Parcours des Mondes 2014 review

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.
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).

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