Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Barbier-Mueller: From art, to souls, Swiss collector switches sights

After decades spent amassing the world's top private collection of tribal arts, Swiss collector Jean-Paul Barbier-Mueller is switching his sights -- crusading to save the heritage of little-known peoples across the globe.

"I'm shedding my identity as a collector of beautiful objects to become a gourmet of beautiful legends and beautiful souls," said the dapper Dior-clad 80-year-old in his more-than-swish Paris apartment with view over the Trocadero gardens and Eiffel tower.

Very wealthy Barbier-Mueller, who eats and sleeps amid Picassos and Cezannes as well as priceless African and Oceanic pieces, and has two museums in his name in Barcelona and Geneva, this week launches an ethnographic foundation that will chart for posterity the ways of life of endangered peoples worldwide.

"This is an anti bling-bling foundation, it's not Indiana Jones," he told AFP. "We're not out to seek emerald statuettes hidden in caves in the Andes.

"We're going to collect the memory, the myths, the ancestral stories of very tiny groups of 10, 12 villages who are being absorbed by bigger more brilliant ethnic groups, the groups who produce the masks and statues I collected for 33 years."

Born into a middle-of-the-spoon Swiss family, Barbier-Mueller was an early collector, gathering fossils as a child and later amassing old books, in particular 16th-century French and Italian poets.

Then at 22 when still simply named Barbier, he met and wooed Monique Mueller, daughter of renowned collector Josef Mueller, who along with early 19th-century Picassos, Legers and Braques also picked up antique African pieces.

"Their house was unbelievable, covered in oils from leading artists, but what really caught my eye were the African objects," said Mueller, who after successful careers in finance and real estate built up the 2,000-piece collection inherited from his father-in-law to a 7,000-piece treasure-trove encompassing Oceanic art as well as other "primitive" schools.

"I call it traditional art," he said, referring to discord over the use of terms such as "primitive" or "tribal" to refer to such works.


An extremely chatty charmer whose Andy Warhol portraits of him hang in the meticulously tidy flat -- his wife has her own because she is "too bohemian" -- Barbier-Mueller said of his collection of museum pieces: "We focused too much on objects."

"Because of my aesthetic sense I only looked at beautiful girls", he added laughingly, referring to works from well-known ancient civilisations, many of which he has donated or sold to leading museums such as Paris' Louvre and Quai Branly.

"But there are others that may be less beautiful but much more intelligent, or who are in the shadows and who must be sought out so we know what they have to tell us before they die."

According to the polyglot who speaks four languages and reads another four, including Latin and ancient Greek, there are at least 14 endangered peoples in Africa, four in India, three or four in Russia, two or three in Asia, and others in China, Central America and the Amazon.

Backed by the head of Swiss watch firm Vacheron Constantin, Juan-Carlos Torres, his new ethnology project will fund two ethnological studies a year on such communities in peril, with the studies followed up by books and conferences on each.

A first such work will look at the little-known Gan people of Burkina Faso and their funeral rites, the second to the animist Wan people of Cote d'Ivoire. The third study will touch on the Shamanic nomads of Siberia, the Nenets.

The scientific committee of the Fondation Culturelle Musee Barbier-Mueller includes Harvard's Suzanne Preston Blier, the British Museum's Jonathan King and Steven Hooper of East Anglia Univeristy, Robyn Maxwell of Australia's National Gallery and Anne-Marie Bouttiaux of Belgium's specialist African museum.

"We aim to cover the entire globe," Mueller said. "Who knows, we might discover a myth about the origin of the world as beautiful as the Iliad."

"I even hope to research a Swiss valley where they dance in masks at the New Year to chase away the devil," he added.

Source: AFP
By: Claire Rosemberg

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Joburg Art Fair 2010 is This Weekend


From the 26th to the 28th of March 2010, Sandton Convention Centre will be the home for 23 participating galleries, featuring the work of over 400 artists and 40 designers from South Africa and the greater continent. The Joburg Art Fair showcases the cream of contemporary artistic production and is a critical platform for positioning African artists as players in the international art arena.

In its 3rd consecutive year, the Joburg Art Fair has established itself as a key event on the calendars’ of galleries, artists, buyers, sellers, international collectors and the like, as well as anyone with an interest in contemporary art, design and culture from the continent. As the only event of its kind in Africa, the Joburg Art Fair aims to represent the continent.

From its inception in 2008, the Joburg Art Fair has combined the various disciplines of art. The project has been driven by the desire to make contemporary art and design more accessible and available to the public. And it’s working. The Art Fair’s second year saw a 50 percent increase in numbers, with the total visitor count rising to 10 000.

In addition to the galleries, 11 special projects have been created to give new and emerging artists an opportunity to showcase their works. These projects offer visitors an experience that goes beyond the purely commercial.

The overarching theme for the 2010 Fair is ‘Art & Industry’. A series of projects will mirror the international move towards the beneficial collaboration of artists with industry. The Joburg Art Fair is a forum for these exchanges and dialogues to take place. The partnership of Art & Industry is a catalyst for fresh perspectives and solutions in production that are both inspired and progressive. Art breathes new life into industry, and this synergy serves the growing demand for the contemporary and ‘cool’.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Modern Photographs by Sammy Baloji at Museum for African Art


The Museum for African Art, New York, announces an exhibition of recent photographs and large-scale photomontages by Sammy Baloji, whose work explores the history of copper mining and postcolonial architecture in Katanga province and its major city of Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Organized by the Museum, The Beautiful Time in Lubumbashi: Photography by Sammy Baloji initiates an important dialogue about postcolonial history, urbanization, and the aspirations of youth in twenty-first-century Africa. It will be on view at the Sidney Mishkin Gallery, Baruch College, 135 East 22nd Street in New York City, from March 26 to April 28, 2010.

In the middle of the twentieth century, Katanga Province in southeastern DRC, was one of the most productive mining complexes in Africa and the world’s second largest producer of copper. Recollections of this mid-century period as “the beautiful time” have provoked the artist’s explorations of the paradoxes of life in Lubumbashi today. Once-lucrative mines, which loom large in historical memory, are still physically present, yet copper production is halting and undependable.

The Beautiful Time features Baloji’s articulate and moving images of out-of-use machinery and the industrial landscape of the run-down mining infrastructure. His photomontages combine archival pictures of mine workers and colonial administrators with his photographs of present-day Lubumbashi. The striking juxtaposition of the black-and-white historic images with jarring color portraits of today’s decayed mines evokes the mingling of past and present in the contemporary Lubumbashi cityscape. Baloji’s photographs and photomontages offer a unique perspective on a hundred years of the DRC’s social and political history, and reflect a period of industrial transformation and environmental decay.

For Baloji and others of his generation, who were born after DRC achieved independence in 1960, the colonial period (1908–1960) is viewed as a time when hard work transformed a sparsely inhabited area into a modern city. In contrast to this storied productivity, Baloji’s images portray an industrial environment haunted by the physical absence of humanity: no one is inside the buildings, machines are rusting and idle, and train tracks sit without trains. Like many young people in the Congo today, Baloji aims in his work to understand and reconnect two strikingly different eras.

In addition to the artist’s photographs and photomontages, the exhibition includes six examples of Congolese “popular paintings.” These are created in order to document local history and chronicle contemporary events, and those made in Katanga, like the ones on view in The Beautiful Time, frequently include references to copper mining. The examples in the exhibition are by artists whose work has inspired Baloji’s photographic practice, which is deeply rooted in Katanga’s visual culture and tradition.

The Beautiful Time is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with an essay by exhibition curator Bogumil Jewsiewicki, professor of history at Université Laval, Québec. Published by the Museum for African Art, the 48-page catalogue is distributed by the University of Washington Press and is available at www.africanart.org. The exhibition is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council, the New York State Council on the Arts, and the Verizon Foundation.

