The sale at Sotheby’s Paris of Murray Frum’s collection of Oceanic art was greeted with lengthy applause, confirming its place as the landmark event which launched the Paris auction season. With an auction total of €7,530,838, almost $10 million, this ensemble of just 49 works set a new world auction record for a sale of Oceanic art and confirmed Sotheby’s position as leader on this market. Speaking after the sale, Jean Fritts, Sotheby’s International Director of the African and Oceanic Art Department commented: “This event is the most important in 40 years to focus entirely on Oceanic art. This evening’s result offers recognition of Murray Frum’s eye. It sets a new reference point in this field and inscribes Oceanic art as a new area for collecting, beyond conventional boundaries.”
The highest price achieved this evening was for a monumental Uli carving from New Ireland. This ancestral image of a powerful clan leader, achieved the world auction record for an Uli art work, selling for €1,609,500 ($2,082,194). The main work from Polynesia was a pou whakairo Maori statue considered as the apogee of Maori art, acquired for €1,441,500 ($1,864,854), a world auction record for Maori work. Among the other standout Polynesian pieces being offered today was a magnificent sculpture: the head of a “Staff God” (atua rakau) from Raratonga in the Cook Islands, which sold for €1,201,500 ($1,554,369).
The superb collection of Oceanic art from Polynesia and Melanesia formed by the late Murray Frum and his family is the most significant group to come to market in the last 30 years, with a variety of objects from across the island nations at all ranges of the market. Sotheby's is honoured to offer this collection of approximately 49 works for sale in Paris on 16 September 2014.
A group of rare precontact Polynesian pieces form the heart of the collection. There are simply no comparable examples on the current market of many of the objects featured. Frum and his family were fortunate to be buying with the eye of a great connoisseur over a period of 50 years, and through the period when many great objects first appeared on the international market. The names of some of the most celebrated collectors feature prominently in the Frum collection, giving it a distinguished, historical provenance: James Hooper, Harry Beasley and Kenneth Webster, as well as the great British artist and collector Jacob Epstein.