Tag Archives: Fang

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.

Last days to visit the ‘Les Forêts Natales’ exhibition at the Musée du quai Branly (closing Sunday 21 January)

Tempus fugit! It’s already the last week of the Les Forêts Natales exhibition at the Musée du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac (info and pictures here). If you haven’t had the chance to see this must-see show, please don’t sleep and go visit it. I would suggest to reserve at least 3 hours for it, as you’ll need them. It truly is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see that much iconic masterpieces of Gabon in one single museum. I don’t think any other curator will ever dare to envision such a comprehensive selection – it did take Yves Le Fur more than 3 years to prepare it. With the closing of the Dapper Museum, he of course had the unique chance to lend about 25 of their top objects, but also the holdings of the MqB itself, the Barbier-Mueller Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and numerous private collectors proved indispensable for the success of this exhibition. The catalogue, which unfortunately is only available in French, is also recommended but does not prepare you for the real-life experience. Furthermore, not all exhibited works are included in it. Personally, I saw the show three times, and still I don’t have the feeling I have seen enough of it. Several sections of it (Fang, Kwele, Kota, Tsogho) easily could have been standalone exhibitions and still would be incomparable. I will never forget that wall of Kotas (more than 100 in total!) – see above.

Kuddos as well to the Friends of the Musée du quai Branly for their innovative thinking to include the source communities of this exhibition by organizing several ‘web tours’ (info). Several Mondays (when the museum was closed), they organized live broadcasted guided tours which could be followed in several places in both Gabon and Cameroon:

• Fondation Gacha à Bangoulap au Cameroun
• Musée des civilisations de Dschang au Cameroun
• Musée National de Yaoundé au Cameroun
• Galerie Doual’art à Douala au Cameroun
• Galerie MAM à Douala au Cameroun
• Institut Français de Yaoundé au Cameroun
• Institut français de Douala au Cameroun
• Institut Français de Libreville au Gabon
• Etablissement scolaire Le Ruban Vert à Libreville au Gabon
• Lycée français Victor Hugo à Port-Gentil au Gabon

A wonderful initiative, and a first I think. The Gabonese president, Ali Bongo Ondimba, also visited the expo – as can be seen below. He was rightfully very proud.

“Imaginary Ancestors”, restaging a famous Fang exhibition from 1933 at Almine Rech Gallery in New York, May-June 2017

After Adam Lindemann (info) and Javier Peres (info), a third major contemporary art gallery is staging an African art show. Imaginary Ancestors is an exhibition organized and hosted by Almine Rech Gallery in New York with Bernard de Grunne as guest curator for the Arts of Africa. The press release reads:

Imaginary Ancestors is a group exhibition looking at Primitivism in modern and contemporary art, which comprises two parts: One room will be dedicated to works by André Derain and Max Pechstein together with a restaging of the exhibition Early African Heads and Statues from the Gabon Pahouin Tribes. That landmark show was originally realized by Paul Guillaume at the Durand- Ruel Gallery on 57th Street in New York, from February 15 to March 10, 1933. This exhibition was the first show to be devoted to a single African art style, with a large group of Fang sculptures presented on a table alongside Derain paintings made at the time. For Imaginary Ancestors, Bernard de Grunne sourced the majority of the sculptures included in the original exhibition, which will be reunited for the first time since 1933 at Almine Rech Gallery New York. A second room of this exhibition will present modern and contemporary artworks inspired by primitive art including primitive pieces from the personal collections of Pablo Picasso, Alexander Calder and David Smith.

You can find more info here. Almine Rech, married to Bernard Picasso, has access to Picasso’s African art collection still in the family’s possession, so the second part surely will be a treat as well. The opening is on May 2, 2017, and the exhibition runs until June 15, 2017. Kuddos to Amine Rech and Bernard de Grunne for making this happen; this surely will be a historical show. Below additional, less known, installation shots of the original exhibition at Durand-Ruel Galleries in 1933. I’m curious how the new installation will look!

