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Re: [African_Arts] Fwd: Auction Results Now Online - The Saul and Marsha Stanoff Collection (Sale N08386)

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  • Paul De Lucco
    Rand, Thanks for posting the results. Maybe there were no big surprises but there were surprises. I was surprised that all of the African pieces sold. This
    Message 1 of 3 , May 18, 2007
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      Thanks for posting the results. 
      Maybe there were no big surprises but there were surprises.  I was surprised that all of the African pieces sold.  This is a testimony to the overall quality of the collection.  As you noted, "most of the objects were on the high side of their estimates."  I really liked the Hemba stool (Lot#39) and thought the price was probably appropriate to a piece of such beauty, quality, and history.  I was taken aback by the sales prices of several of the Lega pieces, especially Lot #s 41, 47 & 49.  #47, a Lega nkumba object is worn on top of the head by high-level bwami woman according to the accompanying note.  For subscribers to Tribal Arts, this small object appeared in an issue in 2003, accompanying an interview with Saul Stanoff.  It is very nice but it is under 5" tall, most of that being the "zig-zag".  In Tribal Arts, Mr. Stanoff talks it up but it is difficult for me to be impressed with such a small object.  Pre-sale estimate was $30,000 - $50,000;  in fact, it went for $312,000! 
      The Sotheby's note on Lot #49, a Lega standing figure of a woman, drawing from the Belgian art historian Biebuyck, says:  Lega wood figures of the size of the Stanoff figure are extremely rare. Large figures mark the right of a particular bwami initiation community to hold specific initiation ceremonies.  Reading this, you might be surprised to find that the figure is only 6.75" in height.  I have never focused on Lega art, although I live in an area not far removed from the large Lega region of Maniema and South Kivu and I see Lega pieces frequently.  Lega art, at its best, is very simple in design and execution.  It is easy to fake in the same way that Modigliani is easy to fake.  I do have a small collection of the abstract animals (mugugundu) used in Bwami ceremonies;  all of them are over 6" long.  I have a Janus figure left behind in my office as a "gift" by a frustrated seller.  It is over 6" tall.  And I bought a figure not long ago because I liked it and thought it was authentic.  I just measured it:  12".  On the basis of this very limited physical evidence and my general impression of the Lega objects I have seen over the years, I would say that a 7" object cannot be described as a "large figure."  This figure is small.  The pre-sale estimate of $40,000 to $60,000 seemed very high.  It sold for $264,000, surprising me. 
      Lot #41, an itsy-bitsy animal figure in ivory, only 3-5/8" long (9,2cm), is described in the Sotheby's note as:  probably a representation of Ikaga, the giant pangolin.  I won't speculate as to whether someone in the catalogue department has a sense of humor in using the word giant, but not only is the piece not very big, it is clearly not a pangolin either.  The Sotheby's photographer, possibly challenged in photographing such a small object, does not provide a very clear picture, but from the front, the object looks more like a ... like a....  Actually, it doesn't remind me of anything, although it is cute.  Although I had not heard the term ikaga before, I happen to have one in my collection.  Mine actually looks like a pangolin, a scaly anteater.  Mine even has a tail, something the Stanoff pangolin appears to lack and a tail is important to a pangolin.  When attacked, a pangolin rolls itself into a ball with the tail around it.  The unidentified ivory creature (perhaps a small hippo?), pre-sale estimate of $8,000 to $12,000, sold for $36,000. 
      (If anyone is interested, I have copied very poor photos of the pieces I referenced above from my collection into the group photo section titled "In Reference to Stanoff Sale."  I took the photos quickly just a few minutes ago.  They are so dark, they could be right out of a Sotheby's catalogue.  I did not copy the sales photos from the Sotheby's catalogue as everyone seems to be more sensitive these days about copyright issues, but they can be seen on the Sotheby's website.)
      This was a very interesting sale.  I really learned a lot from the notes, especially the one by Neyt on the Hemba stool.  Stanoff was a discerning collector.  And he lost no opportunities to exhibit his pieces and to discuss them in interviews.  Many of the pieces had impressive verifiable provenances;  all of the pieces had provenances provided by Stanoff himself in exhibitions or magazine interviews.   The self-promotion paid off handsomely.           
      ----- Original Message -----
      Sent: Thursday, May 17, 2007 9:45 PM
      Subject: [African_Arts] Fwd: Auction Results Now Online - The Saul and Marsha Stanoff Collection (Sale N08386)

      Hi all,
      Sotheby's has just posted the results from today's sale of the Saul and Marsha Stanoff Collection (Session 1).
      No really big surprises in the African art part of it, the Bamum headcrest (lot 22) brought $1.6 million and the Grebo mask (lot 19) brought $768k and the Luba stool (lot 39) brought $1.16 million. Overall it seemed that most of the objects were on the high side of their estimates with a few going for as much as 8 to 10 times their high estimates.
      It would have been interesting to be able to view these objects in person at one of the previews or be there for the auction today.
      See link to auction results below

      Sotheby's <updates@sothebys. com> wrote:
      Date: Thu, 17 May 2007 14:10:44 -0400 (EDT)
      From: Sotheby's <updates@sothebys. com>
      To: rand@randafricanart .com
      Subject: Auction Results Now Online - The Saul and Marsha Stanoff Collection
      (Sale N08386)

      If you are unable to see the message below, click here to view.

