With lots originating from various collectors, the upcoming African & Oceanic Arts sale will take place in Paris on 12th December. Two emblematic Fang ancestor effigies - one formerly in the collection of René Mendès-France, the other in Paul Guillaume’s - demonstrate the fascination that sculptural traditions linked to ancestor worship have had on western people since the early 19th Century. It was in the Kasaï area (Belgian Congo) that Emile Lejeune settled down in 1905. He travelled all over Kuba, Lele and Pende, and from there he brought back a remarkable collection of ivory miniatures, a treasure that his family preserved for almost a century.
The 12th December African and Oceanic Art sale totalled €7.2 million ($9.4 million) against an estimate of €4-5 million, fuelled by a highly selective ensemble of historic pieces with an irreproachable pedigree from prestigious European collections: Lemaire (Netherlands), Krieg (Germany), Lejeune (Belgium) and Mendès-France (France).
Marguerite de Sabran, Head of the African & Oceanic Art Department at Sotheby’s France, said : ‘The iconic Biwat flute figure, which we sold tonight for nearly €1.5m, reflected the nature of the sale as a whole: a refined choice of items, warmly appreciated first at the very successful viewing, then by an enthusiastic audience of international collectors during the sale.’
The Biwat Ancestor Spirit Figure from a Sacred Flute came from the Lemaire Collection – and the Speyer Collection before that – and counts among the most mysterious ritual sculptures ever made in New Guinea, and a true masterpiece of Oceanic art. It sold to a French collector for €1,408,750 ($1,832,051), the top price of the sale (lot 17, est. €450.000-550.000*).