Sammy Baloji

Sammy Baloji (b. 1978, Lubumbashi, DRC) began working with photography and video after graduating from the University of Lubumbashi with a degree in Humanities Studies. In March 2005, the series Vues de Likasi was exhibited in Brussels. The series was later included in Cape 07, in Cape Town, South Africa. In December 2006, Baloji exhibited his film Mémoire at the Royal Flemish Theatre, Brussels, and in March 2007 the project was selected for the Festival International du Film d’Aubagne, France. Also in 2007, he exhibited at the French-Mozambican Cultural Centre of Maputo; in Brussels during Yambi 2007; in Photoquai, the First World Images Biennale, organized by the Musée du Quai Branly, in Paris; and in the seventh edition of the Bamako Photography Biennale, where he received the Image Award from the Foundation Blachère and the Africa in Creation Award from HRA Pharma and CulturesFrance. In 2008, he participated in residencies at the Musée Royale de l’Afrique Centrale in Tervuren, Belgium, and the Musée du Quai Branly. In 2009, Baloji exhibited his assemblages of Likasi at the Montreal Month of Photography, was a finalist for the Swiss Pictet award, and received a Prince Claus award, a program of the Dutch Priss Claus Fund.

The Intricate African Art of El Anatsui…


El Anatsui’s art is almost impossible to explain to anyone who has not seen it in person. Aided by a team of assistants in Nigeria, the Ghanaian-born artist bends, twists, and reshapes discarded liquor caps, then punches holes in them and knits them together with metal wire. Though one would expect the results to look commonplace or dilapidated, the results that emerge from his laborious process are richly colored, luxuriantly textured tapestries.


Anatsui’s most recent show at Jack Shainman Gallery in New York included some of the largest, most intricate pieces he has yet created, confirming his status as one of contemporary art’s most brilliant masters of material…


Later this year, a retrospective entitled “El Anatsui: When I Last Wrote To You About Africa,” curated by Lisa Binder, will debut at Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum before embarking on a national tour, with the first stop at the Museum of African Art's new Manhattan building, which is set to open in early 2011. The exhibition marks a significant landmark in the artist's career, which first caught the attention of many art-world observers with his appearance at the 1990 Venice Biennale — though he has shown his work since the early 1970s, when he often made his sculptures with chainsaws.


To read more on this article about El Anatsui visit the original, which appeared on ArtInfo.com.

Record Prices Set at Rosenthal Sale of Oceanic Art

The Sotheby's March 24th sale in Paris of the Rosenthal Collection saw some huge prices being reached on a few lots. The sale fetched Euro 1,9 million (including buyer's commissions) on a mere 37 lots offered. Of the 37 lots offered, 7 failed to sell (19%).

Some highlights (all prices include buyer's commission):

Lot 7 - New Ireland malangan figure Eur 250,000-350,000 fetched Eur 240,000

Lot 8 - New Ireland malangan figure Eur 50,000-80,000 fetched Eur 157,000

Lot 11 - Maori nephrite tiki - est Eur 100,000-150,000 fetched Eur 373,000

Lot 12 - Easter Islands kavakava figure- est Eur 100,000-150,000 fetched Eur 373,000

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Indian and South East Asian Art Sale Announced at Sotheby's

Sotheby's upcoming Indian and Southeast Asian sale presents a well-curated selection of Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian works of art, Indian miniature paintings and modern and contemporary art from the subcontinent, with a focus on property culled from important private collections.

The Works of Art section of the sale features Buddhist art of pan-Asian origin from the Francisco Capelo collection, which was originally intended to be housed in a museum. Also on offer are a group of fine and rare Southeast Asian bronze sculptures from a private collection. Amongst the paintings in the sale is a selection of Indian miniatures with a provenance going back to the 19th century, reputedly originally collected by Warren Hastings, the first Governor General of India. Finally, highlighting the modern and contemporary section is a group of early modern Indian paintings from the collection of Emmanuel Schlesinger; friend and mentor to the Progressive Artists Group and one of the earliest collectors of Modern Indian Art.

MF Husain, Untitled painting showing a woman riding a leaping horse (est. $80/120,000)

THe auction will take place on March 24, 2010. There will be 184 lots on sale that are estimated to fetch $5/7.3 million; the auction will be on exhibition at Sotheby’s from this Friday, March 29.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

$73,000 Enwonwu Leads US African Art Sale


The first commercial auction of African contemporary art ever held in the US took place in New York on March 10.

The highlight piece of this Bonham’s auction was Africa Dances, Eve Noir, 1972, by Ben Enwonwu.

With a lower estimate of $60,000, the watercolor and pastel on board eventually brought a comfortable $73,200.

Enwonwu was a pioneer of the modern art movement in Western Africa, and the sale should gain his work increased prominence in the US - and global - art markets.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Spier Contemporary 2010 Opens in South Africa

The Spier Contemporary Art Exhibition will showcase the work of 101 artists from across South Africa in the Cape Town City Hall.

The Spier Contemporary 2010 will open on 14 March 2010 after two years of planning, a nationwide call for entry, an exhaustive curatorial tour, and the astonishing transformation of its exhibition space, the Cape Town City Hall.


The exhibition winners will be announced at the opening ceremony on Saturday, 13 March 2010. The project will award nearly R1.8 million directly to the artists. This is apportioned as acknowledgement grants (R4 000 per artist exhibited), five career development grants totalling R500 000, one audience choice award of R100 000 and seven international arts residency awards.

Presented by the Africa Centre, the Spier Contemporary Art Exhibition will showcase the work of 101 artists from across South Africa. (Spier Contemporary comes hot on the heels of another Africa Centre project, the Infecting the City Public Arts Festival that took Cape Town by storm in mid-February 2010.)

If contemporary art is defined as ‘art that is created now', then the Spier Contemporary is the visual and aural barometre of what it is like to live in South Africa in 2010. Comprising of 132 artworks from 101 artists, distilled from over 2 700 national submissions, the artists have contemplated and exposed every element of the South African condition: our fears, our joys, our humour and our trepidations. It speaks to the past, and imagines the future. It serves up a plethora of views and challenges us to think differently. It gives us a poetic, private moment with our world.


Reflecting something for everyone, the themes in the exhibition range from the struggle for identity to a lack of faith in our leadership, from meditations on urbanisation to revisiting memories. There is irony, humour, self-reflection and cultural play.

The Spier Contemporary is the largest biennale of South African art staged in the country. This extraordinary show features artists who work across the diversity of media, including sculpture, painting, photography, installation, video and performance art.

The launch of the Spier Contemporary 2007/08 was held on the Spier Estate outside Stellenbosch. Prior to moving on to Johannesburg. This iteration, the Africa Centre will be launching the Exhibition at Cape Town's City Hall. The City Hall was chosen based on its position at the heart of the City, allowing it to be easily accessed by all. Admission to the exhibition is free and it is open seven days a week from 10am till 6pm (public holidays included).

The Spier Contemporary 2010 is expecting to host 3 500 school learners at the exhibition. The educational programme is in partnership with the Ibhabhathane Project, and is funded by a grant from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (NLDTF).


The Spier Contemporary 2010 also houses a pop-up café by Rotisserie 360 that will serve light meals and has a fully licensed bar. The Fringe Arts Shop will sell the Spier Contemporary artworks and catalogue. It will also sell other functional art.

Many exciting events have been planned for the two month duration of the exhibition until 14 May 2010. Accompanying the formal weekly artist's walkabouts are debates and discussions, open mic sessions, poetry readings, wine tasting, live music sessions (both classical and contemporary), Creative Cape Town meetings, radio workshops, and public and private functions.





Thursday, March 25, 2010

Contemporary South African Wire Art by Talented Locals

The following is orginally a blog that appeared on http://www.brandsouthafricablog.com/:


After working several 16-hour days I need a break. So armed with a sandwich and a camera I set off to have lunch with the neighbours.


First up was a regular “crew” who occupies a spot on the busy intersection of Bolton and Jan Smuts Roads in Rosebank. Here they carve out a living using some wire, beads and some of the most creative talent I have ever seen.



I take a seat on a empty paint drum; hand over a sandwhich and introduce myself and so starts a wonderful conversation with a Zimbabwean named Boas Manzvenga. Boas is the brains behind the operation, together he, Eddie, Telmore and Elias own and operate a rather successful wire art business.

Boas was once a successful supervisor in a chemical company in Zimbabwe but the recession and political instability forced his company to close and left him without income. After several months of fruitless job-hunting, he made his way South.


That was five years ago. Today Boas says that he loves South Africa. Here the economy is good. When times are good he can make enough money as his own boss to pay his rent, cellphone and he even bought a car and when times are not so good he finds seasonal employment as a supervisor.


