Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Irma Stern painting sets sales record in London

Irma Stern's "Bahora Girl"
An Irma Stern artwork fetched 2.4 million pounds in London this morning, setting a new world record for sales of South African art at auction, Bonham's said. 

The painting, titled "Bahora Girl," was sold to a South African who was present at the auction in London, said Bonham's head of press, Julian Roup. 

Bonham's, a privately-owned British auction house, held the previous record for South African art sold at auction for a Pierneef artwork, which fetched 950,000 pounds. 

"Bahora Girl," according to Bonham's website, was an image from Stern's time in Zanzibar where she was "powerfully affected" by the beauty of the local Indian women. 

The oil-on-canvas painting dates back to 1945 - the painting was estimated to fetch between 600,000 and 900,000 pounds.  

Source: South Africa Times

California Fundraiser for the National Museum of African Art

National Museum of African Art (exterior)
Image courtesy of LA Times
Last Saturday the National Museum of African Art held a fundraiser in Santa Monica, California. The event took place at M. Hanks Gallery

The fundraising soiree was organized by the Sanaa Circle, a recently formed support group comprised primary of African-American lawyers, according to museum spokesman Eddie Burke. Their goal is to raise money and awareness for the museum. Hosts for the event included Camille Cosby (a National Museum of African Art board member and spouse of Bill Cosby) and her brother, Eric Hanks (owner of M. Hanks Gallery, a venue for African American art). Tickets to the cocktail reception were $250 per person.

Museum director Johnnetta Betsch Cole was the evening's keynote speaker. Cole became director last year after a storied career as president of two historically black women's colleges, Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C., and Spelman College in Atlanta. 

The question of why a major museum dedicated to the art of Africa and located in Washington, D.C. needs to solicit funds from California raises concerns for many. Spokesman Burke says the party was not just for funds but to raise nationwide awareness. 

The African art museum is competing with the National Postal Museum to avoid last place in attendance among the Smithsonian's museums on the National Mall. In 2009 it drew 403,000 visitors and the postal museum had 349,000; this year, through September 30, the African art museum had tallied 229,000 visitors and the postal museum 259,000. Last year, according to Smithsonian budget documents, the African art museum had a budget of about $6 million, with $905,000 of that raised from donors. 

Two major Los Angeles museums collect and display African art -- the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Fowler Museum at UCLA. However, officials at those museums do not feel encroached upon by African art museum events in the area. They understand that the African art museum is the "national" museum and must solicit support from all over the United States. "No feathers ruffled," says Melody Kanschat, LACMA's president. "We all understand that museums compete for the attention of potential donors and collectors who might be persuaded to make gifts of works of art, and it's all to the greater good."

And the task before the National Museum of African Art is a great one. According to the Smithsonian's website and its strategic plan for 2010 to 2015, the $761.4 million it currently receives from the federal government covers about 70% of an annual budget of more than $1 billion. To meet its goals through 2015, it projects needing to rake in as much as a third more money than it does now. Less than half of the additional funding is expected to come from the federal government. 

Source: Mike Goehm for the Los Angeles Times (October 15, 2010)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Important Sale of African, Pre-Columbian, Oceanic and Native American Art on Saturday, October 23

