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Book review: Claude-Henri Pirat’s “Du Fleuve Niger Au Fleuve Congo – Une Aventure Africaine” (2014)

Claude-Henri Pirat Du Fleuve Niger Au Fleuve Congo - Une aventure africaine (2014)

One the most entertaining reads of the year so far has been Claude-Henri Pirat’s Du Fleuve Niger Au Fleuve Congo – Une aventure africaine (Primedia, 2014). In this book, Pirat presents his private collection and in a honest way shares his journey as a collector. This 320 pages book is published in French, with a translation at the end in English. Printed on a rather big format (35x25cm), it is richly illustrated throughout with b/w images (made by Pirat himself) of both the objects that he once owned as the present contents of his collection – which is excellent. Pirat tells of his early years as a collector and shares the stories of his numerous travels to the African continent, including many beautiful field-photo’s taken during these trips. What makes this book especially worth a read are the authors’ personal reflections on the art market and its actors (Philippe Guimiot and especially Pierre Dartevelle are covered in detail), of the museums (with big sections on the entrance of the arts of Africa into the Louvre and on the opening of the quai Branly), and of some of the great questions that have been and still are under debate in this field – such as the trade in the Niger Valley’s archeological heritage. Pirat makes several interesting statements, and (praiseworthy) even offers a well-argued pragmatic solution for the current situation. I found it a very stimulating text, offering a well-written and personal perspective on the last 40 years of the African art market in all its aspects – something you rarely encounter written down. You can order the book here –  it’s not cheap, but it’s highly recommended.

EDIT: I had to remove the pictures I had posted from this book, since they were generating an enormous amount of traffic.