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Re: [African_Arts] Verite Fang Ngil mask - What makes a "masterpiece" a masterpiece?

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  • ari birnbaum
    I should add that examined this particular mask-i think that Constantin Brancusi and Amadeo Modigiliani were much more influenced by this particular style more
    Message 1 of 9 , Jun 26, 2006
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      I should add that examined this particular mask-i think that Constantin Brancusi and Amadeo Modigiliani were much more influenced by this particular style more then Picasso.
      Picasso owned few Grebo masks [The famous painting"Les Demoiselles d"Avignon"-and in his work we found Fierce faces like the Grebo Masks not a gentle ,baby face like the Fang...
      Picasso visit in the summer of 1907 The Musee Du Trocadero in Paris  with the intention of  studying Romanesque sculpture..
      He took a wrong turn ,and ended up in a room full of african masks.
      It Changed the way he look at the world.
      It changed the way he look at art.
      It change the way we look at art.
      It change the history of African Art.
      I don't think that this particular mask did it.
      Regards,
      Ari
       
      ----- Original Message -----
      Sent: Monday, June 26, 2006 6:50 PM
      Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Verite Fang Ngil mask - What makes a "masterpiece" a masterpiece?

      ... and I should have added that a masterpiece is a work of art which is able to cross years, centuries and borders while being unanimously recognized as "admirable".
      For example, most of the things found in the tumb of TutAnkhAmon is admired by the whole planet. As well as is admired the music of Mozart (even the animals enjoy it).
      In that sense, and to answer your question, I do not think that the ex-Vérité Fang  mask is a masterpiece. Show it to a Miao, in the Yunnan Province of China. He will be curious, maybe amused - but I'm not sure he'll be moved or admire it.
      I would not have bought it - even if I was Bill Gates - who would be a collector. It does not move me (maybe because of the price ).

      Price is not a sign of beauty.
      The most expensive stamp (for stamp collectors) cost also $$$$$$$$$$$$, for just 1cm square. Does that make the stamp a masterpiece ?
      Chee! rs !
      Véro


      Veronique Martelliere <proximatribal@...> wrote:

      Bonjour, Rand !

      Ron gave the right definition of what a "chef d'oeuvre", is originally (the written word dates back to the13th century)

      It is probably impossible to give an objective answer to your question : What makes a masterpiece a masterpiece ?
      It is maybe easier to answer that one : Who decides that a work of art is a masterpiece ?

      Originally, only pharaohs, kings, priests and notables used to decide - they had the money and ordered.
      Then there were also the first travellers - just like Philon of Byzance (3rd century BC) who decided what were the Seven Wonders of the world (among which the 12m statue of Zeus in Olympia and the 32m statue ("colossus") of Rhodos. Philon would be followed, after centuries, by UNESCO.

      In Europe, few artists became "immortal" before the Renaissance : most were anonymous and worked on orders - in a way, just as it is the case in Tribal Art.

      Today : who decides what is a masterpiece (I mean an OFFICIAL masterpiece ) ?
      People making a living out of art.
      And, most unfortunately, these people are not the artists.

      Cheers !

      Véro





      Rand African Art <rand@...> wrote:
      Hi group,
       
      I am just beginning to look through the results for the Verite auction and compare them to the estimates and objects in the auction catalog.
       
      Of course, of particular interest is the Fang Ngil mask in the collection that brought the highest price to date at auction for a work of "primitive art" as one report called it.
       
      Photo:
       
      In Ari's original message to the group announcing it, he stated "Sensational price probably due to its connection to fame artist like Picasso...again fame,history,provenance..the right place  and the right time[occasion]more then anything else."
       
      When you look at the description in the auction for the mask, it starts out:
      "The fact is indisputable: it is an absolute masterpiece of art. Paradoxically it is at once both so classical and so original that it is difficult to compare it with other masks."
       
      This of course prompted me to go over to my book shelves and recall which ones had examples of Fang Ngil masks in them. I started out looking for all books with the word "masterpiece(s)" in the title, and then grabbed all of the books from famous collections, and then grabbed some of the well known general reference books and then grabbed my Fang specific reference books.
       
      Before I looked in the books, I asked myself: What makes an object a "masterpiece", no less an "indisputable" masterpiece of art?
       
