Virginia-Lee Web. Both authors were able to uncover a forgotten cache of amazing installation shots of the exhibition, which will be shown for the very first time this September.

The 1930 show more or less has a mythical status among people who care about such things. Not alone was the quality of the selected objects very high, the list of lenders to the show also reads as a who’s who of African and Ocenanic art in Paris in 1930: Charles Ratton, Pierre Loeb, Tristan Tzara, Pablo Picasso and André Derain all ensured the success of the exhibition and its lasting renown.

The original catalog, which is impossible to find, did list the 425 exhibited works, but only had a few illustrations. Charles-Wesley Hourdé and Nicolas Rolland however have managed to trace down most of the objects, so the book and show are definitely something exciting to look forward too. Many compliments to both for making this happen!

Christie’s market leader for the Art of Africa, Oceania and the Americas in the first half of 2018

I’m proud to inform you Christie’s has maintained last year’s position of market leader for the Art of Africa, Oceania and the Americas in the first half of 2018. With combined sales of almost 18 million euro, Christie’s was responsible for 54 % of the market (one percent up compared to last year). With two successful collection sales (Prigogine and Durand-Dessert) a various owners sale in Paris and a curated sale in New York, we maintained our strong position in this competitive market. Focussed solely on Paris, where we held the first and last major sales of this auction season, and not taking into account our Prigogine sale, we have a market share of 72% for the Art of Africa and Oceania !

But our job is much more than just the numbers. Last week, it was an incredible honor and privilege to bring the Durand-Dessert collection to the market. It turned out to be much more than a sale, it was a manifest, renouncing the classical canon to valorize the multivalent arts of the African continent. Time will prove it was an important momentum for fragmented objects and the arts of Nigeria – two clusters which defined this visionary collection. Furthermore, we continue to grow our international base of collectors and increase the visibility of the art we love so much in the international art scene. I can’t reveal too much just yet, but we are now looking forward to an exciting second part of the year. Highlights of our sale on 30 October will be on view during Parcours des Mondes in Paris in September. But for now, let me wish you happy holidays and a great summer !

Very best,
Bruno

 

ps don’t hesitate to contact me if you would be interested in consigning objects with us for our sale in Paris in October !

Preview Durand-Dessert auction to start in exactly one week

Next Friday, the preview of the sale of the African art collection of Liliane & Michel Durand-Dessert begins. The campaign to promote this unique and visionary collection hence is in full swing. Earlier this week we launched the above trailer to wet your appetite about this exceptional group of objects. It’s best enjoyed on a big screen and with headphones. The idea was to make it clear it will definitely be worth a trip to Paris. The preview dates are:

Friday 22 June 2 PM-6PM
Saturday 23 June 10AM-6PM
Sunday 24 June 2PM-6PM
Monday 25 June 10AM-6PM
Tuesday 26 June 10AM-6PM
Wednesday 27 June 10AM-12AM

The auction will take place in Paris on Wednesday 27 June at 4PM. For the Christie’s website, I also did a short feature about our cover lot, the Mbembe statue; you can find it here.

Catalogue online: “FUTURE PERFECT : the African Art Collection of Liliane & Michel Durand-Dessert”, Christie’s, Paris, 27 June 2018

After the successful sale of the Vérité collection last year, I’m very proud to present another collection sale at Christie’s Paris. On 27 June, we’ll be offering the famous African art collection of Liliane and Michel Durand-Dessert. You can browse the catalogue HERE.

The 105 treasures (with a combined estimate of € 7-10 million) are a testament of the avant-garde taste of the Durand-Dessert couple, pioneer gallerists of contemporary art, who have taken an innovative look at African arts, to form a collection which they have brought together with love and rigour for more than thirty years.

The dispersion of this important ensemble constitutes a major event for the African art market, not only because of the intrinsic quality of the objects that are part of it, but because of the uncommon personalities of the couple that put it together with an unrelentingly critical, analytical and original approach, in which their high standards are clearly discernible. Open without exception to all areas of African art, this group was meticulously build up by the couple as a couple. Both are brilliant literary and scientifc academics, and audacious cutting-edge gallery owners who have been pioneers in their field, having shown the most radical 20th century avant-garde art. Also the choices they made in their collecting were well ahead of the pack – the arts of Nigeria indeed form a crucial segment of this unique collection.

In 2008, an important selection of it was presented at the Monnaie de Paris during Parcours des Mondes. This highly acclaimed exhibition, Fragments du Vivant (‘Fragments of the Living’), put their collection on the map and was accompanied by an excellent catalogue published under the supervision of Jean-Louis Paudrat and with beautiful photographs by Hughes Dubois. As you’ll note, many excerpts from the introductory interview published in this book enrich our catalogue notes, inasmuch as the eyes and appreciation that these collectors have had for their objects have contributed so much to making them the marvels that they are.

The African art collection Liliane and Michel Durand-Dessert was born from the same implacable passion that animated their visionary choices for their gallery. A short history of the collection and its makers in English can be found at the back of the catalogue. It is a great honor for us to bring this unique ensemble to the market. The auction will take place in Paris on Wednesday 27 June at 4PM; below the preview dates.

