Second living room of the Stone family residence in Purchase, New York. Photograph by Clare Stone.
In New York in the early 1980s, from time to time I would visit Allan’s gallery on Madison Avenue, a few blocks from ours. We shared a connection at the time, as fellow gallerists and collectors.
When we started hosting exhibitions, he regularly came by to see the new arrivals. He liked to discuss the works – often, but not only, those which he had in mind for his own collection. It was the work of art itself that interested him, more than its history or ritual meaning. Each work prompted discussions on its inventiveness, its artistic qualities, its age, its price, and, with his very American approach, what score it merited as compared to others of the same type. We talked also about paintings, of course - we shared the same tastes, and Hélène and I still have a monumental work by Ronald Gonzales that Allan showed in the early 1990s. At one point he thought about buying an old building on the grounds of Bennett College that he wanted to turn into an artists' residence, and he described to me the pleasures as well as the problems (of finances, deadlines, health) that he had with each of the “foals” in his stable. We also talked about collections: he knew everyone, and everyone knew him.
I seem to remember that the first thing he bought from us was a Songye statuette adorned with a crown of feathers (see lot 119), that had been featured on the invitation card for the first exhibition we held in the new gallery that we opened on Madison Avenue in 1985. These “power figures” were already at that time very highly coveted. He was fascinated by the world of “fetishes”. You would never have seen a Dan or Baule mask in his house. This distinctive taste of his was concerned also with the mysterious, and the surreal. He had been, for example, one of the first to take an interest in the boxes of Joseph Cornell.
At his home, where Hélène and I were his guests a number of times, artwork consumed all available space, just as it did in his office. Once works entered his collection, they never again left, but instead lived joyfully together with each other. From this assemblage was born a fascinating reverberation, dense and powerful, just like the works he loved.
Allan was not only a great collector of African and Oceanic art. He was a great collector of everything that interested him: paintings and sculpture, yes, but equally: cars, Bugatti furniture, books …
Allan was, in one or two words: unconfined, curious. Passionate.
Paris, September 2013