After lunch Boas sits back and picks up his wire art creation once again; he is beading the intricate body detail of a giraffe. He talks at a moderate pace; looks me in the eye; cracks a joke and every now and then lovingly strokes the body of his creation. I am transfixed by the speed at which this intricate animal is being shaped.

Asked where his passion for wire art comes from he smiles and says it started with “streetcars” — small wire cars he and his friends used to make as children. Later, he attended a technical training college in Zimbabwe where he learnt the sculpture of anatomy and beading.

The others join in the conversation. Their stories are similar.

The Goodman Gallery across the street has given them a space where they can display and sell their art to customers ranging from serious art collectors to visiting tourists. “South Africans are good people” he says, “they do not bother us and like our art.”

When I ask if there is anything else they can make besides African animals, they grin. Eddie points to a giant beaded afro comb, a sewing machine and even a satellite dish.

I get up to leave and they all jump up, thank me warmly for taking time to talk to them and hand over their business cards. I take them with a smile.

It seems when it comes to creativity all you need is your imagination, wire and beads, and a busy intersection in South Africa.







Wednesday, March 24, 2010

New York International Tribal and Textile Arts Show cancelled

Another New York fair falls victim to economic climate.

THE New York International Tribal and Textile Arts Show, normally held in May, has been cancelled this year.

The New York show scene has been badly hit by the economic downturn and promoter Caskey-Lees said that as of early March, only 24 exhibitors had signed up for this niche event. In a letter to exhibitors, Bill Caskey and Elizabeth Lees wrote: “To attempt to produce and promote a show, with any reasonable level of quality, for only 24 exhibitors would result in a loss of several hundred thousand dollars.” Exhibitors’ deposits will be returned.

“This was an exceptionally difficult decision for us both,” Bill Caskey said. “We have, over the past two years, redesigned and re-priced all our specialty shows to help dealers and collectors through this difficult economy.”

The San Francisco Textile and Tribal Arts Show will continue, as will Caskey-Lee’s other niche market fairs, including the New York Arts of Pacific Asia Show, which opens on March 24.

Manhattan organiser Sanford Smith announced the cancellation of his 22-year-old Works on Paper fair, scheduled for the Park Avenue Armory in February, citing the economic climate, while Haugton International Fairs, who have axed New York shows of 20th century design and Asian art in recent times, have also chosen to ‘postpone’ this spring’s staging of the International Fine Art Fair.

Congo Hopes New Museum Can Heal Nation's Scars

In a macabre echo of the punishments Belgian colonials once meted out to their Congolese laborers, a faded bronze statue of the explorer who carved out the country is missing two of his limbs.

Pulled down by anti-imperialists after Congo's former dictator Mobutu Sese Seko declared a policy rejecting colonial vestiges in 1971, the statue of Britain's Henry Morton Stanley lies clutching a broken baton, his feet severed.

Stanley's broken statue is one of more than 40,000 objects stored at Kinshasa's national museum, which for 40 years has kept one of sub-Saharan Africa's largest collections of art behind closed doors in one of Mobutu's old palaces.

The Institute of National Museums of Congo opens the collection -- rich in chief's clothing, masks, spears, and other relics of Central African country's cultural past -- to Kinshasa's public for the first time on Thursday in a park overlooking a sweep of the Congo River.

"These are the things that can bring a people back to life -- this is what gives people pride in their country, to be Congolese," said Professor Joseph Ibongo, director general of the museum.
Congo sorely needs it. As the country approaches its 50th year of independence from Belgian rule on June 30 it remains haunted by memories of brutal colonial masters, a 1998-2003 war in which millions died, and continued violence in the north and east.

"You can have a bloody, sad page in the book of our history, but you can't tear out that page," said Ibongo.

BRITAIN TO RESTORE STANLEY

The British embassy has put out a tender to restore Stanley's statue drawing criticism from those who have sought to expose the full horrors of colonial rule, including the severing of hands of rubber workers as punishment for low yields.

"Amazing to think of...Stanley on high again in Kinshasa," said Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold's Ghost, in which he said King Leopold II, the Belgian king who ruled Congo as a personal possession, earned $1.1 billion from exploiting Congolese people, an estimated 10 million of whom died.

"It was Stanley who bamboozled hundreds of illiterate chiefs who didn't have any idea what they were signing into giving their land over to the King of Belgium," he told Reuters.
When Congolese authorities erected an enormous statue of Leopold in Kinshasa in 2005, it was removed within hours after people nearly rioted against the unwelcome reminder of colonialism. He was later moved to the museum.

"The kind of relics that tend to be preserved are the relics of the conquerors," said Hochschild.
Chicottes -- a leather whip deployed by colonials -- and hand-chopping form no part of the collection, paid for by British and Belgian funding.

"Even if it's a bad history, you can't change history," says Jose Batekele, over the sound of workmen hammering out finishing touches to the museum buildings. "Like Mobutu told us, we have one sole mother and one sole father -- Congo."

CULTURAL LOOTING

Once home to more than 50 museums during the colonial period, Congo has rarely engaged with its history since.

"Cultural looting continues on a grand scale -- we have a lot of illicit trafficking of art objects," said Ibongo, who wants the state to train customs officers and frontier police.

"At the time most of these objects were collected by Belgians, they didn't have any cultural or intellectual value," said Viviane Baeke, ethnological curator at Tervuren, the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Belgium which is funding the Kinshasa museum.

Tervuren began as a colonial treasure store, later criticized for failing to reveal Belgian brutality.
Baeke, who is helping curate the Congolese exhibition, said missionaries encouraged three generations of villagers to burn their wooden totems, statues and ancestor idols at the same time as Belgian officials collected objects for shows back home.

Today Belgium showcases more than 140,000 central African artifacts -- more than three times the number of artifacts on show in Congo itself -- and has returned only 200 pieces to Congo to date.

"At the time objects weren't collected to be sold at Sotheby's, although sometimes they were taken by force. They were just (viewed as) things for savages," said Baeke. "Now these objects we now call African art have a value."

Source: Reuters

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The New York Arts of Pacific Asia Show This Week



The anchor of New York City’s Spring Asia Week, this show, presented since 1995, brings together an ever more prestigious assemblage of the world’s leading galleries and dealers specializing in the fine arts, textiles and objects de arte of Asia, the Subcontinent, Japan, the Pacific Islands, and the Near and Middle East.



The Arts of Pacific Asia Show takes place during the major Asian auctions at Sotheby’s, Christies, Phillips, and Doyles, and major gallery shows now adding to the luster of the most vibrant Asian art market in the world.

Collectors, major museum curators and connoisseurs are the core of Asia Week buyers, and the show’s more than 70 exhibitors gather from Asia, Europe, the UK and across America to make this rigorously vetted event the most respected Asian art fair in the world.




Show Dates: March 25th - March 28th, 2010. Check out http://www.caskeylees.com/NY_Asia/NY_Asia.html for more information.

Monday, March 22, 2010

South African Art Icon, Robert Hodgins dead at 89



Robert Hodgins, who passed away on March 15 at the age of 89, described himself as "an optimistic old sod", and said the process of creating art was an "auto-intoxication that allows one to live through marriages, divorces, deaths and unhappy love affairs, and come up smiling all the time".

Hodgins was born in London in 1920. The son of a single working mother, he was put into a children's home, where on weekends he would be farmed out to "God-awful", religious foster parents. Living in Depression-era London, he often went to art museums "because they were free, warm and dry", and described seeing the work of Van Gogh , and other artists, as "fragmentary, small happenings of extraordinariness in the grey block of my life".

He moved to South Africa in 1938 at the age of 18. After serving in Kenya during World War II, he returned to London where he studied fine art at the now prestigious Goldsmiths College.

After graduating, he returned to South Africa, where he taught and and wrote art criticism for a magazine called Newscheck. Despite resigning "oh, about twelve times", it was only in 1983, at the age of 63, that he retired and became a "full-time" artist.


In 1980 and 1981, Hodgins worked on a series of paintings based on the play Ubu Roi by Alfred Jarry. The menacing, selfish and vain character of Ubu would echo throughout his career in many of his best-known works, either as himself, or in works that depicted imposing, threatening characters in business suits. Hodgins stated in his “interview with himself” in the biographical retrospective Robert Hodgins (Tafelburg) that "When I finally got around to reading Ubu Roi, and there were Goering, Nero, Idi Amin -- the evil clown, the laughable monster. It released a flood of images, the colours, shapes, distortions of which fitted me."

