Lot 18
  • 18

Middle Sepik River Male Hook Figure, Papua New Guinea

20,000 - 30,000 USD
68,750 USD
bidding is closed


  • cowrie shells, wood, pigment, job's tears seed (eyes)
the eyes inlaid with Cowrie (Cypraea moneta) shells and the forehead with attachments of Job's Tears (Coix lacryma-jobi) seeds;  the inventory number 1-125 painted on the reverse, and with a fragmentary paper label on the reverse printed G[...] / 54 Greenwich [...] / New York City; mounted on a base by the Japanese wood artist Kichizô Inagaki (1876-1951), Paris, with his stamp.


John D. Graham, New York
Private Collection, acquired from the above in 1949
Victoria Oscarsson, New York
Allan Stone, New York, acquired from the above on April 5, 1989

Catalogue Note

The painter, collector, and theorist John D. Graham was enormously influential in the development of the 20th century artistic avant garde.  LaGamma (2007: 152) notes: "A member of the earliest generation of American connoisseurs of African art, Graham organized the pioneering 'Exhibition of Sculptures of Old African Civilizations' in 1936 at the Jacques Seligmann Gallery in New York.  In doing so, he sought to stimulate interest in the formal qualities of African sculpture and to develop a system for aesthetically relating individual works to distinct regional traditions as well as to the broader history of art."

Born Ivan Dambrowsky in Kiev in 1881, he left war-torn Russia for America in 1920, changing his name to John D. Graham.  By 1922 he had enrolled in the Art Students League in New York, where he befriended fellow artists Adolph Gottlieb, Barnett Newman, and Alexander Calder.  Making frequent trips to Europe and especially Paris in the 1920s he was exposed to recent artistic developments there and became acquainted with Pablo Picasso. Graham published an article in 1937 entitled "Primitive Art and Picasso" in which he praised the "ease of access to the unconcious" which Picasso shared in common with artists of primary cultures (Graham 1937, reprinted in Flam 2003: 250), and in the same year opened the "Primitive Arts Gallery" in his home at 54 Greenwich Street in New York.  As an author and lecturer he educated younger artists in New York on Modernist developments, and had a major effect on the mid-century generation of New York artists including Arshile Gorky, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, David Smith, and Mark Rothko.