2014 was an outstanding year for African and Oceanic Art at Sotheby’s, with an astounding 84.7 million dollars achieved worldwide. An extraordinary series of auctions in New York and Paris affirmed the arrival of this field in its new position as a major collecting area, with Sotheby’s international team at the helm as the unrivaled market leaders worldwide. Sotheby’s sold every one of the top ten prices of 2014 and commanded an 87% share of the market versus our nearest competitor.
The year began with the culmination of the two-part sale of The Collection of Allan Stone in New York on May 16, which brought a combined total of $16.6 million dollars. New world records were set in over 20 categories. At the pinnacle of this collection was the Songye “Four-Horn” Power Figure, which sold to the Dallas Museum of Art for a record price of $2.2 million dollars. The various owners auction which followed the second part of the Stone auction comfortably exceeded its high estimate and brought over $6 million dollars, including the Ngbandi Statue from the collection of Jan Krugier, formerly in the collection of Pablo Picasso.
On June 18 in Paris Sotheby’s held another record-breaking sale of African and Oceanic Art, led by the famous Fang Mabea Statue previously in the collection of Félix Fénéon, which set a new world record for a Fang figure, selling for €4.4 million euros ($5.9 million dollars).
The momentum at Sotheby’s Paris continued in September with the sale of Trésors: Collection Frum, which fetched a total of €7.5 million euros ($9.7 million dollars) setting a new world record for an auction of Oceanic Art with 100% of lots sold – a fabled “white glove” sale. Individual record-breaking prices included a New Ireland Uli Figure which sold for €1.6 million euros ($2.1 million dollars) and a Maori Figure which sold for €1.4 million euros ($1.9 million dollars).
Back in New York in November, Sotheby’s made history again with the highlight of the year, In Pursuit of Beauty: The Myron Kunin Collection of African Art. Leading the auction was one of the most iconic and widely-published works of African Art, The Senufo Female Statue (Deble) by The Master of Sikasso previously in the collections of Werner Muensterberger and William Rubin. This universal masterpiece shattered the previous top price for African Art by over $5 million, selling for a new all-time world record price of $12 million dollars. Six lots made prices in excess of one million dollars, including the Ngbaka Figure previously in the collections of Georges de Miré and Chaim Gross, sold for $4.1 million; the Fang-Betsi Reliquary Head, sold for $3.6 million; and the Yombe Maternity previously in the collection of Robert Rubin, sold for $3.5 millon. The sale totaled $41.6 million – a record for an African Art auction in the United States and in terms of average lot value the most successful African art auction of all time.
The December auctions in Paris provided a fitting coda to this historic year, with the Alexis Bonew Collection of Arts from the Congo selling for a total of €6.2 million euros ($7.6 million dollars) and the various owners auction totalling €5.8 million euros ($7.3 million dollars). The Bonew Lega Mask fetched the second-highest price ever paid at auction for an African mask, selling for €3.6 million euros ($4.4 million dollars), and the newly-discovered Easter Island Rapa broke the record for Easter Island art selling for €1.9 million euros ($2.3 million dollars).
Sotheby’s worldwide total of $84.7 million dollars far exceeds the previous record for the highest annual total for any auction house in this category in history. We look forward to carrying this momentum into 2015, and are now accepting consignments for the May 15 auction in New York, and the June 24 auction in Paris.