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1281RE: [African_Arts] Re: Verite Fang Ngil mask - What makes a "masterpiece" a m...

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  • Ricardo J. de Matos Leandro
    Jul 4, 2006
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      “Interesting Mbala style, though;  strong Holo influence................”


      Holo or Hungana?


      De: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com [mailto: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com ] Em nome de Paul De Lucco
      Enviada: segunda-feira, 3 de Julho de 2006 7:45
      Para: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
      Assunto: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Verite Fang Ngil mask - What makes a "masterpiece" a m...


      I think the Mbala figure is as funny as a crutch.


      Interesting Mbala style, though;  strong Holo influence................



      ----- Original Message -----

      Sent: Saturday, July 01, 2006 1:52 PM

      Subject: RE: [African_Arts] Re: Verite Fang Ngil mask - What makes a "masterpiece" a m...


      Hello group,

      I have enjoyed reading your contributions for this very special topic.

      I would like to add my own cent to this discussion: I would like to have your opinion on this Mbala figure artwork. I love it; I would have named it “collector’s support to African art”. What do you think? Is it still African art? I have submitted this artwork to the french speaking AntiquesAfricaines more than a year ago, it was received quiet badly. I wonder what you will think of it.

      Taken from http://www.galeriecongo.com/book.asp?chapter=2&page=20 , the site of Jean Van Overstaeten (member of the Bruneaf).

      Best wishes,


      De: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com [mailto: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com ] Em nome de Rand African Art
      Enviada: quinta-feira, 29 de Junho de 2006 23:06
      Para: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
      Assunto: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Verite Fang Ngil mask - What makes a "masterpiece" a m...

      This has been one of the more interesting and educational discussions, at least for me, that I’ve seen in the discussion groups for a long time.

      I’ve never studied art history; I’ve never really ‘formally’ studied anything dealing with art. I’ve never really put much thought into what a masterpiece is and what makes it a masterpiece before I saw the statement about the mask in the auction listing.

      The statement on the auction listing (emphasis mine):

      The fact is indisputable: it is an absolute masterpiece of art.”

      Sotheby’s uses “rare” and “fine” and “superb”, but I guess if you’re going for multi-million dollar bids you need “masterpiece” in the description. That way the children of the buyers can explain to their friends that it is “a Fang mask from Gabon and Alain de Monbrison, oh, and it’s a Masterpiece”. (g r i n)

      When you look at the definitions of “indisputable” and “absolute” in the dictionary, and you follow the conversations in this discussion group about the mask, I think you see that to many people the fact IS disputable that this mask is an absolute masterpiece of art.< /div>

      Originally I asked myself if I was missing something, as I often feel I do. I looked at the photo of the mask that was taken from the front (see below), it was fairly well executed from an artistic view point in my humble opinion, nice lines, nice presence to it. The eyes were cock-eyed/off set from each other a bit though and the mouth seemed a bit off center. Those things made it a bit unsymmetrical in my opinion, and that was something I didn’t like about it very much. I was taught by my old mentor to look at the symmetry of an object, that was the sign of a skilled carver. I thought the mask had a nice presence to it, but in my mind I thought of “masterpieces” differently than I thought of this mask.

      Photo link to the front photo of the mask:

      I’ll agree with Daniel Wolf’s statement below:

      No doubt it is a magnificent mask .. carved by a competent hand… but the value that has been placed on it comes from streams other than that of workmanship in my opinion.

      Having said all that ... I am curious... How many here given that they had never seen this mask and knew nothing of it's provenance would have quickly paid say 10-20 thousand .. or even 5-10 thousand for this piece had they seen it at an estate sale .. or from a runner...or at an antique store? Just curious.”

      To answer that question, I’d say that I would have a hard time paying 10-20 thousand for the mask, even if money wasn’t a problem , even though the mask does have some appeal to me. There were other objects in the Vérité auction that made my heart skip a beat, and if money wasn’t an object I would have paid as much as I had to in order to acquire them. Maybe that is what happened with someone else with the Fang Ngil mask…

      In preparation for my You Be the Judge page on Fang Ngil masks that I’m putting together, I compiled a group of photographs/scans of all of the published masks I could find and I showed them to a couple of friends of mine who have no knowledge about Tribal art at all, but are collectors of other art, so I could get an “off the street” reaction to them. It was very interesting to see them pick their favorites.

      A masterpiece is many things, and the meaning of “masterpiece” seems to be different to some than it is to others. I’m convinced that there are many other factors to consider above and beyond the craftsmanship and composition of an object in calling it a masterpiece. Everyone brought up many great points to support this.

      I like how Craig simpley stated it:

      "I think a "masterpiece" be it music or art can be relevant to
      circumstance,time and trends

      This discussion about this mask and this topic has really changed my opinion about what makes a masterpiece a masterpiece. Great discussions!



      Craig Lewis <craig_n_emma@...> wrote:

      I think we may possibly have come up with what is a "masterpiece"
      with our musical analogies!!!

      From what we have both said in our recent posts it seems maybe we are
      suggesting the same thing. That is that a masterpiece is only a
      masterpiece to someone who believes it is just that.

      To once more use the musical analogy,someone that believes a Hendrix
      piece is a masterpiece will believe so, while someone who believes a
      Mozart piece is a masterpiece will similarly believe so.(My own
      particular favourite "masterpiece" to perform and listen to is Bouree
      in Em for Lute by JS Bach).

      Whoever thinks that the Verite Fang mask is a masterpiece then to
      them it is, to Gary (I think said)it is ugly. Who can convince Gary
      that this piece is a masterpiece? ? Nobody, if it's ugly to him then
      thats what it is. I think the mask is excellent and does have a great
      presence, but masterpiece? I'm not too sure.

      I think a "masterpiece" be it music or art can be relevant to
      circumstance, time and trends. I think this is showing in the
      discussion on this mask.

      P.S. Perhaps a masterpiece is something that can provoke this much
      interest and discussion!


      --- In African_Arts@ yahoogroups. com, dwolf22@... wrote:
      > Point taken Craig. Thanks for your perspective. I would concede
      that one of
      > the hallmarks of a 'master' is the ability to present the profound
      in whatever
      > form chosen... and certainly simplicity is an option to the
      masters hand.
      > I appreciated the musical analogies .. and while I play guitar
      myself .. and
      > love Hendrix, Dylan, etc.... I don't think I would catagorize their
      work as
      > masterpieces - as I think one would have to look towards Classical
      for the
      > true masterworks .. Mozart, Beethoven etc. If Mozart and Hendrix
      were both alive
      > ... could Mozart understand what Hendrix was doing? I think yes ..
      he could
      > discect and digest it and play it back note for note .. or better
      yet add to
      > it in a way that would make it his own..... could Hendrix do the
      same with
      > Mozart? I rather doubt it.
      > It's easier to quantify something as a masterpiece in relative
      terms ....
      > such as a 'masterpiece' of 60's psychedelic rock, or a masterpiece
      of literary
      > fiction ... I've even seen 'masterpieces' of crayon art on friends
      > refrigerators!
      > But ultimately from a more macro view .. true masters are few and
      > between. Just my opinion of course.
      > Daniel

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