The last sales of 2014 for the African & Oceanic Art department concluded with a result of €12 million, bringing the 2014 total to nearly €26 million at Sotheby's France – a record in this category.
The sale, dedicated to Alexis Bonew’s collection of Congolese art, achieved a great result of €6,175,125. Almost all of the works found a buyer and many exceeded their high estimate. Among the treasures gathered during Alexis Bonew’s lifetime were the Muminia Lega mask, a previously-unseen masterpiece, which garnered the highest bid of this group. Estimated at €200,000-300,000, this mask was highly sought-after with eight bidders driving the final hammer price to €3,569,500, the second highest price in history for an African mask. Additionally, a popular Nkonde statue almost doubled its high estimate selling for €1,553,500. This nail fetish is among the masterpieces of Kongo sculpture.
Alexis Bonew discreetly gathered a remarkable ensemble of some forty works from Congo, which Sotheby’s France are privileged to offer for auction on 10 December.
Powered by his insatiable curiosity, Alexis Bonew’s accumulated this collection from the late 1960s until 1980, in parallel with the collection he assembled for Comte de Launoit, for whom he served as an advisor. A dozen years of strategic, persistent pursuit was crowned by the ‘capture’ of the Kongo Nkisi Nkonde figure (Democratic Republic of Congo) from the collection of Antwerp taxidermist Jos Walscharts. This nail fetish, destined to protect its tribe, stands among the masterpieces of Kongo statuary.
The collection also features two other masterworks which have remained hidden in the Alexis Bonew Collection: a striking Songye Nkisi figure collected by Lieutenant Willy-Eugène Claes between 1903-18, and the Surrealistic Luluwa hemp mortar, formerly in the collection of Henri Lavachery. A Lega Muminia mask collected by Colonial Administrator Raymond Hombert in 1927, and acquired from his widow in 1970, is a hitherto unpublished masterpiece which possesses a superb blend of strength and sensitivity.