Monday, November 22, 2010

Preview: Sotheby's Paris - Oceanic and African Art Auction featuring works from an Important New York Collection

Lot 27, Magnificent Fang Head,
Gabon, 34 cm
Estimate 500,000 - 700,000 EUR
Sotheby's Paris will hold two important sales of Oceanic and African art on November 20th totaling 152 lots - "A New York Collection" (Lots 1-49) at 4 PM and "Oceanic and African Art" (Lots 50-152) at 5 PM. 

The recognition of African sculpture as art dates to the beginning of the 20th century, when a handful of men from both sides of the Atlantic brought about a decisive change in our perception these important sculptures. If it was in Paris that Modern artists discovered what was then termed "Negro Art," it was in New York, in 1935, that it was first presented as art to the general public. In 1935, African Negro Art, one of the most groundbreaking exhibitions of its time, opened at the recently founded Museum of Modern Art. James Johnson Sweeney, Director of MoMA, solicited the collaboration of the renowned Parisian dealer, Charles Ratton, in selecting the objects from both French and American collections. 

From 1935 to the present, the connections between New York and Paris have continued to link Modern and African art. The dynamic relationship between the two fields is at the core of the New York Collection up for auction. The 49 sculptures were selectively acquired in New York and Paris over the last 30 years and have lived side by side in this collection with a unique selection of Modern drawings and Indian sculptures. 

The most iconic African object in the collection is a Fang Reliquary Guardian Head from Gabon (lot 27, Estimate 500,000 - 700,000 EUR), exhibited at MoMA in 1935 and formerly in the collection of Paul Guillaume. (Guillaume was a successful modern art dealer and avid African art collector, as well as the African art advisor to important American collector Alfred Barnes.)  

Many sculptures from the collection, including the exceptionally dynamic form of the Mumuye figure (lot 33, Estimate 180,000 - 250,000 EUR), directly link to the vocabulary of Cubism and are intimately connected with the development of Modern Art movements. 

Lot 54, Exceptional Male Figure, Turamarubi Group,
Turama River, Papua New Guinea, 96 cm
Estimate 400,000 - 600,000 EUR
Following the auction "A New York Collection," is the Oceanic and African Art sale. The top lot is the "Master of the Buli" sculpture (lot 97, Estimate Upon Request) from the collection of Harry Bombeeck. Also of note is a superb Bamana figure (lot 82, Estimate 200,000 - 300,000 EUR), which dates to the 15th-16th century. It is connected with the history of one of the first West African empires, the Mali Empire, which invaded the Niger Valley and spread its rule over the Bamana kingdoms. The statue represents a 'cult mother,' her status as a woman at the root of creation underlined by the head-scarf tied in the shape of a shan hat, which was reserved for the use of high ranking priests. 

Lot 54 (Estimate 400,000 - 600,000 EUR) is one of the most outstanding examples of the art of Papua New Guinea. Dating to the 17-18th century, this commanding and masterful figure is a striking example of the unique and highly rare art of the Turamarubi people. It is part of a group of highlights from the John and Marcia Friede collection of art from Papua New Guinea. 

For more information and to request a catalog, visit

Lot 97, A Masterpiece of the "Master of Buli,"
Luba Caryatid Stooll from Harry Bombeeck, 51 cm x 30.5 cm
Estimate Upon Request
Source: Sotheby's website

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