His "late start" meant that, despite his advancing years, Hodgins considered himself to be "young as an artist". He continued to experiment with subject, medium and technique, and challenged himself to find new ways to depict reality through metaphor and abstraction, when many artists of similar age had settled into a style of that brought critical (and financial) reward. As a result, his art remained relevant, and exhibitions always offered something new, rather than falling into predictable retrospectives that become so common when artists reach a certain point in their artistic life.

An icon of the recent history of South African art, Hodgins had taken part in a number of important solo and group exhibitions, notably collaborating with William Kentridge and Deborah Bell in Hogarth in Johannesburg (1987) and The Little Morals Series (1991).

He was well known for his humour and enthusiastic approach to art-making. Art Print SA quotes him as saying "Before you know where you are, you're already thinking about the next work, and you could live to be 300. Paintings can be one-night stands or lifetime love-affairs -- you never know until you get cracking".



Source: Mail & Guardian Online


By: Lisa Van Wyk

Sunday, March 21, 2010

On African Safari, Off the Beaten Path in Kansas




THE story of Martin and Osa Johnson, an American couple whose documented journeys to places like Africa transformed them into national celebrities in the first part of the last century, has faded with time. Even in some parts of Kansas, where the couple grew up before setting off on their adventures, mention of the Johnsons can now draw looks of puzzlement.

But here in the rolling hills of southeastern Kansas, in the town where Osa Johnson grew up, their memory is alive and well. Inside an old train depot, the halls of the Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum are filled with photographs from their trips, copies of their books and the possessions they carried — film splicers, licenses to fly airplanes, a waffle iron, even Mrs. Johnson’s zebra skin shoes.
Occupying these halls, too, is the double challenge of a small museum off the beaten track: How to explain the significance of a once-famed couple to an audience now accustomed to glancing at African scenes with the click of a mouse; and how to do that from a town that sits about two hours from the nearest major city (Wichita, Kansas City and Tulsa, Okla., are each about the same distance away.)
The museum in Chanute, home to fewer than 10,000 residents, draws 5,000 or 6,000 visitors a year, said Conrad Froehlich, the director, who notes that small facilities, though often overlooked, actually make up the vast majority of the nation’s museums. “That’s peanuts compared to the Field Museum,” Mr. Froehlich said of attendance here, referring to the natural history museum in Chicago. “But for where we are, that’s not bad.”
The museum draws its share of Osa and Martin Johnson devotees from far and wide. But other visitors, Mr. Froehlich acknowledges, have never heard of them.

“Some people just see the sign and stop in, and you can watch those visitors getting excited as they learn about the Johnsons for the first time,” he said. “That reminds me why we’re here. What we’re doing is keeping their legacy alive.”

By the 1920s and 1930s, Martin and Osa Johnson were household names and faces — as famous in their era, according to one Johnson historian, as Michael Jackson. Their comings and goings made headlines and, in perhaps the modern measure of celebrity, Mrs. Johnson had a stalker.
They were ordinary Kansas kids, as museum officials put it, without wealthy backgrounds or lengthy educations. Martin Johnson, a lanky boy raised in Independence, Kan., not far from here, was expelled from school for a photography prank that made fun of the school principal, the museum notes, though the episode is not emphasized before the busloads of Kansas schoolchildren who travel here on field trips.

At a young age, Mr. Johnson yearned for adventure and managed to travel with Jack London on his 1907 voyage on the Snark. After marrying when Osa was 16 (another fact not emphasized for school groups), the pair set off on their exploits, spending years in Africa and the South Pacific and documenting the animals, people and scenes they saw in a series of films. Mr. Johnson captured the images. Mrs. Johnson, who was also a photographer and filmmaker, starred.

The films were successful. Tours and talks followed. So did books.

“They projected the ideal American couple, and they really debunked a great deal of the previous imagery of Africa at the time,” said Dr. Pascal James Imperato, dean of the school of public health at the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center, who edited Mrs. Johnson’s final book, published after her death; co-wrote a biography of the Johnsons; and is an honorary trustee of the museum. “They made Africa a place of beauty and tranquillity that was accessible almost as if it were a backyard in Kansas.”

But in 1937, Mr. Johnson died in a commercial plane crash in the United States. Mrs. Johnson, whose 1940 autobiography, “I Married Adventure,” became a best seller, died in New York in 1953.

In the years that followed, some forgot about the Johnsons, whose films now seem dated. Some in new generations never heard of them. And travel — and travelogues — shifted, both in technology, style and reason for being.

The museum opened in 1961, thanks to contributions and efforts from Osa Johnson’s mother, Belle Leighty, who still lived in Chanute at the time. It has expanded to include objects of African art and an ethnographic collection of masks, tools and musical instruments. It also developed traveling exhibitions and moved to its current, more polished setting.

The museum’s 10,000 square feet (including a storage facility and space shared with a library) house a cozy theater and a gallery with statues of the Johnsons — Martin before his camera — at the center. The gallery guides the uninitiated through the Johnsons’ story, featuring childhood clothing and personal memorabilia and photographs from their trips.

Survival for any small nonprofit museum is hard, not least of all during a recession. With two full-time employees and one part-time worker, Mr. Froehlich said, the museum “stretches things as far as we can” to manage its $150,000-to-$200,000 annual budget. Since the 1970s, the museum has entered into licensing deals for the images of the Johnsons, a way to make ends meet.

But those efforts have picked up sharply in recent years, and a larger campaign is under way, according to a lawyer who has been hired to lead the museum’s licensing efforts. American Eagle Outfitters had a licensing agreement with the museum in connection with the retailer’s Martin + Osa stores. The stores, which American Eagle recently decided to close, used the museum archives for “design and lifestyle inspiration,” according to the clothing line. A Hollywood producer is developing a movie.

If that all sounds contrary to the academic work of a museum, Mr. Froehlich says that it is quite in keeping with the way the Johnsons themselves got by. Some view them as pioneers in the notion of product placement in film. They used items like Hershey candy bars and Bisquick in their movies and elsewhere in order to pay for the next adventure, he said.

In any case, Mr. Froehlich said, none of it clashes with the museum’s goal: “Introducing the Johnsons’ story and lives to a younger and more diverse group.”

Jacquelyn Borgeson, the museum’s curator, says she sees signs that their story is re-emerging. In different decades, different fields of study have focused in on the Johnsons, finding relevance in their work.

In the 1960s, she says, the Johnsons were rediscovered by conservationists. Then in the 1970s, anthropologists found them, followed by scholars of women’s studies in the 1980s and aviation specialists in the ’90s. During the last decade, those in the fashion world found Mrs. Johnson (who had her own clothing line and was once voted one of America’s best-dressed women).

“They’re slowly coming back, niche by niche,” she said. “It’s a slow process.”

Others, too, are finding them, perhaps accidentally along the quiet road through this town. On an afternoon this year, the halls were mostly empty, but for a few of the curious.

In a museum this size, there is time and space for visitors’ journals. A recent entry gushed, “Osa Johnson is a woman who knew how to live.”

Source: The New York Times
By: Monica Davey

Saturday, March 20, 2010

African Art Continues to Inspire Western Artists... in Finland!

Helsinki, Finland’s Espoo Museum of Modern Art (EMMA) stages its spring exhibition “The Power of Africa: Three Perspectives” from February 24th through June 6th 2010.

The three perspectives of the title has a double meaning. It refers to the three artforms featured in the exhibition, namely sculpture, painting and mask-making, and also to the three thematic approaches taken.




The first theme is an exploration of how African art influenced early twentieth-century European Modernism. It looks at how the industrialization of Europe was seen as a decline in Western culture, and how this spurred artists to seek new beginnings beyond the confines of their home surroundings, with many venturing as far afield as Africa. From German expressionism to Russian Futurism, from Pablo Picasso to Akseli Gallen-Kal-
lela, the geometric, minimalist repertoire of African art seems to have inspired artists and genres across Europe.

The second theme presents African works as part of a coherent artistic culture, and challenges the myth of superiority in European art and rationalism. It explores the ritual elements of African art, and relates this to the church frescoes of Europe. The individuality and nuances of African art are prominently featured.

