The African & Oceanic Art at Sotheby’s Paris totalled €6,267,000, with almost 85% sold by value. The highlight was unquestionably the Fang Mabea figure that sold for €4,353,500, a world auction record for a Fang figure, and the third-highest price for a work of African Art ever achieved at auction. Ever since it was discovered by members of the Avant-Garde on the eve of World War I, Fang sculpture has been considered the pinnacle of African art. Such items, however, remain very rare and, even today, fewer than a dozen examples of the most restrained corpus of Fang sculpture, that of the Fang Mabea (Cameroon), are known. The spectacular 67cm-tall figure offered by Sotheby’s is the most important item from this ensemble, and the only one still in private hands.
For Marguerite de Sabran, Head of African & Oceanic Art at Sotheby’s Paris, “This exceptional sculpture is the work of a virtuoso artist, and surpasses Time and Geography to attain the status of a Universal work of art. Its aesthetics and power fascinated Félix Fénéon and Jacques Kerchache, two towering figures passionately committed to furthering appreciation of tribal art, and who both made it the cornerstone of their collections. This record price ensures its place in art market history.”
Devoted to works of varied private provenance, our upcoming Paris African and Oceanic Arts auction in will offer a panoramic spread of the leading styles of African and Oceanic Art, with several masterpieces reflecting the individuality of the most gifted master carvers.
Ever since it was discovered by members of the Avant-Garde at the start of the 20th century, Fang statuary has been considered the apex of African sculpture. On the eve of the First World War, however, these pieces remained very rare, and even today fewer than ten works are known from the most rarefied corpus of Fang statuary: that of the Fang Mabea (Cameroon). The most important of these works – and the only one still in private hands – will be offered for sale at Sotheby’s Paris on 18 June.
This spectacular figure (2ft3in/67cm tall), hovering between realistic detail and idealised shape, constitutes the apotheosis of the style. According to Louis Perrois it may evoke a female ancestor venerated for her abundant offspring, and it ranks as a masterful archetypal piece of African statuary. The refinement of the carving, and the perfectly smooth surfaces of the dense, light wood, both point to ancient tradition. Connoisseurs will admire the delicacy of certain details, like the design of the hollowed shoulders (typical of the Mabea style) embellished with motifs unknown elsewhere in Fang art.