Friday 22 June 2 PM-6PM
Saturday 23 June 10AM-6PM
Sunday 24 June 2PM-6PM
Monday 25 June 10AM-6PM
Tuesday 26 June 10AM-6PM
Wednesday 27 June 10AM-12AM

Don’t hesitate to get in touch if I can be of any service or if you want more information or images on a certain object. I hope to see you in Paris for this not-to-be-missed event!

 

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Save the date: Christie’s, Paris, COLLECTION X, 27 June 2018

On 27 June 2018, in exactly two months, Christie’s Paris will be selling 104 objects from a very prestigious Parisian collection of African art. We are currently still working on the auction catalog, but I’m pleased to already announce the viewing days:

Friday 22 June 10AM-6PM
Saturday 23 June 10AM-6PM
Sunday 24 June 2PM-6PM
Monday 25 June 10AM-6PM
Tuesday 26 June 10AM-6PM
Wednesday 27 June 10AM-12AM

I can’t reveal much more for now, but I guarantee it will be worth a trip to Paris ! I hope to see you there…

ps with 3 auctions in 3 months, I hope you can understand why it was so quiet on the blog these last months..

Catalogue online: “ORIGINS – Masterworks of African and Oceanic Art”, Christie’s, New York, 17 May 2018

I’m very proud to announce the catalogue for our African and Oceanic Art auction of 17 May in New York is now online; you can find it here. The sale is at 10AM on the 17th. Our masterpieces will be on view at the Rockefeller Plaza spread around the viewing rooms among contemporary and modern paintings on:

Saturday 12 May – 10AM-5PM
Sunday 13 May – 1PM-5PM
Monday 14 May – 10AM-5PM
Tuesday 15 May – 10AM-5PM
Wednesday 16 May – 10AM-5PM

Just as its predecessors Evolution of Form (2016), and Timeless (2017), this 13-lot sale is tightly curated around a very specific idea..

Considering the title of this sale, from the perspective of African art and sub-Saharan cultures, as well as historic cultures of Oceania – Melanesia and Polynesia – it could also be called: Wild Things. Within these cultures, it is believed that we enter the world as wild beings. Of nature. It is only through social practices and ceremonial rites of passage that we are transformed into civilized beings of order. From the chaos of origins to the calm of refnement. This metamorphosis into the civilized is evinced upon their bodies. Elaborate practices of scarifcation, complex hair arrangements and teeth fling transformed girls into women and boys into men. The processes, which were the culmination of years of initiation, created a new person. This person was now far away from the tiny, amorphous or unformed creature of birth. They are sculpted by time, knowledge, experience, social mores and laws. Minds transformed, bodies composed for all to ‘read’. Art mirrors life and such ‘marks of civilization’ can be found in the statues and masks presented here. Far removed from their original context, they are the rare beacons of a lost language, whose visual associations would only be apprehended by the initiated of these societies.

The works of art are the portraits of these cultural philosophies. Spiritual realms, our alpha and omega, are commemorated through the sculpture. The first artist had to imagine: how can I physically portray the unknown of our beginning? Our origins? The supernatural realm? The metaphysical? It could not lie in verism. Hyper expressions of things from the au de la depend upon abstraction. The supernatural had to be portrayed in a way that is dissimilar from the world of the living. This is the majesty of African and Oceanic art.

The word ‘origins’ is at the root of the word – original. The hallmark of this special selection of thirteen magical works of art is its valorization of major works of art that fall outside the canon. Anti-classical. The twentieth century discovered and established classical African art, the 21st makes us look further, at art that was not yet accessible to early 20th century taste-makers, such as Charles Ratton and Paul Guillaume.

A chance to see things in a new light. We have a celebration of works of art from Cameroon and Nigeria, for instance. Origins explores the myriad forms and works of art that demonstrate the diversity of this vast topographic and cultural landscape.

Origins are also pure. The works of art are selected for their pure creativity. The Bassa head (lot 9). Baring long fled teeth, it is part human, part leopard, and something raw and unseen. A brutal Kota (lot 12). Its tiny serrated mouth and piercing eyes of highly prized iron warns and protects. The Dan mask (lot 6) is an anti-aesthetic statement. Dan people highly value beauty, and their best masks are based upon symmetry. In its asymmetry, the mask is deemed wild. It is undomesticated. A drum that walks from the Bangwa chiefs (lot 10). An Mfumte oracle is illustrated by a mouth that happens to grow horns and sits upon a geometric body (lot 11). A divining fgure from the Senufo by a master sculptor the Ivory Coast (lot 5). A beastie power chamber mask from the Bete (lot 4). The Eket Ogbom dancing figure for a headdress with deep, blackened wild surface (lot 7). The color of wicked beauty in a Vanuatu initiation mask (lot 1). A seemingly simple necklace from Hawaii with a sensual hooked pendant reveals itself as a source of ancestral power and the pendant transforms into a tongue of defance (lot 2).

With Origins, we are at the beginning of a new way to approach African and Oceanic art. It is a celebration of the vast place from which science says we all were born. Origins is meant to defy those looking with Western eyes. Look at them from all angles. Upside down. There is no vetting by the European Avant- Garde. This is the Wild West. These are the punk rock stars of the art world stage. Nevermind the bollocks, here’s ORIGINS!

I hope to see you in New York for the preview ! Send me a message if I can be of any assistance or if you want to meet…

Below just one of the many exciting discoveries in this auction.. a rediscovered Wè mask that might have inspired Picasso in his primitivist period –  read all about it in the catalogue here.

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.

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!