Auctions News

A sneak peek of “Evolution of Form” (Christie’s, New York, May 2016)

Evolution of Form Baule Leyden

A sneak peek (one day before anyone else!) of one of the rooms of our upcoming curated sale Evolution of Form. As you can see, our African and Oceanic masterpieces will be in good company – or is the other way around?! We have a 12-day viewing period at the Rockefeller Center (I’ll be there from the 7th). The dates:

Apr 30 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
May 1 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM
May 2 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
May 3 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
May 4 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
May 5 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
May 6 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
May 7 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
May 8 12:00 PM – 3:00 PM
May 9 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
May 10 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
May 11 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM

The sale is on the 12th of May. You can find all info on Evolution of Form here. As we are celebrating Christie’s 250th anniversary this year, I can assure you everybody is even more than ever doing their utmost best to create two unforgettable weeks at our New York headquarters. As you can see, its not only the African and Oceanic art that will be of an outstanding quality. I hope to see you there!

Evolution of Form Modigliani

Evolution of Form Baule statue Ivory Coast Christie's May 2016

ps meanwhile in Paris, the cover lot for our June sale, a splendid Luba statue, is proving that African art definitely deserves the title of ‘fine art’ – being displayed with some amazing French antiquities during the viewing days of our Le goût Français sale.

Luba Shankadi figure Congo Le gout francais christies

Auctions Collectors News

Exactly 50 years ago today


As my boss Susan Kloman mailed me this morning: “Happy Helena Rubinstein day!” 🙂

Today marks the 50th birthday of the landmark sale of her collection of African and Oceanic art by New York’s Parke-Bernet Galleries Inc. 21 April 1966 will forever remain an important turning point in the worldwide appreciation of African and Oceanic art. The unprecedented prices paid for the objects from her collection would radically alter the commercial value of African art ever after. And, together with this sale, the provenance of an object would came to have an increasingly important influence on its value. We included a small tribute to her in the catalogue of our upcoming sale in New York.. (click on it to zoom)

Evolution of form Helena Rubinstein Christie's


You can see the full Evolution of Form catalogue here, it includes a fascinating Dan mask, described by yours truly, which can be seen on the below interior shot of Rubinstein’s Paris apartment below.


Helena Rubinstein’s apartment on boulevard Raspail, c. 1930. At right, the Rubinstein Dan mask. Photograph by Dora Maar.
Helena Rubinstein’s apartment on boulevard Raspail, c. 1930. At right, the Rubinstein Dan mask. On the left, a Brancusi. Photograph by Dora Maar.
Museums News

Musée du Quai Branly to be renamed Musée Chirac

Musee Chirac quai branly

According to this article in the French newspaper Le Figaro, the Musée du Quai Branly’s name will officially be changed into “Musée du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac” on 20 June 2016. It is a French custom for prestigious buildings such as museums to take their final name after the death of an important statesman (for example the Centre Pompidou). However, on the occasion of its tenth anniversary, the museum’s president Stéphane Martin has requested the French Ministry of Culture to already approve the renaming of the museum. On 21 June the museum will as well open an exhibition dedicated to Chirac, who was closely involved with the museum’s foundation, showing 150 objects that have a link with the former French president (info).

Museums News

Abidjan’s Musée des Civilisations needs your support

Installation shot of the Musée de Côte d'Ivoire, Abidjan, in the 1970s. Photo by Bohumil Holas, courtesy of the Musée du quai Branly (PP0179800).
Installation shot of the Musée de Côte d’Ivoire, Abidjan, in the 1970s. Photo by Bohumil Holas, courtesy of the Musée du quai Branly (PP0179800).

Kenneth Cohen (a Fulbright Scholar of American and Museum Studies currently based in Ivory Coast) recently embarked on a praiseworthy mission: to build an online catalog of the collection of the Musée des Civilisations (MCCI) in Abidjan. This museum owns one of the largest uncatalogued art collections in West Africa, numbering some 15,000 objects.

As the museum continues to recover from raiding and damage during a civil war in 2010-2011, it is creating an online catalogue of the collection to help document, preserve, and share it.
The value of the project is that the museum’s overworked staff will not have to write descriptions for every object as a team of 25-30 scholars from Côte d’Ivoire, France, and the U.S. who will log into the catalog and add descriptive information based on the photos and metadata that gets uploaded. The team includes Yaelle Biro, Christine Kreamer, Susan Vogel, Susan Gagliardi, Najwa Borro, yours truly, and others.

Cohen is currently recruiting equipment and funds to pay extra staff to help complete the project and created a fundraising page for individual donors: you can contribute and find more information about the project here. They have already raised $ 14,000 and need another $ 6,000 for the final months’ labor costs.

ps unfortunately a lot of objects disappeared from the museum’s collection through the years – luckily the Musée de quai Branly in Paris holds the the photographic archives of Bohumil Holas (the museum’s curator in the 1960s and 1970s); they include a lot of installation shots (as above), which give a good idea of the museum’s holdings at the time. Cross-referencing these files with the new catalogue will give a good idea of which objects are no longer in the museum.


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.