Lot 3084
  • 3084


180,000 - 220,000 HKD
bidding is closed


  • 107 cm, 42 1/8  in.
carved with a slender elongated body surmounted by a head depicted with a pair of round eyes above a half-open mouth, flanked on the sides with flaps from the headdress, patinated to a dark brown colour, stand


Collection of André Schoeller (1925-2015), Paris, c. 1974.
Collection of Pierre Parat, Paris.
Artcurial, Paris, 7th June 2016, lot 54.

Catalogue Note

Within the emblematic corpora of African art, the Mumuye statuary was one of the last to be "discovered". In the late 1960s, the anarchy caused by the Igbo secession in the south of Nigeria brought the geographical isolation of the Mumuye, who lived in the rocky hills of the southern Benue region, to an end. There was suddenly a surge of their sculptures on the art market. Although Jacques Kerchache identified the artistic individuality of the most talented Mumuye sculptors very early on, the fascination exerted by their extraordinary formal invention, combined with the lack of information from the field, delayed the study of its pluralism and of the various stylistic currents. "In fact, it must be understood that, before these objects were sacralised, before their lives within society, everything happened between artists. So the only thing where I can't go wrong when I speak about sculpture is when I speak about the artists. There is no translation needed here, when you hold this sculpture you are closest to what the artist wanted, there is no intermediary" (Kerchache in Jean-François Roudat, Jacques Kerchache: Portrait, 2003). In this work, which André Schoeller once owned, the striking brilliance of the artist and his interpretation of the human figure is equally apparent. Its compelling monumentality arises from the perfect conjunction between the expanse of its forms and the intensity of its expression. Amplifying the remarkable dynamics of the volumes, playing on successive rhythms and emphasising breaking points, the sides grow hollow and the shoulders move forward to set the movement of the arms free. The contrast between the vast openwork framing of the ear ornaments and the face with its tight features magnifies the intensity of the expression. The face is constructed across tension lines that meet to form the median crest where the nose and the half-opened mouth are discreetly marked; with round eyes opening out on either side of the recessed face. The tight rhythm of the scarification pattern hatched across the main outlines adds the remarkable aesthetic vitality, and reminds us of its use to its owner: diviner, healer or rainmaker.

Although its design harks to the vocabulary which founded Cubism, and as a paradigm of plastic movement for modern artists, this work stands out first and foremost for the boldness of its artistic vision and ingenuity of form that Mumuye artists placed at the heart of their creations.