One of the big surprises in the last Christie’s sale was the Yaka figure illustrated below (info). While one could easily have overlooked this lot in the auction catalogue, this big and exceptionally strongly carved statue just owned the preview room it was presented in.
Notwithstanding the fact that Christie’s only mentions a private French collection as the provenance of this figure, an old label in Dutch on the base of the figure indicates the statue has much more history; translated it reads:
Collectie Mario Fantin, Bologna, Italy
Mario Fantin was a mountaineer – collector – researcher.
He made a lot of trips to Asia and was the first to succesfully climb the K2 in the Himalaya. He traveled 20 times to Africa and wrote a book about Ivory Coast.
This statue was exhibited in 1973 in Galerie Pro Arte in Bologna and was illustrated on the exhibition’s poster.
In 1983, after the death of Mario Fantin, this statue was acquired by Paolo Morigi.
I was wondering if anyone recognizes this label ? Surely, it can’t be the only one of this type.
Also, I haven’t been able to track down this ‘Pro Arte’ gallery (which apparently was active in Bologna in 1973).
If anyone would have an idea of that exhibition poster, that would be great too.
Prove that Morigi indeed acquired a lot of objects from the Fantin collection can be found in the auction catalogue of the Morigi collection (Sotheby’s, Paris, “Collection Paolo Morigi”, 6 June 2005.): lot 20, 41, 57, 64, 77, 78, 79, 112, 122 and 123 all came from Fantin – so that part of the story is plausible.
Fingers crossed somebody knows more !
UPDATE: Beppe Berna, who runs an African art gallery in Bologna, was so kind to do some research. He checked the yearbooks of the local association of galleries (of which he has been president) of those years and could find no trace of a gallery with the name ‘Pro Arte’. Berna was able to trace three ‘Pro Arte’ galleries: in 1973 there was one in Morges (Switzerland) and one in Mexico City and in 1987 one in Lugano (Switzerland). Strange !