Berend Hoekstra African and Oceanic Art Collection

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Berend Hoekstra discovered the arts of Africa and Oceania at the age of 12 in Breda (Holland) where a part of the Leiden Museum’s collection was then displayed. As a teenager he became a regular at the museum, fascinated by the masks and all the staggeringly forceful creations that resembled none of what had hitherto been his world. The end of his university career marked a move to Amsterdam, where his eye was immediately drawn to the antique shops offering the distant arts of Africa and Oceania. Meeting Loed and Mia Van Bussel and discovering their collection dedicated to the arts of Oceania would prove pivotal and his taste for the creations of this continent grew. The artist proceeded to acquire some of the most iconic pieces of his collection: the three masterpieces of Kanak art and the striking Sepik mask. Sotheby’s June various-owners auction of Art of Africa and Oceania in Paris on 21 June will include masterpieces from the Berend Hoekstra Collection, an exemplary grouping of works from Oceanic and African art. Click ahead to find out more about his collection and to see highlights.

Arts d'Afrique et d'Océanie
Paris | 21 June 2017

Berend Hoekstra African and Oceanic Art Collection

  • Berend Hoekstra’s collection in Brussels
    The profound relationship between these pieces and the artistic creation of Berend Hoekstra became ever-stronger. "It is this idea of another reality that I try to include not only in the eyes of my portraits but also in the overall image of my work. I need to surround myself with real objects, with the material they are made of, if only to check that my own work is as powerful as they are, and that it measures up to their art" (ibid). Be it the U'u club from the James Hooper collection, the Maori treasure box previously in the collection of Moris Pinto, or even the miniature Sepik statuette, each newly acquired work became part of the intimate artistic logic expressed in the paintings of Berend Hoekstra. This selection not only reveals the taste of the collector and the impetus of the artist, but also, and perhaps mostly, the conviction of a man for whom those pieces "bear, within themselves, a secret of great value" (ibid).

  • Sepik figure, Papua New Guinea (Height 13.5cm). Estimate €3,000–5,000.
    A remarkable miniature, this figure beautifully embodies the forcefulness of Sepik sculpture: the hooked nose - a sign of masculine strength,  the high coiffure incised with clan motifs  and the angular lines that give the figure its striking presence. As a representation of a mythological spirit - combining anthropomorphic and zoomorphic characters - this figure acted as a protective charm. It was an individual possession intended to bring luck to its owner, in hunting as well as in war, but also in his relationships.

  • Sepik figure, Papua New Guinea (Height 28.5 cm). Estimate €8,000–12,000.
    In 1957, the Countess Ingeborg de Beausacq - an American photographer of German origin - went on an expedition to New Guinea. She returned to New York with a very fine collection of works of art, many of which are now kept in American museums. The Countess kept this Sepik figure all her life - an elegant sculptural translation of a mythical spirit. From the circular base to the high coiffure, the sculptor remarkably conveys the tension of the figure, both in the differentiated flexion of the legs and in the head, supported by the slender torso. The ritual scarification adds to the overall impression - carved with stone, the figure is highlighted by the deep patina resulting from the applications of pigments designed to activate its protective powers.

  • U'U Club, Marquesas Island, French Polynesia (height. 138 cm). Estimate €50,000–70,000.
    "I am fascinated by the art of the Marquesas Islands, especially the tiki heads. Their repetitiveness is not static; It is almost hypnotic to me. The same face is repeated again and again on each object, as if in a surrealistic dream" (Berend Hoekstra, in Conru,"Les 'Yeux de Moko'", Tribal, No. 3, Summer 2003, p. 101). A symbol of the authority of the chiefs and the virility of the warriors, this U'u club stands out for its scale and in the remarkable quality of its carving, beautifully brought out by the dark, glossy patina. Like the club from the Frum collection (Sotheby's, Paris, 16 September 2014, No.41) and the one from the Jacqueline Loudmer collection (Christie's, Paris, 23 June 2016, No.45) - both also originally from the Hooper collection and with the same sculptural intensity - this piece embodies the very essence of Marquesan art.

  • Wuvulu dish, Bismarck Archipelago. (length. 52 cm). Estimate €7,000–10,000.
    In the purity of its aesthetic construction, this dish exemplifies the refined aesthetics of the rare para-micronesian creations. "With their flat base curving slightly upward at its tip and their concave sides, wooden dishes appear as the quintessence of modern, minimalist design. The admirable art of polishing applied to all the surfaces adds to the overall impression of elegance" (Conru, Arts de l’archipel Bismarck, 2013, p. 132). Transcending its utilitarian function, the refinement of its forms gives this work its timeless beauty.

  • Marquesas Islands stilt step, French Polynesia (height. 31 cm). Estimate €5,000–7,000.
    Due to the small scale of this stilt step, the tiki face stands out for its sober elegance delicately expressed through its sculpted features and striations carved in relief covering the entirety of its body, with the exception of the face. The figure’s posture, with its hands clasped on the abdomen, and its beautiful patina, recall the stilt step acquired by Georg Langsdorff  between 1803 and 1886 now in the Five Continents Museum in Munich (inv. No. 187).

