Fine African, Oceanic & Pre-Columbian Art Auction at Bonhams & Butterfields

. January 27, 2010

Fine arts auctioneers Bonhams & Butterfields will offer a diverse and desirable selection of African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian art to bidders on Friday, Feb. 12, 2010 in its San Francisco salesrooms. Collectors will vie for 280 distinctive lots – featuring decorative and rare works as massive as a 25-foot long carved wood canoe from Hawaii and as delicate as circa 500AD gold ear ornaments.

Auction highlights comprise: masks; tools and weapons; decorations; figures and vessels; adornments and jewelry. Previews of the offered lots open to the public on Tuesday, Feb.9, continuing daily until the Friday auction; the exhibit and sale are being held concurrent with the 2010 San Francisco Tribal & Textile Arts Show, bringing a global array of dealers, collectors and aficionados to the Bay Area.

Multiple lots on offer have significant exhibition and publication history, as well as noted provenance from important private collections. Property to be sold to the highest bidders includes tribal art from collectors in the San Francisco Bay Area and California, from Hawaii and Canada, from old family collections in the Southwestern and Eastern US, and from Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

koa wood canoe

One impressive lot is the massive koa wood canoe measuring more than 25-feet in length (est. $20/30,000). The canoe was made in Kona, Hawaii in the early 20th century, one of a set purchased in the 1960s for the famous Queen’s Surf Restaurant on Waikiki Beach. Canoe aficionados unable to house the 25-foot example may vie for a Hawaiian koa wood outrigger model canoe – this example is 16-inches long, expected to bring $2/3,000.

Fine Hawaiian bowls include a six-inch high kou wood bowl, umeke palewa, with an 11-inch diameter (est. $6/9,000) and a smaller flat-bottomed kou wood bowl, puahala, which could bring as much as $3,000.

Described by the auctioneers as extremely rare is a large kou wood footed meat platter, pa kou, more than 20-inches long. Footed Hawaiian platters of this size are desirable and scarce, this example could bring $4/6,000. Formerly within the collections at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, a Hawaiian long-handled breadfruit wood bowl is estimated at $4,000 to $6,000.

Decorative figural objects depicting gods, beasts and humans should attract collectors’ interest. A squatting female Upper Keram River figure, Papua New Guinea, is 32-inches high, estimated at $10/15,000, while an Aztec stone seated representation of Ehecatl, the Wind God, bears traces of red and blue paint, estimated at $8/10,000. A pair of Early Classic period Veracruz seated figures (ca. A.D. 250-450) make for a handsome couple – offered separately are a seated male (est. $7/10,000) and an seated female, estimated at $6/8,000. A Nayarti warrior and several depictions of Colima dogs are also featured in the Bonhams sale.

Offered early in the auction will be a rare Kayanic Dayak chief’s stool from Borneo featuring two projecting aso heads (est. $4/6,000). The stool’s heads represent an aso (oft spelled asu) which in Kayanic has the literal meaning of dog, but holds the ritualistic representation of a dragon. Within that culture, dragons are powerful spirits and the word for dragon is not casually uttered. The dragon figure is reserved for the highest Kayanic Dayak aristocrats and only found on objects owned by the noble classes. Additional chairs are to be sold, including an elegant 16-inch high Dan chair from the Ivory Coast and a sloping five-foot-long Lobi chair, Burkina Faso, estimated at $3/5,000.

Clubs and spears on offer were created with elaborate decoration, some likely intended for ceremonial use, others for protection and hunting. Solomon Islands examples include a three-foot long ceremonial staff from the Santa Cruz Islands (est. $2,500/3,500) and several clubs decorated with wood and shell inlay. A finely carved New Caledonia bird’s head club is 31-inches long, estimated at $2/3,000, the same estimate is in place for a 59-inch Maori long club/fighting staff. A Hawaiian wood throwing spear is ten-feet long and expected to skewer bids of $5/7,000.

Colorful and expressive masks and headdresses will be offered. Stemming from the Ivory Coast are several examples, lead by the foot tall Yaure mask expected to bring $12/15,000. A 14-inch high Senufo korobla animal mask could bring as much as $7,000 and a Senufo headdress featuring an abstract figural design is more than 33-inches high, estimated at $4/6,000. Several Nigerian masks will be offered, including Ogoni and Ibibio examples. A wonderful Idoma headdress from Nigeria could bring $10,000 to $15,000.

Objects worn for adornment or protection include a desirable four-inch long Maori nephrite neck pendent, hei tiki, which could bring as much as $8,000. Stemming from the Rotorua area, North Island of New Zealand, it is finely carved with a paua shell-inlay eye. A suspension hole worn through the nephrite exhibits wear, indicating it was worn sideways.

A Hawaiian seed and whale ivory hook pendant necklace, lei niho palaoa, is more than ten-inches long (est. $5/7,000). A grouping of three whale ivory wrist ornaments could bring $5/7,000 while an important and rare Oahu Island-type whale tooth neck pendant is estimated at $4/6,000.

Mayan objects, including polychrome plates and vases, are among the oldest within the auction. Several Mayan Late Classic jade ear ornaments should attract collector’s interest – one pair is estimated at $2/3,000. An attractive pair of circular Capuli Style Nariño gold ear ornaments feature spider monkey figures along the outside edge (est. $5/7,000).

The illustrated auction catalog for the Feb. 12th sale is online for review and purchase at www.bonhams.com/us. Previews open in San Francisco on Feb 9th.

Category: Auction News

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