Our 11 November auction In Pursuit of Beauty: The Myron Kunin Collection of African Art surpassed the high estimate by more than 10 million USD and achieved a historic total of 41,617,500 USD, the highest ever in New York in this category. The Senufo Female Statue by the Master of Sikasso sold for 12,037,000 USD, shattering the previous world record price and making African sculpture one of the rare categories to sell in excess of an eight figure price. Over half of the lots offered exceeded their high estimates. Other records achieved in the auction included the Ngbaka Statue of the Mythical Ancestor Seto, which sold for 4,085,000 USD; the Fang-Betsi Reliquary Head, which sold for 3,637,000 USD; and the Kongo-Yombe Maternity Group, which sold for 3,525,000 USD.
Myron Kunin (1928 – 2013) dedicated his life to beauty, both as a businessman and art collector. A modest, self-made man, he transformed his family’s small business in Minnesota into a global empire encompassing more than 10,000 hair salons worldwide and numerous brands from Supercuts to Vidal Sassoon and Jean-Louis David.
Focusing on major works of outstanding quality, Kunin amassed one of the finest private collections of African Art in the world. The collection includes masterpieces from all regions of sub-Saharan Africa, and is particularly strong in works of great refinement and classical beauty originating from Ivory Coast, Gabon, and the Congo.
One of the highlights of the group is Kunin’s Senufo Female Statue (deble) from Ivory Coast, which belongs to an exceptionally rare style of which only five other examples are known. Reducing the female body to basic cubist forms and blending movement with sculpture, it is one of the quintessential masterpieces of African abstraction. Appealing to a universal aesthetic, it has been widely published and exhibited throughout the past century, including in Primitivism in 20th Century Art, held at the Museum of Modern Art in 1984, and Visual Encounters, held at the Beyeler Foundation in 2009. The Kunin Senufo Female Statue is one of the most iconic works of African art ever to come to market.