The third approach looks directly at the relationship between Finnish contemporary art and Africa. Stefan Bremer, Alvar Gullichsen and Teemu Mäki are among the many artists who have visited Villa Karo, the Finnish cultural institute in Benin, and who have drawn on African art in their work.



The large array of works on display, and the broadness of the thematic focus, make The Power of Africa: Three Perspectives well worth the visit.

For more information, visit EMMA's page on the exhibit.



Source: The Helsinki Times

Friday, March 19, 2010

Update from Maastricht: Buyers are Anywhere!

"Going Dutch: Buyers aplenty at the Maastricht art fair"


RECESSIONS affect art fairs in different ways. The most obvious is when buyers stay away, especially if a fair has fallen from fashion or if entry tickets are too expensive. Another is when dealers abandon ship, curtailing the fairs they attend to two a year, say, instead of three. Or they suddenly offer deep discounts to ensure a sale. Slashing prices is a sure sign of lack of confidence.

This year at the Maastricht fine art fair, Europe's premier decorative and fine art festival, there was a different problem: an abundance of ordinary offerings, not so much second-rate as indifferent. Dealers have clearly found it hard to source fresh, top-quality works during the recession. Much of the art was even quite stale: Antonio Guardi's beautiful 18th-century “View of the Villa Loredan at Paese”, presented by Simon Dickinson, a London dealer, was on its fourth Maastricht visit, after a winter with another dealer and no buyers in New York.

None of this was evident at first glance. The private view on the first day, March 12th, was anything but private. A record 10,500 people attended. Cashmere, fur, high heels and hairspray was the uniform of the day. Maastricht is a destination fair; people regard it as an outing. The number of personal jets that bore them there would have been higher had Munich airport not been closed by fog.

More than $3 billion worth of art work—covering every category and period, from ancient Egyptian statuary to post-Modern painting—was presented on 263 stands (24 more than last year). The exhibitors came from 17 countries; most were American, British or continental European, but some trekked from further afield, such as Uruguay and South Korea. A conservative estimate would put the fair's entire offering at over 25,000 pieces. Yet no more than a dozen were truly memorable.

Alan Rubin of Pelham Galleries, a British dealer based in Paris, is something of a maestro. His stand is always a theatrical show, and this year was no exception. The centrepiece was a magnificent canopied bed that once belonged to Talleyrand, the great 19th-century French diplomat. But the most intriguing item was an elaborate automaton clock that hadn't been seen in public for more than 100 years. Standing 130 centimetres high, it had feet shaped like dragons that spat out pearls at regular intervals.

Chinese specialists also like to put on a show. Ben Janssens, a London-based Dutchman and the chairman of the fair, had a small side room at his elegant stand displaying 20th-century Japanese bronzes. Beautiful late Japanese craftsmanship is beginning to gain ground among collectors, especially Westerners, who no longer want to compete with the Chinese in buying Chinese porcelain and metalware.

Lacquer, though, is still something in which Western collectors lead the way. Littleton and Hennesy, which has offices in London and New York, unveiled a spectacular lacquer piece at Maastricht: a 15th-century chest of drawers depicting a Taoist paradise. From the Manno collection in Japan, the chest was unusually large—more than 80 centimetres across and 64 centimetres high—and, despite its age, impressively well-preserved (lacquer is treated with special care in Japan). A Western collector bought it on the second day of the fair, happy to pay the full asking price of €3.1m ($4.2m).


Another eye-catching display was Bernard de Grunne's crowd of 27 Igbo monumental standing sculptures from Nigeria (above), many of them taller than their owners. Drawn in part from his father's collection and that of Jacques Kerchache, once a leading French dealer of tribal and contemporary art, this unusual show featured works that had not been seen in public for many years. Much sought after by French, Belgian and, increasingly, American buyers, these pieces are both fragile and rare, and they seldom travel. The demand for African art has grown over the past five years, and it is expected to expand yet further with the reopening of the Museum for African Art in Manhattan next year. Several buyers were keen on the most important statues—a male and a female carved by a sculptor known as the Awka Master—which ultimately went to a European collector for close to the asking price of €400,000.

Maastricht is the sort of fair where clever dealers bring their discoveries. Often these are works acquired at auction for a bargain price, owing to an original misidentification. John Mitchell Fine Paintings, a family dealership in London, arrived with a Dutch winter landscape it had found in a French provincial sale last summer. The picture came from a chateau in central France and was so dirty as to be almost unrecognisable. Auctioneers described it as Dutch school (circa 1620) and estimated its value at €20,000-30,000. Some cleaning and a good deal of research established it as a hitherto unknown work by Adam van Breen. Dated 1611, it is one of the earliest known paintings of its kind, and was snapped up at Maastricht by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, for €910,000.

An even more impressive surprise came from Mr Rubin, again of Pelham Galleries. He brought a large French champ de bataille painting, a huge formal garden landscape featuring a grand chateau. Mr Rubin had bought the picture at an auction house that was unfamiliar with this kind of work and gave it an estimate of €50,000-70,000. Given the painting’s odd perspective—at once topographical and a bird's eye view—Mr Rubin identified it as a lost work by Pierre-Denis Martin, who painted some of the most important topographical landscapes in the Trianon palace at Versailles. The picture depicts the visit of Louis XIV to the Chateau of Juvisy, and is still available, priced at €2m. Its value lies mainly in its discovery, the product of experience, a good eye and meticulous archival research. At its best, that is what Maastricht is known for.

Despite the paucity of works with the wow factor, dealers at Maastricht reported considerable buying interest. Mr Janssens sold 30 pieces on the opening day, and 20 more over the first weekend. James Ede, a London-based antiquities dealer, has called this fair his best fair ever. During the worst months of the recession, collectors refused to sell unless they had to, drying up both the supply of and the demand for top-quality works. Sourcing first-class art may still be difficult, but the experience of the Maastricht dealers over the past few days is that there is no shortage of money to spend. The worst of the recession appears to be over, for both dealers and buyers.

Source: The Economist

“KNOCK KNOCK: An Exhibition of Antique Tribal Doors” at Douglas Dawson


The Douglas Dawson Gallery, housed in antique wooden beams, within a serene Asian-inspired garden, held its opening reception on Saturday, February 27, 2010, for “KNOCK KNOCK: An Exhibition of Antique Tribal Doors.”

Formerly of River North, Douglas Dawson now deals —as it has for the past 28 years—ancient artifacts from Asia, Africa and the Americas from its relatively new location on North Morgan Street. Boasting a wide range of objects, including specializing in a “continuous new inventory of historic African ceramics,” the gallery caters to museums and “important private collectors throughout the United States and Europe,” stressing quality and genuineness. “KNOCK KNOCK” is no exception; as promised, the gallery presents, in a cross between a museum space and a commercial boutique, a collection of fifteen 18th-20th century, handcrafted doors from around the world including Indonesia, Guatemala and Nigeria.

Though the objects in “KNOCK KNOCK” are exhibited under the homogenizing moniker of “tribal,” each is accompanied by a placard with a bite-sized caption explaining its context and proving its authenticity. For instance one of the first doors to be sold in the exhibition, one with a simple carved relief of a full-breasted woman, from 19th-20th century Dogon, Mali, is accompanied by the context that this West African country is “one of the last animistic cultures” and that “primal imagery” is common in the motifs of this era and culture.

This exhibition also reveals some indication as to the acquisition by a western institution of objects such as these. The house door from 18th-early 19th century Cotzal, Guatemala, according to the placard, has its commercial origins in the migration of the salvaged architectural items from the aftermath of Guatemala’s 1976 earthquake to the antique markets, mere months after the disaster. This kind of rapid recovering and immediate marketing is indicative of the commercial demand for objects like these antique doors.


“KNOCK KNOCK: An Exhibition of Antique Tribal Doors” is on display February 27 through March 27, 2010 at Douglas Dawson Gallery, 400 North Morgan Street, Chicago. Additional inventory can be viewed through inventory catalogs and through their website, www.douglasdawson.com.




Source: The Chicago Art Magazine
By: Robin Dluzen

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Contemporary Nigerian Artist Yinka Shonibare's Show is Successful, but Finished

Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare MBE’s exhibition closed Sunday, March 7th completing his four-month run at the National Museum of African Art.

