An important highlight of Sotheby's Arts d'Afrique et d'Océanie in Paris on 15 June is The Pierre Guerre collection (Lots 1 to 10) - one of the oldest and most prestigious French collections of African Art. The exceptional ensemble embodies a century-long, three-generation history of African art collecting, begun by Léonce Guerre in the early 20th century. His son, Pierre Guerre (191078) was a lawyer, resistance hero, journalist, writer, dramatist, literary critic and teacher whose commitment to African Art dated from his childhood, with his first piece acquired at the age of 12, and his first article published at 17. The remarkable quality of the works in this sale is equal to those in such landmark exhibitions as L'art Nègre Brussels in 1930, African Negro Art in New York (MoMa) in 1935, and Primitivsm in 20th Century Art in New York (MoMa) in 1984.
The core of the collection is an ensemble of objects from Gabon, while the highlight of the group is an icon of African Art: a Fang Mvaï reliquary figure. Pieces attributed to the Mvaï people of the Ntem Valley are the rarest of all Fang figures, and among them, Pierre Guerre's masterful figure is considered the most remarkable: the ultimate expression of the strength and spirituality which the finest Fang art so powerfully conveys.
African Art in the various owners sale is highlighted by The Thomas Wheelock Collection of art from Burkina Faso (Lots 46 to 61), a magnificent selection from the ten major art producing ethnic groups in Burkina Faso, remarkable for both the extraordinary level of quality, and the unusual range of age.
Two treasures underline the sale's remarkable selection of Oceanic Art. A war canoe prow figurehead (NguzuNguzu) from Solomon Islands (Lot 17) shows a man holding a miniature head for the success in headhunting, the face embellished with a sensitive ornamentation of nautilus shells. Also included: an 18th century Maori footrest for digging stick (Lot 11), used by the priest for highly important rituals to invoke the aids of the gods of agriculture.