  • Akatara Club, Rarotonga, Cook Islands (height. 215 cm). Estimate €30,000–40,000.
    A testament to the virtuosity of the Cook Islands sculptors, this club stands out for its formal beauty and delicate detailing, particularly apparent in the subtly ornate tip of the shaft. Sculpted from the core of the toa ironwood (Casuarina equisetifolia) using stone tools, its very slender silhouette sets it apart, flourishing at the top into a foliate shape with delicately serrated edges. Like the U’u clubs from the Marquesas Islands, the akatara clubs from the Cook archipelago are emblematic of Polynesian art. They are, however, much rarer.

  • Maori Treasure Box, New Zealand (Length 43 cm). Estimate €18,000–25,000.
    The intricately sculpted décor of this waka huia box demonstrates the care Maori artists took when creating works of great symbolic value. This box was used to store the nephrite ornaments and precious feathers of the huia bird, which adorned the headdresses of the great chiefs, with Tiki heads carved on end to protect the contents. The carving, profusely incised throughout - in a series of curves and counter-curves - adds a remarkable tension to the piece, transcending the apotropaic power of the human figures projected in high relief. As an appanage of high-ranking persons, these boxes were hung on the ridge of the chief's house - resulting in the very beautiful, deep, reddish brown and glossy patina on the protruding parts. The aesthetic qualities of this treasure box, once in the collection of Moris Pinto, display a close parallel to the one from the collection of Jacob Epstein (Sotheby’s, Paris, 12 June 2012).

  • Lower Sepik River Mask, Papua New Guinea (height. 35,5 cm). Estimate €35,000–50,000.
    This mask - a piece that is, to the best of our knowledge, the only one of its kind - presents a singular structure: a rattan structure is affixed on a cassowary gorget still covered in its long black feathers, with the whole ensemble taking the aspect of a human face. Most significantly, the bone of the bird is treated like the skulls of ancestors, which were overmodeled and decorated, and, when acting as masks, allowed the dancer to put on the face of the ancestor and embody its power. In order to amplify the anthropomorphic aspect, delicately crafted rattan ears and a nose were added. The dark, brilliant plumage is compounded by the density of the pictorial decor with its alternating red and white pigments; the whole creating a striking contrast, which adds to these aesthetics of force so characteristic of the works of the region.

  • Kanak cradle, New Caledonia (Height 25.5cm). Estimate €40,000– 60,000.
    This "cradle figurine" belongs to one of the rarest corpora of Kanak art. In 2014, during the exhibition Kanak, L'art est une parole, Emmanuel Kasarhérou and Roger Boulay recorded the presence of only 19 such figures in public collections, in France and abroad, including that of the Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac which was acquired in 1845 by Charles Meryon (inv. No. 71.1925.3.1), and that of the museum of the Château d'Annecy, brought back by the Abbé Dégerine in 1856 (inv. No. 6240). Carved with a stone tool, this piece stands out from the rest of the corpus due to its beautiful aesthetic qualities, especially in the chevron decor on the back, and in the powerful limbs with their clearly marked joints.

  • Kanak mask, New Caledonia (Height 50.5cm). Estimate €70,000–100,000.
    The sacred and ancestral power of this Kanak mask asserts itself through its size and the sheer scale of its forms. The style places it amongst the ancient creations of the North of the Island of Grande-Terre, characterized by "consistently rounded facial features, but with joined eyebrows raised in relief, and a nose whose protuberance occupies most of the face" (Kasarhérou and Boulay, Kanak, L'art est une parole, 2013, p. 144). These masks, with their complex symbolism, were often associated with the funeral ceremonies of great chiefs and belonged to the descendants of the clan's founders. Its antiquity, style and aesthetic quality reveal great similarities with the mask from the Tristan Tzara collection (Loudmer, Paris, 24 November 1988, No. 166) and with that of the Musée Barbier-Mueller (Geneva, inv. No. 4707).

  • Kanak figure, New Caledonia (Height 57.5cm). Estimate € 30,000–50,000.
    The corpus of Kanak figures sculpted in the round is exceedingly narrow. Within this corpus, female figures are even rarer: only seven are listed in museum collections throughout the world. Standing out in all its sculptural monumentality, this figure is characterized by the forcefulness of its muscular masses, particularly visible in the remarkable volume of the calves and in the tension of the curves. The head, invariably hypertrophied, is characteristic of Kanak art with its large almond-shaped eyes, aquiline nose with dilated nostrils and mouth with raised corners.

  • Mangbetu neckrest, Democratic Republic of the Congo (Height 23cm). Estimate €10,000–15,000.
    "True masterpieces of elegance, the (Mangbetu) head-rests possess a quality that is intrinsic to them and their potential relationship with space, both contained within their form, which is designed according to a horizontal line" (Falgayrettes, Supports de rêves, 1989, p.55). This particular element of Mangbetu art is fully accomplished here by the rare hollowed out space, accentuated by the wide movement of the deeply curving lintel. The commanding elegance of this box-cum-headrest is enforced by the interplay of lines and the beautiful pictorial contrast between the wide band of bark affixed around the receptacle and the shades of brown on the lid.

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