Since November, visitors have trekked across the Smithsonian to view 14 years worth of the British-born artist’s most celebrated works. These pieces include a colorful mixture of photography, film, sculpture, paintings and large-scale mixed media.

Shonibare’s artworks explore the themes of retaining African identity in light of British colonialism and the Enlightenment era’s debate over rationality versus irrationality. They also reflect his ancestry, which includes Nigerian and British roots. The MBE in his name stands for Member of the Order of the British Empire.


Viewers of Shonibare’s exhibit have spanned the globe, attracting visitors as far away as Europe.
“I enjoy the way he conceptualizes his art,” said Suzanne from Germany. “It’s both beautiful and political.”

District resident Muhammad Salaam agreed.

“He’s depicting what’s actually happening in the world,” said Salaam. “That includes colonialism and of course, the rape and murder of a whole nation of people.”

The 48-year-old artist’s paintings include Dutch wax print fabric. Since the mid-1990s, Shonibare has blended politics and aestheticism with his use of this material. Manufactured in Europe for the West African market between the early 19th and 20th centuries, the wax fabric represents both mercenary and racial relationships between Europe, Asia and Africa.


As far as sculpture, Shonibare usually creates headless figures and drapes them in ornately designed clothing reminiscent of the period preceding the French Revolution. He references art history for his sculptures, drawing inspiration from the works of French painter Jean-Honore Fragonard.

While Shonibare’s sculptures borrow from art history, his photography draws from past literature.

Of Shonibare’s two major suites of photographs featured at the African Art museum, his depiction of Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray drew the most attention. Gray centers on a man who forfeits his soul to prevent aging; he succumbs to moral decay as a result. Shonibare captures Gray’s dilemma in a series of black and white photographs presented in a linear sequence.
Visitors crowded around the piece and shared their thoughts.

“I’m a huge fan of Oscar Wilde and of his novel, ‘Dorian Gray,’” said Amy from Ohio. “This is unlike anything I’ve seen, though. I think it’s more emotionally intensive seeing this in still photograph form as opposed to reading it or even watching the film. You’re forced to ponder it. There’s no background noise.”

With reactions like these, it comes as little to no surprise that Shonibare’s exhibition has run so long.




Source: The Hilltop Online, Howard University
By: Jessica Harper

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

African Art from High Museum on YouTube

Get an inside look at pieces in the High Museum's African Art Collection when you visit the High Museum's YouTube Channel and take a peek at the quick and informative Conversations with a Curator Series.

Personal insights are from Carol Thompson, the Fred and Rita Richman Curator of African Art.

Here are some the most recent episodes the museum has posted:



Maastricht Treasure Hunt Lures Collectors, From New York Times

MAASTRICHT, the Netherlands — This small Dutch city may be known for its winding cobblestone streets, quaint town square and a church dating as far back as the sixth century, but it is also home to a cavernous convention center where, every March, about 70,000 art lovers flock for the European Fine Art Fair. A supersize event in many ways, this year’s edition has been notable for a few standout sales amid the absence of big-ticket items.

The fair is larger than ever: 263 exhibitors (24 more than last year) from 17 countries showing nearly $3 billion worth of art in every collecting category from ancient times to the 21st century. While there are examples of brand names — drawings by Rubens and Tiepolo; paintings by Gauguin, Giacometti and Picasso; even one of Damien Hirst‘s dead animals — that is only part of what draws crowds. It is that sense of discovery that keeps crowds returning: a 1796 portrait of Countess Tolstoy, the writer’s grandmother, by Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun hanging in a closet at Robilant & Voena, dealers from London and Milan (price: about $4 million), or a Samuel Palmer landscape secreted in a small nook in the stand of the London dealer Lowell Libson.


Giacometti's “Three Walking Men,” for sale for $25 million.


On Thursday, two hours after the opening festivities began, there were seven minutes of drama. The caterers turned on their ovens and caused an electrical overload, plunging a portion of the convention center into darkness. Nobody panicked, and, fair officials said, nothing was stolen. “I saw a man who calmly got out his flashlight and continued shopping,” said Malcolm Rogers, director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, who was making his annual pilgrimage here along with a group of trustees.

People watching is part of the fun. Although the fair runs through next Sunday, during the first few days scores of museum directors and curators cruised booths. Some high-profile collectors were here too, among them: A. Alfred Taubman, the former chairman of Sotheby’s, with his wife, Judy; and the Metropolitan Museum of Art trustees Leon D. Black, the financier, and Mark Fisch, a real estate developer.

“There are no blockbusters, no $30 million Rembrandts of years past, but is that what these fairs are all about?” Mr. Fisch asked. “Is it really relevant to anyone’s collecting experience? There are so many wonderful things to see.”

Big-ticket paintings were noticeably absent this year, dealers said, because inventories are low. When the economy took a nose dive two years ago, most galleries suffered and, being cash-strapped, were not able to replenish their stock. As soon as things started to pick up, dealers found that the best works tended to be too expensive to buy for resale.

But there are still plenty of unusual things to see here, including objects making a public appearance for the first time in centuries.

From Daniel Katz, a plaster statuette by Jean-Pierre Dantan of Paganini.



Daniel Katz, a London dealer, for example, filled a wall of his booth with 30 intricately carved plaster statuettes (1831-44) whimsically depicting musicians and other famous personalities in the arts. Made by Jean-Pierre Dantan (or Dantan the Younger), a French sculptor who was known for his amusing caricatures, he captured the likenesses of Paganini and Berlioz, Strauss and Liszt. “It’s a Who’s Who in the world of Paris in the 1830s,” Mr. Katz said. Despite the $1 million asking price, the suite of statuettes sold to an unidentified American collector in the first 24 hours of the fair’s opening.

Word of the most alluring works spread quickly. Crowds could be seen gasping when pearls began to drop from the mouths of dragons surrounding a fantastical neoclassical clock once belonging to Prince Charles Alexander, governor general of the Austrian Netherlands (now Belgium), for sale at Pelham, the London gallery. Alan Rubin, Pelham’s founder, said the $2.5 million gilt metal, bronze and silver clock had not been displayed in public in 100 years.

The section devoted to modern and contemporary art keeps changing. Last year a number of heavy hitters like Acquavella Galleries of New York and Leslie Waddington of London dropped out. Collectors could be heard grumbling that the offerings were not as strong as they have been, but there were some new dealers, like L&M Arts of New York, which was offering a Giacometti painting.

Although it has been just over a month ago since “Walking Man I,” Giacometti’s six-foot-tall sculpture of a pencil-thin figure, became the world’s most expensive work ever sold at auction (fetching $104.3 million at Sotheby’s in London), prices for his works are already escalating. L&M Arts bought its Giacometti, “Portrait of Maurice Lefebvre-Foinet” (1964-65), depicting the noted Parisian art supply shop owner, at Christie’s in Paris in December for $3.3 million. After cleaning, it was being offered at around $6 million.

Landau Fine Art from Montreal was showing “Three Walking Men,” a sculpture that Giacometti conceived in 1948. The gallery bought it at Christie’s in New York two years ago for $11.5 million. Landau had it at the fair last year priced at $19 million; this year it was $25 million. “Everyone expected us to raise the price,” said Alice Landau, who runs the gallery with her husband, Robert. “The market has changed.”

It wouldn’t be an art fair without at least one work by Mr. Hirst. Haunch of Venison, a London gallery owned by Christie’s, was featuring “This Little Piggy Went to Market, This Little Piggy Stayed at Home” his 1996 installation of a pig sliced from nose to tail and submerged in formaldehyde. The work caused a commotion when it first appeared in “Sensation: Young British Artists From the Saatchi Collection” at the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 1997. With a price tag of about $12 million, the pig had not sold as of Sunday morning, officials at the gallery said.

But red dots could be spotted around a new works-on-paper section. Because the interest in drawings, prints and photographs has been steadily building in recent years, the organizers added a special second-floor space devoted exclusively to this section of the market. There was a booth of Irving Penn portraits at Hamiltons, a London photography gallery. There were also master drawings from all periods, including a 1788 Gainsborough drawing, “Figures in a Wooded Landscape,” that Lowell Libson was offering for about $412,000. The seemingly quick black chalk strokes appear almost contemporary in their execution.

