African & Oceanic Works of Art at Bonhams New York in May

. March 19, 2008

Collectors of outstanding African and Oceanic art are awaiting fine art auctioneer Bonhams’ upcoming sale on May 15th, 2008 in New York City following the success of the newly formed department’s inaugural sale in the Fall of 2007.

mask.jpgThe upcoming auction is expected to entice aficionados of the genre. As Bonhams’ African and Oceanic specialist Scott Rodolitz states, “Amongst the approximately 200 lots we will be offering, the sale will feature more than 25 pieces from the Bohlen Collection of African Art. As this is one of the premiere collections of African art in the country, I’m sure the sale will attract an extremely enthusiastic group of bidders.”

One of the highlights of the Bohlen material is a rare Punu figure estimated at $100,000 to $150,000. Collected prior to 1935, the work has been within the collections of several luminaries in the field such as Jernander, de Grunne, and Guimiot.

Also to be offered is a superb Lumbo mask, estimated at $60,000 to $80,000. Formerly owned by the noted Emile Deletaille, it was collected prior to WWII and is considered exceptionally beautiful.

Sure to fetch significant bids is a superb Bamana Kore mask. Previously sold by both Entwistle and Monbrison, the mask, which Rodolitz describes as: “Perhaps the finest Bamana Kore mask to come to market,” is estimated at $50,000 to $60,000.

Other African art objects from various owners are also on offer in May, including spectacular ivories from the Luba and Lega peoples of the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as stools, masks and figures with notable provenance and exhibition histories.

This auction is also particularly strong in the area of Polynesian art, including numerous pieces of superb type and with excellent provenance. These include: a rare Easter Island piece from the famed Tomkins Collection; a pristine Austral Islands paddle collected prior to 1822 from a Captain John Walter Roberts which features an unusual band of dancing figures; a pre-contact wooden Hawaiian spear that in the past belonged to Elijah Armitage of the historical London Missionary Society; a Marquesan stilt-step and a splendid U’u.

“This sale has first-rate material from many areas of Africa and Oceania,” Rodolitz adds, “from fine Melanesian masks to rare Polynesian weapons to African statues – the pieces have both the quality and the provenance that collectors demand.”

The November 2007 sale of nearly 400 lots drew a standing-room-only crowd in New York City, as well, a pool of international telephone bidders competed for the offered lots. That sale featured historical works of African, Melanesian and Polynesian sculpture, as well as items from the noted Gelbard Collection. Many of the auction highlights had been exhibited internationally with several considered “best of type.” A Lobi figure thought by many to be one of the finest examples in existence fetched $192,000. Additionally, an extremely rare Bakongo maternity figure sparked an intense bidding war, coming in at $132,000 – far above its pre-sale estimate of $25/35,000. The department’s inaugural sale realized $1.8-million (including buyer’s premium).

The May 2008 sale will be one of the first to take place in Bonhams’ new Manhattan showrooms at 580 Madison Ave, formerly the home of the respected Dahesh Museum, a splendid venue for the works on display. The sale’s lots will go on preview on May 9th continuing daily until the sale on May 15th. The auction’s illustrated catalog will be online for review and purchase at www.bonhams.com/us.

Category: Auction News

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