There was an electric atmosphere at the sale of 80 remarkable lots of African and Oceanic art, including the second part of the Daniel et Marian Malcolm Collection. The magnificent works selected by Sotheby’s specialists for their rarity and exceptional beauty appealed to art lovers from every continent, resulting in an outstanding total of €11,2 million.
The most exciting moments in the second part of the sale were the prices of over a million obtained by two rediscovered masterpieces. The first was a Rurutu seat, which established itself as a true masterpiece of Polynesian art, with its refined, timelessly elegant forms, extreme rarity and prestigious history. At €1,083,000 this extremely rare no’anga seat reserved for high-ranking figures, brought back by George Bennet from the island of Rurutu in the Austral archipelago of French Polynesia in 1822, made twice its estimate. Another exceptional rediscovery was the Lega mask from the outstanding collection of Adolphe and Suzanne Stoclet. At Sotheby’s Paris, this magisterial example of the very small corpus of ivory idimu masks set the world auction record for a Lega work, €3,675,000 more than three times its high estimate.
The highlight of the African and Oceanic art various owner auction is a re-discovered masterpiece of African art. Unveiled in 1934 by Nancy Cunard in her revolutionary Negro. Anthology made by Nancy Cunard 1931-1933, the 'Warega Mask" from the Adolphe Stoclet (1871-1949) Collection was considered a jewel in numerous iconic exhibitions which contributed to the beginning of a new perception of 'Art from Remote Places' (see African Negro Art, Moma, 1935, and Kongo Kunst, Antwerp, 1937).
The mask belongs to and extremely rare corpus of large ivory masks symbolising tribal unity, and embodying the ethics and beauty amongst the Lega people. Exceptional in its streamlined modernity, the Stoclet mask is one of the earliest examples of Lega art to be seen in the west. The mask was known only through black and white reproductions over the past half century, and can now be re-discovered in great depth and attention to the deep patina which brings out the mask's dazzling beauty.