As of Sunday afternoon Mr. Libson had not sold the drawing although he said he has had serious interest from an American museum and several collectors. Still, as a first-time exhibitor, he seemed unfazed. “This fair gives me a new opportunity,” Mr. Libson explained. “It’s a place to present British works in a broader European context.”



Source: The New York Times
By: Carol Vogel

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Masstricht Antique Arts Fair in the Netherlands is Going on Now

From Friday, March 12 through Sunday, March 21, 2010 visitors can explore The Fine Europeans Art Foundation (TEFAF) Maastricht in the Netherlands. The event presents the best choice of the very best in fine art. Art lovers in attendance have a unique chance to view and to buy paintings from Bruegel to Bacon as well as objects reflecting 6,000 years of excellence in the applied arts.
On display is a selection of genuine masterpieces from 263 of the world’s most prestigious art and antiques dealers from 17 countries.
No where else will you find such rigorous investigation of their quality, condition and authenticity. Every item is checked by one of 26 vetting committees made up of over 155 internationally respected experts.

Some of the top dealers in tribal art will have works on display and for sale.
For example, from Paris, The Galerie Meyer Oceanic Art has set up a booth of authentic works pictures below.


Also, The Entwistle Gallery, located in both London and Paris, is paying a visit to Maastricht to show off the highlights of its collection of African and Oceanic arts. Here are some visual images of the works on display.


For more information on the fair and other presenters, visit TEFAF's website.

A Struggling Detroit Art Museum Tries to Reach Out

Imam Sohel Mangera photographs a Koran from about 1450-60, displayed at the Detroit Institute of Arts, part of the museum's new permanent gallery of Islamic art

To understand the new gallery's significance, consider the history of the DIA, as the museum is known in Detroit. Shortly after its founding in the 1880s, the DIA began collecting Islamic art. The 1920s auto-industry boom made Detroit one of the world's wealthiest cities — "the Paris of the Midwest," many called it. In 1927, the DIA moved into its current home, a white Beaux Arts building near Detroit's downtown, and sharply expanded its collections, mainly with European and American pieces, although it briefly hired an Islamic-arts specialist to curate a small collection. In the following decades, Detroit witnessed several key shifts: the emergence of a sizable black middle class and the arrival of Middle Eastern immigrants. But the DIA, which ranks among the country's top 10 museums, has largely remained the province of Detroit's white suburban élites.

In the late 1990s, the DIA hired Graham Beal, who formerly headed the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, to serve as its CEO. He arrived just as the DIA was set to launch a six-year, $158 million renovation and expansion. Beal's mandate: "to rethink how we present art to the general public." That meant tripling the amount of space devoted to the DIA's Native American art collection and opening a department to curate a collection of African-American art. Beal ordered that exhibit labels be more accessible to the masses. In one gallery, he added a virtual dining table, with porcelain and silver tableware, to offer a glimpse into the lives of 18th century French aristocrats.

Because of Detroit's disastrous past decade, the renovation took longer than expected, and the museum struggled: attendance, which is highly dependent on special exhibits, fell sharply. Last year Beal reduced the DIA's budget, from $32 million to $26 million, partly by laying off 20% of the museum's staff. Cultural sites nationwide are struggling to weather the economic crisis, but the challenge facing Detroit's institutions is especially severe; they can no longer rely on support from the region's ailing auto industry. Raising money, Beal says, "has been unbelievably challenging."

Still, Beal continued to push for an Islamic-art gallery. In the summer of 2005, he hired Heather Ecker, a well-regarded curator whose background includes a year at Qatar's Museum of Islamic Art. Ecker carefully combed the 900-plus pieces of Islamic art in the DIA's collection, most of which was stored in the basement. Some pieces, like shards of pots, weren't worthy of being publicly shown. Others were striking finds, like the massive gilded copper candlestick the DIA acquired from a Belgian art dealer in 1922. It had been classified as an 18th century candlestick but was actually made between 1400 and 1500 in what is now Turkey. Some people thought the candle looked like a church bell.

The gallery's nearly 170 pieces mainly concentrate on Islamic art from countries such as Spain and India. One room showcases sacred Muslim, Jewish and Christian texts. Last month a party marking the gallery's opening drew nearly 300 people, including many Muslim professionals from across the Detroit region. Many hadn't bothered visiting the museum before or hadn't spent much time there. "They didn't feel connected," says Ali Moiin, a prominent physician and the chair of the DIA's Asian and Islamic Arts Forum. The prevailing view, he adds, was, " 'There was nothing I wanted to see.' Now, they can say, 'I can relate to it.' "

Beal says reactions have largely been positive. But he has also been asked when he is going to open a Christian art gallery. His response: The museum has, in fact, two galleries devoted to Christian art. And Christianity is infused throughout the museum, especially in the European collections. Beal, who is fond of Islamic ceramics, says, "It's also important for non-Muslims to see this and understand the depth and beauty of Islamic art." His next challenge is to raise $1.5 million to open an Asian-art gallery.

The museum is slowly taking other steps to broaden its base of patrons to reflect Detroit's status as one of the country's most ethnically diverse regions. One example is the upcoming exhibit "Through African Eyes: The European in African Art." But some barriers remain. Sitting at a $20,000 table at the DIA's gala last November, a black socialite scanned the largely white room and sighed. Detroit has significant black wealth, she observed, "but it's hard getting them to participate."

Monday, March 15, 2010

Pende Ivory Whistle - Congo, New Aquisitions


Two-note whistles, such as the one on offer, were used by the Pende to call people back from the bush or village and as a means of communicating for help during the hunt.Rich, honey patina from years of use and wear. One side is worn through from use - this was obviously a deeply treasured personal possession.

Height: 3 1/4"


Marc and Denyse Ginzberg Collection

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Hair Comb - Solomon Islands, New Acquisition


A very fine Solomon Islands hair comb.These decorated combs, called Faa, are worn by men as hair ornaments. The combs are decorated with plaited fiber. Yellow orchid fibers are used as well as the tissue of the coconut palm died red with a root called geru. Fern wood and orchid fiber

Marc and Denyse Ginzberg Collection

Saturday, March 13, 2010

San Carved Ostrich Egg - Botswana, New Acquisition


Roy Sieber, in his book “African Furniture and Household Objects” remarks, “A number of natural forms have served as vessels, often with no reworking or considerably less work than basketry or clay require. A marvelous instance is an ostrich egg shell which if pierced at one end, emptied and the contents eaten, produces instantly a fine water vessel. In its primary form, undecorated, it may be described as simple…..decorated it can become a rather remarkable object”.

Decorated with ostrich, lizard motifs and abstract motifs, this vessel has a leather thong for carrying.

Height: 8"

Friday, March 12, 2010

Shona Knife - Zimbabwe, New Acquisition


A rare and beautiful ivory Shona knife.This type of knife was found among the Shona, and similar ones among the Sotho and Tswana, all in southern Africa. The sheaths were made of two pieces of wood, or in this fine example, a front of ivory and a back of wood. The front and back were bound together with braided wire, leather or fiber. The surface is covered with intricate geometric designs and enhanced by the patina of wear.

Wood, ivory, brass wire

Height: 12"

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Guro Heddle Pulley - Ivory Coast, New Acquisition


An elegant Guro heddle pulley with fine scarification patterns on the face and an elegantly carved coiffure.Heddle pulleys are used in strip-weaving, a process that uses very small looms to produce long, narrow strips of cloth which are later sewn together to create a larger textile, such as a blanket. The advantage of this type of loom is that it is highly portable and easy to assemble. Heddles are always used in pairs. They are tied together by a string that runs through a pulley situated above the loom. The weaver's feet operate the heddles, alternately, during the weaving process. Old Parke-Bernet label on underside of base.

#11121H: 6 1/2" ex Parke-Bernet Gallery, New York, 1970's

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Group of Five Zulu Snuff Spoons - South Africa, New Acquisition


Bone and ivory snuff spoons have had a long tradition of use among the Zulu peoples and are still produced today. Many 19th century photographs show Zulu males wearing these spoons in their hair. Many are decorated with geometric engraved and blackened incisions. It has been said that this decoration represents adornment, such as beadwork, that women wore around their necks.

