I’m very proud to announce the catalogue for our African and Oceanic Art auction of 17 May in New York is now online; you can find it here. The sale is at 10AM on the 17th. Our masterpieces will be on view at the Rockefeller Plaza spread around the viewing rooms among contemporary and modern paintings on:
Saturday 12 May – 10AM-5PM
Sunday 13 May – 1PM-5PM
Monday 14 May – 10AM-5PM
Tuesday 15 May – 10AM-5PM
Wednesday 16 May – 10AM-5PM
Considering the title of this sale, from the perspective of African art and sub-Saharan cultures, as well as historic cultures of Oceania – Melanesia and Polynesia – it could also be called: Wild Things. Within these cultures, it is believed that we enter the world as wild beings. Of nature. It is only through social practices and ceremonial rites of passage that we are transformed into civilized beings of order. From the chaos of origins to the calm of refnement. This metamorphosis into the civilized is evinced upon their bodies. Elaborate practices of scarifcation, complex hair arrangements and teeth fling transformed girls into women and boys into men. The processes, which were the culmination of years of initiation, created a new person. This person was now far away from the tiny, amorphous or unformed creature of birth. They are sculpted by time, knowledge, experience, social mores and laws. Minds transformed, bodies composed for all to ‘read’. Art mirrors life and such ‘marks of civilization’ can be found in the statues and masks presented here. Far removed from their original context, they are the rare beacons of a lost language, whose visual associations would only be apprehended by the initiated of these societies.
The works of art are the portraits of these cultural philosophies. Spiritual realms, our alpha and omega, are commemorated through the sculpture. The first artist had to imagine: how can I physically portray the unknown of our beginning? Our origins? The supernatural realm? The metaphysical? It could not lie in verism. Hyper expressions of things from the au de la depend upon abstraction. The supernatural had to be portrayed in a way that is dissimilar from the world of the living. This is the majesty of African and Oceanic art.
The word ‘origins’ is at the root of the word – original. The hallmark of this special selection of thirteen magical works of art is its valorization of major works of art that fall outside the canon. Anti-classical. The twentieth century discovered and established classical African art, the 21st makes us look further, at art that was not yet accessible to early 20th century taste-makers, such as Charles Ratton and Paul Guillaume.
A chance to see things in a new light. We have a celebration of works of art from Cameroon and Nigeria, for instance. Origins explores the myriad forms and works of art that demonstrate the diversity of this vast topographic and cultural landscape.
Origins are also pure. The works of art are selected for their pure creativity. The Bassa head (lot 9). Baring long fled teeth, it is part human, part leopard, and something raw and unseen. A brutal Kota (lot 12). Its tiny serrated mouth and piercing eyes of highly prized iron warns and protects. The Dan mask (lot 6) is an anti-aesthetic statement. Dan people highly value beauty, and their best masks are based upon symmetry. In its asymmetry, the mask is deemed wild. It is undomesticated. A drum that walks from the Bangwa chiefs (lot 10). An Mfumte oracle is illustrated by a mouth that happens to grow horns and sits upon a geometric body (lot 11). A divining fgure from the Senufo by a master sculptor the Ivory Coast (lot 5). A beastie power chamber mask from the Bete (lot 4). The Eket Ogbom dancing figure for a headdress with deep, blackened wild surface (lot 7). The color of wicked beauty in a Vanuatu initiation mask (lot 1). A seemingly simple necklace from Hawaii with a sensual hooked pendant reveals itself as a source of ancestral power and the pendant transforms into a tongue of defance (lot 2).
With Origins, we are at the beginning of a new way to approach African and Oceanic art. It is a celebration of the vast place from which science says we all were born. Origins is meant to defy those looking with Western eyes. Look at them from all angles. Upside down. There is no vetting by the European Avant- Garde. This is the Wild West. These are the punk rock stars of the art world stage. Nevermind the bollocks, here’s ORIGINS!
I hope to see you in New York for the preview ! Send me a message if I can be of any assistance or if you want to meet…
Below just one of the many exciting discoveries in this auction.. a rediscovered Wè mask that might have inspired Picasso in his primitivist period – read all about it in the catalogue here.