Sotheby’s to Auction African & Oceanic Art in Paris

Sotheby’s Paris will offer one of the most carefully curated ensembles of African & Oceanic Art to be offered on the market in recent years, on June 16.

The works come from a number of esteemed private collections, including the famous Friede collection, and the sale is divided equally between Oceania and Africa. The objects have been selected based on their quality and rarity, reflecting the talent of the great artists of these two continents.

Oceanic Art
Following the tremendous success of the Rosenthal Collection in March 2010 in Paris, and the sales in Paris (5 December 2009) and New York (14 May 2010) the June 2010 auction pays tribute to the eye of John Friede and his work in promoting the recognition of the art of New Guinea and presents a rare sequence of Maori taonga from a number of private collections.

Twelve sculptures from the Marcia & John Friede Jolika Collection illustrate the archaic beauty and power of New Guinea art. Five of these objects were formerly on view at The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, de Young Museum, San Francisco from October 2005 through February 2010. A rare 15th –17th century Ewa figure, 3ft 6in. tall, is a superb illustration of the conceptual boldness and ethereal beauty of a tradition whose sculpture counts among the oldest known from New Guinea (lot 9, est. €300,000-500,000). This figure has been dated to between 1440 and 1650 by the C14 method. Also presented is a powerful male figure from the Lower Sepik, 28in. tall, amongst the most remarkable examples of the style which developed in the region (lot 13, est. €250,000-350,000). Its long curved nose, typical of the Kandimbong figures which portray the tribe’s mythical founder. The figure was photographed in the French art dealer, Pierre Loeb’s Paris apartment in 1929 and exhibited for the first time in 1930 at the Galerie Pigalle in an exhibition which reflected the growing enthusiasm of the Surrealists for the innovative sculpture from Melanesia.

Polynesian art is represented by a group of important and archaic Maori taonga (treasures), which reflect the wealth and variety of the traditional art of New Zealand. Highlights include a large ware canoe prow, 3ft 8in long (lot 21, est. €80,000-120,000), collected during the Korrigane expedition between 1934 and 1936, and an exquisitely refined rare nephrite ear pendant, 12in. long (lot 22, est. €8,000-12,000). The surrealist design and great rarity of the stone-carved intricate Maori carving, 11in. long, together with the mystery surrounding its use, make it one of the most sought-after expressions of Maori art (lot 23, est. €50,000-70,000). Many of these sculptures boast the most distinguished provenances, including Pitt Rivers, Webster, Beasley, La Korrigane, Epstein, Ratton, and Monzino.

African Art
A magnificent and rare Senufo equestrian figure (Ivory Coast), 11in. tall, was one of the highlights at the Resonances exhibition at the Basel Art Centre in January 1984, where it was displayed opposite Picasso’s Flute Player. By underlining the formal and aesthetic overlap between Tribal and Modern Art, this exhibition anticipated Primitivism in 20th Century Art at MoMA a few months later and the Bildweltung/Visual Encounters exhibition at the Beyeler Foundation in 2009. The figure evokes the power and dignity associated with equestrian figures amongst the Senufo, captured in forms that would profoundly influence modern art (lot 39, est. €80,000-120,000).

Amongst the discoveries revealed in the sale are two previously unknown Chokwe masterpieces (Angola) acquired in 1903 and 1905, and kept in the same European family ever since: a sceptre 16in. tall (lot 74, est. €70,000-100,000); and a finial from a sceptre-tobacco box, 6in. tall (lot 75, est. €80,000-120,000). These two exceptionally rare works are attributed to the Moxico School, whose 18th and 19th century court carvers produced the most powerful and refined works of Chokwe art.

The art of Central Africa features prominently, including a magnificent and rare Kuyu three-faced head (Democratic Republic of the Congo), height 14in., collected by Aristide Courtois before 1938 and then owned by Madeleine Rousseau, Hélène Kamer, and Daniel Cordier (lot 72, est. €200,000-300,000). This is one of the few known Kuyu three-faced heads. Only three other examples are documented – one in the British Museum, one in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and another formerly in the Vérité collection. With exceptional talent the artist has made each face a unique expression of Kuyu ideals of strength and beauty.

A remarkable Hemba ancestor figure (D.R. Congo), 2ft 7in. tall, is one of the most remarkable pieces in the Niembo-Luika style, whose workshops produced the most prestigious works of Hemba art (lot 73, est. €350,000-500,000). The figure’s beauty and authority derive from its form and rhythm. The ancestor’s presence, underscored by the presence of cowry shells in the eye sockets, is very rare for the Hemba. To François Neyt, this masterly work dates from the first half of the 19th century – a period of intense cultural development, when the ancestor figure tradition was at its height.

Image: A magnificent and rare Kuyu three-faced head (Democratic Republic of the Congo), height 14in. Est. €200,000-300,000. Photo: Sotheby’s

Friday 11 June 10am-6pm
Saturday 12 June 10am-6pm
Monday 14 June 10am-6pm
Tuesday 15 June 10am-6pm