Sizes range from 6 ½ “ to 7 ¼” H


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Bongo Stool - Sudan, New Acquisition


This stool masterfully illustrates the preoccupation with the aesthetics of bovine forms shared by pastoral peoples of the Upper Nile region in Sudan. The form is "probably suggested by the shapes of the animals, something in each design resembling the head, limbs and tail," as noted by Captain S. L. Cummins, a British medical officer who served in Sudan at the turn of the century.

If they do echo an animal form, the feet of this stool can be interpreted as an artistic rendition of hooves and fetlocks, while the lugs at each end of the seat may evoke the head and tail. In this stool, one finds a perfect integration of both types of supports: the shallow, receptive curve of the thin seat is gracefully counterbalanced by the tighter curve of the sturdy legs.In the late 19th century, such stools were found in every household and used exclusively by women. An early writer, Schweinfurth, tells us that stools were “used by women…but avoided by men, who regarded every raised seat as an effeminate luxury.” These stools were also used as headrests.

Gorgeous dark, glossy patina and one of the finest extant examples of a Bongo stool.

#11119H: 6 1/2" L: 13 1/2"ex Budrose Collection, USA

Monday, March 8, 2010

Jacaranda Tribal's New Acquisitions- March 2010


Jacaranda Tribal is pleased to announce that it has acquired 13 new tribal art pieces to add to its ever-expanding collection. Over the next week, we would like to highlight some of our favorite works that are part of our March, 2010 New Acquisitions. We hope you enjoy them too!

Feedback is greatly appreciated.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Art of the Steal



Don't miss the new documentary about the Barnes Foundation and its controversial move to Philadelphia. With a collection worth over $25 billion, including some beautiful African art, its a stimulating and disturbing documentary.

Below is a review by Melissa Anderson on the Village Voice.

Matisse called the Barnes Foundation "the only sane place to see art in America." But the clamor over moving one of the world's foremost collections of impressionist, post-impressionist, and modern art from its home in the bucolic suburb of Merion, Pennsylvania, to center city Philadelphia (4.6 miles away) has been anything but reasonable. Unapologetically on the side of those who oppose the relocation (executive producer Lenny Feinberg is, like many of the doc's impassioned interlocutors, a former student of the Barnes Foundation), The Art of the Steal presents its aesthetes versus Phila-stines argument cogently, convincingly, and engagingly.

Though he relies too heavily on Philip Glass compositions to underscore dramatic points, director-cinematographer Don Argott (who helmed 2005's Rock School) digs deep to recount the struggle for control of this legendary institution. The foundation was started in 1922 by Albert C. Barnes, a cranky physician from working-class Philly who made a fortune by developing an antiseptic, and used that money to amass his collection of Renoirs, Cézannes, Matisses, Picassos, and Modiglianis. Unabashedly liberal, Barnes loathed the conservative power elite of the City of Brotherly Love (which he called "a depressing intellectual slum"), particularly those affiliated with the Philadelphia Museum of Art; his foundation in Merion was strictly for art education, its magnificent pieces never to be loaned or go on tour. Barnes, who died in 1951, explicitly stated in his will that the collection never leave its two-story villa in the leafy suburbs—which, due to megalomania-fueled mismanagement beginning in the 1990s and the converging interests of philanthropic organizations, politicians, and powerbrokers, is exactly what is scheduled to happen in 2012, when the Barnes Foundation will become a major tourist destination five blocks away from the Philadelphia Museum of Art on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

"Culture has become big business," one of Steal's talking heads says early on, laying out the film's thesis. The refrain is echoed by arts reporter David D'Arcy sniffing about a "McBarnes in downtown Philadelphia" and Drexel professor Robert Zaller calling the move "the greatest theft of art since the Second World War." The key backers of the move declined to be interviewed in the film—with the notable exception of former Philadelphia mayor and current Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, who states that the relocation is necessary for populist reasons: It will make an invaluable collection more accessible to more people; more ticket-buyers, in turn, will restore the Barnes's depleted finances—a point that Barnes loyalists insist is a specious argument.
Argott's film makes clear that Rendell's statements are disingenuous at best—that moving the collection to the city represents the triumph of money and power not just over the express wishes of one man, but the public's opportunity to have a singular experience with an astonishing array of art in its original setting. More cynically—and more to the point—the relocation signals the use of art to grease the wheels of commerce, crassly expressed when Philadelphia's then-mayor, John Street, announces at a press conference that moving the Barnes will have "the financial impact of three Super Bowls—without the beer."

The Art of the Steal's thorough research, bolstered by many fiery talking heads, makes it one of the most successful advocacy docs in recent years and may prompt some firsthand investigating of your own. As for claims about the Barnes Foundation's inaccessibility—the linchpin of the argument for those supporting the move—visiting, as I discovered during a recent trip, requires not much more foresight than making a dinner reservation and not much more walking than it takes to get from the closest subway stop to the Met. Once inside, slowly drifting from room to room (five of the 23 galleries are now closed in preparation for the move), Stendhal syndrome begins to set in; it seems almost inconceivable that so much beauty could be assembled in one small, intimate setting. On the second floor, as a docent was concluding a tour, I heard someone ask her why the Barnes was moving. After a pause, she answered, "There were money problems . . . ," trailing off as if she herself were unconvinced of her response.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Review of "Kindgom of Ife" from the Guardian

By Jonathan Jones:

This is an exceptional exhibition, even by the high standards the British Museum has established in recent years. It is extraordinary because it brings together such a large number of masterpieces that have rarely or never been exhibited outside Nigeria before – and when I say masterpieces, I mean artworks that rank with the Terracotta Army, the Parthenon or the mask of Tutankhamen as treasures of the human spirit.

For European artists a century ago, African sculpture was powerful precisely because it did not conform to the smooth idea of beauty that Picasso's generation had been brought up on – ideas that went back to classical Greece. But they had not seen the art of Ife, a medieval city-state that flourished from the 12th to 15th centuries in West Africa, trading across the Sahara with the Islamic Mediterranean world.

The superb sculpted heads in this exhibition – statues of sick people, monuments to warriors, royal heads whose strange vertical scars tell of the ceremonies of the court – were first rediscovered in quantity in an amazing find on a building site in the modern Nigerian city of Ife in 1938. This art was so different and unexpected, so "un-African", that one of its first students thought it must be the lost art of Atlantis.

But these works were not Greek, let alone from Atlantis. The faces that gaze coolly past you from these cases are challenging and formidable in their beauty. And they are disturbing to anyone who has any lingering belief in the uniqueness of European art. Sculptors in Ife imitated the human face as accurately and sensitively as any Greek, and matched the Greek feeling for harmony, balance and proportion.

What we see here is an African classical art – by which I mean an art with a strong concept of order that gives it a special authority, whether it comes from Athens, China or Ife. Like that of ancient Egypt, the art of Ife is perfect, remote, godlike and yet – as with Egypt – when you look again it is highly observational, rooted in the real life of this lost civilization.

Ife remains mysterious. The catalogue admits there's so much still to learn about this art and the world that created it. Hopefully this exhibition will be the starting point for new archaeology. It elicits awe. To behold these royal heads is to travel to a fabled realm far beyond your imagination, a place richer than Atlantis.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Kingdom of Ife: Sculptures of West Africa at the British Museum

This major exhibition presents exquisite examples of brass, copper, stone and terracotta sculpture from West Africa.

The Kingdom of Ife (pronounced ee-feh) was a powerful, cosmopolitan and wealthy city-state in West Africa (in what is now modern south-west Nigeria).

Ife flourished as a political, spiritual, cultural and economic centre in the 12th–15th centuries AD, and was an influential hub of local and long-distance trade networks.

The exhibition features superb pieces of Ife sculpture, drawn almost entirely from the magnificent collections of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria.

The artists of Ife developed a refined and highly naturalistic sculptural tradition in stone, terracotta, brass and copper to create a style unlike anything in Africa at the time. The technical sophistication of the casting process is matched by the artworks’ enduring beauty.

The human figures portray a wide cross-section of Ife society and include images of youth and old age, health and disease, suffering and serenity.

The exhibition will run from March 4th through June 6th, 2010. For more information and to watch an video about the exhibit visit: http://www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/future_exhibitions/kingdom_of_ife.aspx.

Tomorrow, we will include a review of the exhibit that was featured in the UK's Guardian.