A Kota reliquary guardian figure 'Mbulu Ngulu'; Kota, Gabon

Dan Ripley’s Antique Helper will present animportant auction of African, Pre-Columbian, Oceanic and Native American art and artifacts on Saturday, October 23rd..  Gathered from several distinguished collections, including an important New York collection, many selections from this auction are the subject of scholarly works.  Many have been exhibited, many are listed in the Yale archive of traditional African art. 
Recognizing the importance of this sale, Antique Helper has enlisted the services of Scott Rodolitz, A 25-year veteran in the fields of  African and Oceanic art.  Rodolitz has managed galleries and worked as curator for a number of public and private collections.  He worked at the Russian Academy of Scientists and is one of only a handful of Americans to become a member of the St. Petersburg Union of Scientists. Mr. Rodolitz has worked as World Wide Director of African and Oceanic Art at Bonham’s New York. Among his writing credits,  Rodolitz co-authored  Remnants of Ritual: Selections from The Gelbard Collection of African Art, along with Ethnographic expert Arthur P. Bourgeois.  A number of the fine African pieces in this auction were featured in this book, including the fantastic copper covered Lwalwa mask. 
According to Rodolitz, the October 23 auction offers a rare chance for enthusiasts at all levels to augment their collections.  This presents a unique buying opportunity for beginning collectors.  They will be able to bid on items in comfort, knowing that the objects of interest were truly created for traditional purposes, and are not merely copies crafted for the tourist trade. 
“There’s something for everyone in this sale, at every price point,” says Rodolitz.  “A particular focus was to make sure that all levels of collecting will be represented in this sale.  Anyone can come and find objects that are  traditional and within their price range.”  Prices will range from the low hundreds to thousands. 
While the sale will offer a wide survey of cultures from Sub-Saharan Africa, from Mali to South Africa, there will be a strong emphasis on material from Central Africa.  This region, according to Rodolitz, offers the greatest  cultural and is most popular among collectors of Ethnographic art. “You are not really talking about a single art form or a few art forms,” he says. “… You are dealing with hundreds of different peoples who all have different styles of art work…. There’s an endless range of styles.”
Reasonably estimated items such as Dogon and Kuba masks, as well as a large number of Zairian sculptures, all from provenanced collections, will be quite the attraction for  new collectors.  Additionally, there are shields from New Guinea and other objects collected from the vast area from Indonesia to Papua New Guinea and theSolomon Islands.  A number of pieces were collected during the early Harvard medical expeditions of the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Other items of note from the Oceanic region include a representational canoe house support from the Solomon Islands, a large ceremonial ancestral facemask from New Guinea and a Wood Lark Island canoe prow.  Among the Tribal Art offerings will be weapons, objects of material culture, ritual masks, and carvings.
Of special note is an important Yoruba offering bowl, almost certainly carved by an artist named Agabonbiafe.  This bowl boasts an exceptional provenance, having been exhibited in a  number of museums. According to Rodolitz, “This bowl is one of the few examples where we know who the carver was.  Agabonbiafe was a known and famous carver among the Yoruba, and his work is in museums and other important collections world-wide..” Another item of special interest is a Lega mask from the Gelbard Collection. A wonderful, small Fang figure that sold in a French gallery circa WW II still boasts the original labels on the base.  A fine Baule mask, an exceptional Dan spoon and a Kota reliquary guardian figure, sold at Sotheby’s.  Not to be missed  is an extremely important Bakongo helmet mask, which appeared in Raoul Lehuard’s 1989 volume, “Art Bakango: Les Centres De Style, Vol. III, Les Masques”--the definitive study on Bakango masks. A handful of Zairian objects, formerly in the collection of a United States diplomat, and a Dan mask given by a missionary in the early 20th Century reflect the diversity of the backgrounds of early collectors.
Native American and Pre-Columbian art and artifacts include pottery, beadwork and baskets, as well asPeruvian textiles.  A totem pole, ca. early 20th Century from the Pacific Northwest would be an impressive addition to any collection.   
The auction will take place at 10 AM, Eastern Standard Time, on October, 23.  There will be a preview and reception on Friday, October 22, from 4-8 PM.
For more information, or for estimates for individual items, please view the auction catalog, which will be available at, or call (317) 251-5635.


Friday, October 8, 2010

New Exhibit! From Head to Toe: African Adornment

Bronze Bracelet - Nigeria

Jacaranda Tribal is pleased to announce a new exhibition, "From Head to Toe: African Adornment."  

Highlighting the African tradition of adornment, the show features objects for sale from Jacaranda Tribal's collection. The African tradition of adornment is a strong and beautiful display of a rich and storied cultural history. For African people, adornment is not just beautifully crafted decoration, but conveys values, beliefs and status. These ornaments play vital roles in the ritual and ceremonies of many African cultures. 

African adornment is most often associated with ivory and beadwork, however ornamentation extends beyond jewelry to include hats, belts, amulets, scarves, hairpins and more. 

Piercing and exaggerated forms are a popular element of adornment amongst most African tribes. The lips, noses and ear of both men and women are pierced so that they may wear ornaments to enhance their features, to show their tribal identity, and to protect them from dangers such as evil and supernatural forces. Increasingly larger discs (usually circular and composed of clay or wood) are inserted into a pierced hole, effectively stretching it. The pair of colorful and decorative ear plugs offered for sale by Jacaranda Tribal are made of soft wood with finely worked mosaic overlays. 

Also featured is a collection of decorative South African snuff containers. The taking of tobacco, either as snuff or for smoking, was a formal part of many feasts and considered an important communal event. Among southern African ethnic groups, tobacco has associations with procreation, and creating favorable conditions for growth and fertility. Many snuff containers, like the necklaces for sale in Head to Toe, were worn as ornaments and decorative extensions of the owner's costume. 

Highly representative and incredibly beautiful, African adornment exemplifies the fascinating culture and craftsmanship of the content. To view the exhibit, please visit

Zulu Beaded Belt - South Africa
Sotho Straw Hats - Lesotho
Ivory Lip Plate - Ethiopia