The sale of African and Oceanic arts concluded yesterday with a total of €4,3 million. With 20% of the lots sold above €150,000, the market remains in search of rare and previously unseen works.
The sale was led by two icons of African art that each sold for €427,500: a rare Ngbaka mask from the Ubangi region (Democratic Republic of Congo), published in 1919 by Paul Guillaume, and a Hemba figure (Democratic Republic of Congo) from the Niembo de la Luika workshops, one of the most prestigious worskhops of the Hemba aesthetics.
From its influence on modern artists in the early 20th century to its subsequent entry into museums celebrating a universal history of art, African and Oceanic art has spawned a century of manifestos.
The selection for this great auction of works of art from Africa and Oceania reflects both the history of the individuals who shaped them – art theorists, critics, artists, collectors and merchants – and of the pieces themselves. Chosen by Paul Guillaume as the logo for his gallery – which became known as one of the cultural highlights of Paris in 1918 – his Ngbaka mask appeared on the cover of his magazine Les Arts à Paris (No. 5, 1919), asserting the place of the arts of Africa within the artistic avant-garde.
A Senufo mask – published in 1915 by Carl Einstein in his revolutionary Negerplastik – is part of the same dynamic, and furthermore the extremely rare Tsogho seat from the Charles Ratton collection played a part, via the famous documentary Les statues meurent aussi (Chris Marker and Alain Resnais, 1953), in the condemnation of colonialism.
The works of Oceanic art assembled by artist Berend Hoekstra, including the U'u Club from the Marquesas Islands formerly in the James Hooper collection, are part of a more intimate manifesto: the one that binds the artist to the impetus of his inspiration.