      If you look in a dictionary, it will give you the definition of a "masterpiece" as:
       
      1) An outstanding work of art or craft.
      2) The greatest work, as of an artist. Also called masterwork.
      3) Something superlative of its kind: a masterpiece of political ingenuity.
      4) The most outstanding work of a creative artist or craftsman [syn: chef-d'oeuvre]
       
      I have a few questions I'd like to throw out to members of the group:
      1) Do people agree that this Fang mask is an indisputable masterpiece of art?
      2) Are there more factors than pure aesthetics that make an object a masterpiece?
      3) What did you think of the Fang Ngil mask compared to Lot 207 which was another Fang mask of different form and style? Can they be compared? Does one "move" you more than the other?
       
      I'm pulling together some photos of other Ngil masks, along with the photos of Picasso's "T�te de Femme" from 1908 and Picasso's "Les Demoiselles d�Avignon" that the Fang Ngil mask has been linked to.
       
      It has been a very long time since I have done a You Be the Judge page on my website, but I think this is a perfect opportunity to do one for Fang Ngil masks, I'll post a message to the group with it soon.
       
      Cheers!
      RAND


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    • Steve Price
      Hi Rand Your dictionary definitions left out the historical origin of the word, masterpiece. Here it is (from Merriam-Webster Dictionary): a piece of work
      Message 2 of 9 , Jun 28, 2006
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        Hi Rand

        Your dictionary definitions left out the historical origin of the
        word, masterpiece. Here it is (from Merriam-Webster Dictionary):

        "a piece of work presented to a medieval guild as evidence of
        qualification for the rank of master"

        Every more recent definition is one that has derived and evolved from
        this one, and I think the original definition is still embedded in
        all the others. To cut to the chase, if it doesn't include exemplary
        workmanship among its properties, it isn't a masterpiece. Something
        can be extraordinarily moving to you or to me without qualifying for
        that name; museums have lots of modern art fails the test.

        Regards

        Steve Price


        --- In African_Arts@yahoogroups.com, Rand African Art <rand@...>
        wrote:
        >
        > Hi group,
        >
        > I am just beginning to look through the results for the Verite
        auction and compare them to the estimates and objects in the auction
        catalog.
        >
        > Of course, of particular interest is the Fang Ngil mask in the
        collection that brought the highest price to date at auction for a
        work of "primitive art" as one report called it.
        >
        >
        > Photo:
        > http://209.34.82.147/media/03_Masque%20Ngil%
        20Fang,Gabon_0605191629358.jpg
        >
        > In Ari's original message to the group announcing it, he
        stated "Sensational price probably due to its connection to fame
        artist like Picasso...again fame,history,provenance..the right place
        and the right time[occasion]more then anything else."
        >
        > When you look at the description in the auction for the mask, it
        starts out:
        > "The fact is indisputable: it is an absolute masterpiece of art.
        Paradoxically it is at once both so classical and so original that it
        is difficult to compare it with other masks."
        >
        > This of course prompted me to go over to my book shelves and
        recall which ones had examples of Fang Ngil masks in them. I started
        out looking for all books with the word "masterpiece(s)" in the
        title, and then grabbed all of the books from famous collections, and
        then grabbed some of the well known general reference books and then
        grabbed my Fang specific reference books.
        >
        > Before I looked in the books, I asked myself: What makes an
        object a "masterpiece", no less an "indisputable" masterpiece of art?
        >
        > If you look in a dictionary, it will give you the definition of
        a "masterpiece" as:
        >
        > 1) An outstanding work of art or craft.
        > 2) The greatest work, as of an artist. Also called masterwork.
        > 3) Something superlative of its kind: a masterpiece of political
        ingenuity.
        > 4) The most outstanding work of a creative artist or craftsman
        [syn: chef-d'oeuvre]
        >
        > I have a few questions I'd like to throw out to members of the
        group:
        > 1) Do people agree that this Fang mask is an indisputable
        masterpiece of art?
        > 2) Are there more factors than pure aesthetics that make an
        object a masterpiece?
        > 3) What did you think of the Fang Ngil mask compared to Lot 207
        which was another Fang mask of different form and style? Can they be
        compared? Does one "move" you more than the other?
        >
        >
        > I'm pulling together some photos of other Ngil masks, along with
        the photos of Picasso's "Tête de Femme" from 1908 and Picasso's "Les
        Demoiselles d'Avignon" that the Fang Ngil mask has been linked to.
        >
        > It has been a very long time since I have done a You Be the Judge
        page on my website, but I think this is a perfect opportunity to do
        one for Fang Ngil masks, I'll post a message to the group with it
        soon.
        >
        > Cheers!
        > RAND
        >
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