From Afro art to Drouot

Paris, 28 November 2018

Notice to lovers of tribal objects! Binoche & Giquello will meet you at Hôtel Drouot on Friday 14 December at 3.30 pm for an exceptional sale of African and Oceanic art. To conclude the year in style, works from prestigious European and American collections will be on display.

The star lot of the sale is undoubtedly the splendid female bust (ancestor figure of Byeri), originating from the group Ntumu (Fang of Gabon). Undated, this statuette has an invoice attesting to its great age (early 19th century). Imbued with a feminine grace, it bears witness to the subtlety and spirituality of Fang art. The head is typical of the sculptural Ntumu way, displaying a hollow face with a “Fang” pout. Perched on a trunk, such an object watched over the bones of the ancestors and served as a mediator between the dead and the living. This treasure worthy of the collections of the greatest museums is estimated at 1 to 1.5 million euros. “This object is unique”, says Patrick Caput, the sales specialist. “There are perhaps 1,000 Fang statues in the world today. But there are only 20 or 25 copies of known busts. The representation of a female model completes this masterpiece’s exceptional rarity.”

Eyema byeri ancestor Figure, H. 35 cm., Prov. : Gustave and Franyo Schindler, estim. : EUR 1,000,000 to 1,500,000

Another prestigious object is a Grebo mask from Liberia made of wood and pigments (estimated €400,000 to €600,000). It has been presented in several exhibitions, including former Dapper museum (1992) and the Galleria d’Arte Moderna in Turin (2004). We notice here the original representation of the human face: by inversion effect, the hollows of the face are transformed into reliefs (and vice versa). The form and polychromy attest to a great age. This type of mask was used in many Grebo ceremonies, at funerals or warrior rituals. Such objects were among the first to reach the West and inspire Picasso and other artists of the early 20th century.

Grebo Mask, H. 44,8 cm., Prov. : Mario Meneghini, estim. : EUR 400,000 to 600,000

Other prestigious lots will be auctioned, such as a Great Person Sitting with a Snake, dating from the 15th-16th centuries. This terracotta sculpture from Mali, estimated €200,000 to €500,000, is emblematic of the statuary of Djenné-Djeno (Niger Delta). This is one of the most refined styles in Africa. It developed between 700 and 1,700 among different ethnic groups (Bozo, Soninké, Sorko, Bobo, Marka…). A prestigious Luba axe, Kibiki or Kasolwa, will also be available (between €200,000 and €250,000). Originally from Congo, it was collected by Charles Liebrechts in 1861. It was subsequently shown in major exhibitions at the Palais des beaux-arts in Brussels (1988) or at the Met in New York (2002). This artifact with its feminine curves is characteristic of the Luba style, all in grace and harmony.

We can finally fall for a superb headrest from Papua New Guinea, from the Alain Schoffel gallery (Paris). Estimated €150,000 to €200,000, it has a particularly elongated face typical of the Tami Islands. Unlike other similar objects, head restraints were indeed used to sleep in this area. The figure supporting the plateau would represent the ancestral spirit, support of man and the world. “This headrest is exceptional”, says Patrick Caput. “This is an absolute rarity of its kind. The representation, all in movement and asymmetry, enhanced by a superb polychromy, makes it undoubtedly the most beautiful example of this material available on the market.”

Buyer or just curious, do not miss the public exhibition in pre-sale at Hôtel Drouot, Thursday 13 and Friday 14 December, from 11am.

Headrest, Tami islands, H. 18 cm., Prov. : Alain Schoffel, estim. : EUR 150,000 to 200,000