A Fang-Ntumu figure reveals its secrets

fang-ntumu-byeri-figure-gabon-teeth-molars

Four years ago I did a small study of the above Ntumu figure from Gabon; in my description I wrote: “Sometimes the eyes of byeri statues served as an opportunity for the integration of relics into the figure itself by embedding fragments of bone, often in the form of teeth, into deeply excaved cavities – which could be the case here.” A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by the current owner of this statue. He had taken the figure to his radiologist to test my hypothesis. A scan proved me right and revealed the presence of three human molars: 2 behind the eyes and 1 inserted in the forehead (which had not been spotted on the statue before) – a great discovery! Next time you have an appointment at your radiologist, don’t forget to bring an African statue 🙂

UPDATE: a reader writes that the third tooth is an upper premolar.

teeth-molars-inserted-in-a-fang-ntumu-figure-scan

 

teeth-molars-inserted-in-a-fang-ntumu-figure-scan-b

 

An interview with Tambaran Gallery’s Maureen Zarember

Maureen Zarember. Image courtesy of Tambaran Gallery.

Maureen Zarember. Image courtesy of Tambaran Gallery.

Click here for a nice interview with Maureen Zarember, who’s been running Tambaran Gallery since 1979. It includes a great story about the above Fang figure:

This figure lay on its back on the floor of a glass case in Sotheby’s auction house, approximately 25 years ago. Almost discarded, not worth standing upright, not attracting attention. Bidding was slow and uninteresting—almost boring—so I won the bid. Afterwards, I was told I had bought a fake, and not to pay for it. However, I was approached by a senior collector who congratulated me and stated, “It’s published,” but couldn’t remember where. I searched books on Fang and Gabon at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, unfortunately without success.

Several years later, a Parisian dealer asked me if I still had that old thing, and enquired if it was for sale. I answered, “No, it is published, but I am still hunting for the book.” After several attempts, offering a very handsome profit, the dealer finally realized I would not part with it. I researched and traced the Fang to Pierre Loeb and Pierre Matisse, as it was photographed by Walker Evans for an exhibition at the MoMA in 1935. We have no record of its whereabouts after 1935 until it surfaced at Sotheby’s, a bit shabby for wear. It had traveled widely, as it was found in California, supposedly in the garbage. During my possession, it started to sweat—the libation palm oil was coming to the surface—and it acquired a wonderful dark patina. What tales we might hear if she could speak! Happily, the torso was loaned to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the “Eternal Ancestors” in 2007, and published in their catalog (plate 29).

I did some research and Ms. Zarember paid $ 27,500 for the Fang in 1992 (Sotheby’s, New York, 18 May 1992. Lot 181); it was indeed sold without any provenance. Certainly an incredible story! Research always pays off.

Review Parcours des Mondes 2015

Yaure mask Olivier Castellano Ivory Coast Parcours des Mondes

The 14th edition of Parcours des Mondes again was a big success*. With a baby at home, I only spent 3 days in Paris, but I succeeded in visiting every gallery at least once. I had never seen the galleries so crowded on the opening day, and it was not uncommon to find more than a dozen collectors in one gallery at the same time, so I would say visitor numbers were higher than ever before. The dollar being in a better situation than last year (or should we say the euro in a weaker position) certainly helped attracting more US collectors than the previous years.

*at least for the visitors, I’m not aware of the number of sales on the dealer’s end..

My favorite object in Paris was a Yaure mask presented by Olivier Castellano that succeeded in giving me goosebumps. As so many top Ivory Coast objects, it came from the Bediat collection. Not surprisingly it was sold immediately on the day of the opening for a six-number figure. Of an outstanding refinement, yet so simple in its rendering of the human face, this mask still haunts me after two weeks – in a good way. Probably one of the most talked about objects was an exceptional Kongo figure presented by Philippe Ratton. Still with all its original adornments intact and with its head slightly turned to the right, this statue was of a quality one normally only encounters in museums.

Kongo figure Philippe Ratton Parcours des Mondes

As always, there were a lot of thematic exhibitions, although some dealers were honest enough to call their theme ‘Latest acquisitions’. As said in my review of last year’s edition (here), for most of us the fair is about discovery anyway. Still some dealers did the effort and succeeded in creating remarkable exhibitions. Personally, I was very charmed by Jean-Yves Coué’s Madagascar show, perhaps a bit too ethnographic for many, but with a selection of objects one rarely gets to see. Impressive as well, was the “Animals” show of Lucas Ratton, in both quantity as quality. Joshua Dimondstein was brave enough to show a selection of (nowadays not so popular) heddle pulleys from Ivory Coast, and, also from the US, Bruce Frank presented a collection of something what I guess only the specialists knew before: terracotta masks from Papua New Guinea. From Spain, David Serra had brought with him a collection of fascinating Lhoro bronzes.

