The African & Oceanic Art Department’s final sale of 2013 yielded €3.7m, bringing total sales in the field at Sotheby’s Paris to €17.7 million for the year. The sale centred on pioneering connoisseurs who made titanic efforts to promote African Art in France and America during the first half of the 20th century. Georges de Miré built up one of the most remarkable collections of African Art in 1920s Paris. It included a Fang masterpiece, an Eyema Byeri reliquary guardian figure (believed by Louis Perrois to be one of three works by a single master), which sold here to a private collector for €1,441,500.
The celebrated Paris dealer Paul Guillaume embodied Modernist appreciation of African Art on either side of the Atlantic. A Kota-Shamaye reliquary figure (Gabon) once in his collection, of note for its refined volumes and minimalist decoration, posted the sale’s second highest price of €529,500.
There was an unexpectedly enthusiastic response to pieces from South-East Asia. All seven such items found takers – led by an Ifugao figure from the Philippines (attributed to the Hapao-Hungduan style) dating from the 19th century if not earlier, and one of the finest Bulul rice divinities known, which soared to a world record €181,500. The power and sensitivity of art from the Philippines was revealed last summer by the major exhibition – the first of its kind – held at Musée du Quai Branly in Paris.
This sale pays tribute to the great collectors and dealers who, between the two world wars, elevated African and Oceanic sculpture to the status of internationally respected art. Highlights include an important Fang statue from the collection of Georges de Miré and a Kota Shamaye reliquary figure from the collection of Paul Guillaume, which exhibited at the MoMA (New York) in 1935. A Bamana statue on offer, formerly from the Helena Rubinstein collection and previously owned by Frederick Lem, stands as an exemplary model of the type of aesthetic that seduced modern artists to the veritable worth of such works in the early 20th century.
Among other noteworthy discoveries in African, Oceanic and Southeast Asian art, this auction presents an exceptional Kongo ivory sceptre that was reproduced in 1879 before falling into the ownership of famed American collector Jay C. Leff, along with a rare Batié statue that exhibited in 1990 at the Kröller-Müller museum in Otterlo.