African treasures at Christie’s

Paris, 11 October 2018

On Tuesday, October 30, 2018 at 4pm, an exceptional tribal art sale will take place at Christie's in Paris. This one will bring together objects from Africa, Oceania and America. The session will open with 30 masterpieces from the Adolphe Stoclet collection (1871-1949). This Belgian banker and industrialist is famous for having entrusted the architect Josef Hoffmann with the construction of the Palais Stoclet (Brussels).

This private residence is emblematic of the avant-garde role played by the Viennese Workshop (Wiener Werkstätte) at the beginning of the 20th century. It was decorated by several renowned artists such as Gustav Klimt or Fernand Khnopff. Stoclet made his house a “complete work of art” by exhibiting objects of all styles and periods. He gave tribal art an essential place, arranging the thirty works for sale in his “African Salon”. Stoclet also owned objects from America, Asia, Greece or Italy… He was an important customer of art dealer Joseph Brummer (1883-1947).

Among the objects in the collection are several Congolese treasures: a Luba caryatid seat (300,000 to 500,000 euros), a Yaka headrest (300,000 to 500,000 euros) or an exceptional Kifwebe mask from the Songye culture (200,000 to 400,000 euros). Ten magnificent ivory works will also be on display, including a Yombe statue (100,000 to 150,000 euros).

“We are very honoured to organize the sale of a selection of works from Adolphe Stoclet's collection”, said Roland de Lathuy, General Manager of Christie’s Brussels. “The high quality of these unpublished prizes will certainly attract discerning collectors of African art as Stoclet himself was.” The session will be followed by a second sale of tribal art at 4:30 pm. The peak of the day will be reached with the release of an exceptional Ngil mask from Gabon (estimate on request). A rare object, once used by the secret brotherhood of the same name. The followers initiated to the mysteries of the Ngil cult went from village to village to perform rituals for which they alone held the keys. Their magical power was supposed to ward off fate, illness or death… In 2006, a similar mask from the Vérité collection had reached the record price of 6 million euros at Drouot.

“Ngil masks are among the most sought-after objects in tribal art”, says Bruno Claessens, sales specialist. “It is a Grail for great collectors, even beyond the sole domain of African art.”

Another exceptional batch to note is a reliquary figure Fang Eyema Byeri from the André Lefèvre collection (700,000 to 1.2 million euros). This work alone attests to a remarkable mastery of workmanship emblematic of the “classicism” of 19th century Fang artists. Other remarkable objects will be on display during the sale, such as a Haida mask from British Columbia (150,000 to 200,000 euros). The latter belonged to filmmaker Claude Berri, whose collection Christie's had dispersed in 2016.

So many objects of great value that, in short, will attract many covetous desires… If your scholarship is too light to go crazy, go to Christie's to discover the public exhibition of the works. It will take place from Wednesday 24 to Monday 29 October, from 10am to 6pm. A free show that is already well worth a visit.