Luba figure Warua Master Bernard Dulon Parcours des Mondes

Good to see back was the Luba figure from the Warua Master (sold by Sotheby’s NY earlier this year; info), on view at Bernard Dulon – now without the ugly restoration of the feet and its oily patina dust-free, an improvement. I did miss Arte Y Ritual, who were not participating this year and usually a must-see, but Martin Doustar filled the hole they left and put up an impressive mask show in their old space – unfortunately with one of the star pieces still stuck in customs. Across the street, Bernard de Grunne had brought a small but outstanding selection, including a blocky and powerful Northern Congolese statue, which was juxtaposed beautifully with a slim elongated Fang figure – a view I will not forget quickly.

Ngbaka Fang figure Bernard de Grunne Parcours de Mondes 2015

As said earlier here, this year was the first edition that included galleries specialized in Asian art; twenty renowned dealers with specialties in Chinese, Japanese, Himalayan, Indian, and, Southeast Asian art were exhibiting, so there was a lot extra to see. Most of what I saw was of an outstanding quality and especially the galleries of Marcel Nies and Jacques Barrere left a strong impression on me. I did see African art collectors going into the Asian art galleries so the interest definitely was there – but since I don’t recognize the Asian art aficionados, I don’t know the statement holds true the other way around. Anyway, a sign of the success of the fair’s enlargement might be the fact that yours truly brought home a 13th century Indian bronze purchased from Frederic Rond – who is based in Alain Lecomte’s old gallery (and thus on familiar territory).

Jina Parshvanatha Jain Bruno Claessens Parcours des Mondes

Parcours des Mondes (which means ‘Journeys through Worlds’) this year thus was truer to its name than ever before. It was, again, a flawless edition, so many compliments to its organizers for all the hard work behind the scenes. Parcours through the years has become much more than just an ‘open doors’-type event; it has become the start of our ‘season’ and the place where one sees one’s friends back in the beautiful Parisian quarter that is Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

A new museum exhibiting African art in Barcelona

The Museum of World Cultures Barcelona

If you need an excuses for a trip to Barcelona: this weekend the new Museu de Cultures del Mon (Museum of World Cultures) opened. It is located in the gothic palaces Nadal (which until 2012 contained the Barbier-Mueller Museum of pre-Columbian Art) and Marquès de Llió, in the historic Montcada Street of Barcelona (across the Picasso Museum). The museum displays around 700 objects from Asia, Africa and Oceania and is based on the 2,300 objects on loan for a period of 20 years to Barcelona City Council from the Folch Foundation, as well as a selection of objects from the non-European collections of the Ethnological Museum of Barcelona and other important collections from across Spain. Of its 2.100 square meters, 1.300 will be occupied by the permanent collection and 300 by the temporary exhibitions. Here you can see some highlights of their African holdings. Below some images of the installation – with thanks to Javier Lentini for the pictures.

Museu de Cultures del Mon

Museu de Cultures del Mon

Museu de Cultures del Mon

Museu de Cultures del Mon

Museu de Cultures del Mon

And a short video (in Catalan):

Two Fang objects under the CT-scan

Fang spoon. Height: 19 cm. Image courtesy of Sotheby's.

Fang spoon. Height: 19 cm. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Scantix‘s Marc Ghysels has just made two new CT-scans available to the public: one of Myron Kunin’s Fang head, viewable here and the other from the last lot in the upcoming Sotheby’s sale: the magnificent Fang spoon illustrated above. Thanks to this scan one gets a much better view on how the ‘hidden’ janus (!) figure behind the delicate grating looks like. Quite a tour de force by the artist.

Image courtesy of Scantix.

Image courtesy of Scantix.

The postcards of Jean Audema

Jean Audema postcard Vili diviner Kongo

The above postcard featuring a Vili diviner holding a statue and accompanied by two musicians is well known. It’s photographer, Jean François Audema (1864-1921), who joined the French colonial service in 1894, made numerous photos in Gabon, Congo and Tchad between 1894 and 1912. The National Museum of African Art’s Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives has made these precious time-documents available online here (ca. 150 images). If you wish to learn more about Audema and his photographs: Christraud Geary gives a short assessment of his work held by the Smithsonian in In and Out of Focus: Images from Central Africa, 1885-1960 (London, 2002) and David MacDougall dedicates a chapter to the man in The Corporeal Image: Film, Ethnography and the Senses (Princeton University Press, 2006).

Jean Audema postcard Fang woman choker

Jean Audema postcard Ubangi warriors

Jean Audema postcard Yakoma village Congo