      Sotheby'sAuction Results Available

      The Saul and Marsha Stanoff Collection

      17 May 07, New York
      Sale N08386
      Session 1

      View Results
      Purchase Catalogue


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    • Lee Rubinstein
      Thanks, Paul, for your commentary on the Lega works sold through the Sotheby s auctions yesterday and for sharing relevant objects from your collection. I,
      Message 2 of 3 , May 18, 2007
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        Thanks, Paul, for your commentary on the Lega works sold through the Sotheby's auctions yesterday and for sharing relevant objects from your collection.  I, too, think it is worth noting both the consistency of quality and enthusiasm of response to the works offered, buttressed indeed by the steady development of reputation through the Stanoffs' participation in exhibitions and publications as well as Saul's availability for interview during a long period of collection.  I think there is a direct correlation between the extended period during which the Stanoffs collected and the values achieved in the current auction.  This is perhaps one of the factors that explains the notable contrast between the success of this auction and the tepid results of the Dintenfass event in Paris last June.  There are some other notable factors which I will address shortly...

        First, though, here are a few statistics I have compiled from the Stanoff auction:

        46 African objects were offered and sold (i.e., 100%).
        41 objects exceeded their high estimates while 5 sold within the expected ranges; none sold below the estimated range.
        Of those which exceeded the estimated range, 6 of 21 exceeded but failed to double the high estimate. (6 came close.)
        20 objects did indeed exceed a final-price-with-premium at least twice the high estimate.  
        11 of these 20 objects which at least doubled the high estimate sold between double and triple the high estimate.
        9 objects' final-prices-with-premium did at least triple their high estimates.
        Of these 9, 5 at least tripled and 4 minimally quadrupled the projected high estimate. (Lots 33, the Yombe Power Figure, and 47, the "zigzag" Lega figure,  sold for more than six times -- and  Lot 23, the Sango Reliquary Guardian Figure, sold for more than 7 times -- the pre-auction estimates.)

        Although I tried to control my compulsion, I couldn't help myself yet again and looked at the detailed western histories of the objects in order to gain a clearer understanding of the market factors through which values continue to grow.  Among the factors that I can see which contributed most significantly to the successful offering of these 46 objects is a combination of prior exhibition and publication histories.  These factors were enhanced -- or facilitated -- by the fact that the objects from the Stanoff Collection generally carried with them a considerable prior pedigree, including collection histories that dated from the colonial period as well as objects field collected by individuals such as Pierre Dartevelle as recently as 1972 (i.e., Lot 39, the Hemba caryatid stool).  

        Four of the objects offered (#18 Dan/Mano Passport Mask; #41 Lega Hippo; and #43 and 45, two Lega masks) had no documented provenance but still exceeded -- sometimes tripled -- their high estimates.  Two specially featured objects (#19 Krou [Grebo] mask and #22 Bamum Crest) were from the collection of Maurice Vlaminck.  Noting that numerous works were handled multiply throughout the 20th century, I observed that five (#4, 11, 12, 14 and 24) came through the Rattons (Maurice, Charles and Phillippe); four each from Christian Duponcheel (#9, 32, 37, 46) and John Friede (#5, 23, 47, 49), three each from Edouard or J.J. Klejman (#5, 10, 47), Marcel Bronsin (#31, 44, 48), Merton Simpson (#23, 29, 39) and Alain de Monbrison (#6, 19, 21).  Other sources of provenance include -- but are not limited to Ben Brillo (#5), Michael Oliver (#7 and 9), Pace Primitive (#8 and 35), Hotel Drouot (#12 and 14), Barry Kitnick (#16 and 35), Pierre Dartevelle (#31 and 39) and Freddie Rolin (#34 and 36) as well as Samir Borro (#9), Daniel Hourdé (#10), A.G. Liotard (#13), Morris Pinto (#14), Félix Fénéon (#14), Stéphen Chauvet (#4 and 14), Sam Hilo (#15), Ernest Ohly (#17), André Fourquet (#19), Julius Carlebach (#20), Hélene Leloup (#31),  Ralph Nash (#34)...  Works -- in addition to those once held by Vlaminck with prior guardianship of note include those from Malvina Hoffman (#28), Guillaume Apollinaire (#29 -- before 1914) and Paul Guillaume (#42 "before 1934").

        To understand the establishment and growth of the financial value of works in the Stanoff Collection, again, one must recognize that the exhibition and publication histories are considerable.  Exhibitions in which works offered are known to have been included are as follows:
        1924  L'exposition de l'art indigenes des colonies françaises.  Paris. (Lot #14)
        1930  Les Arts anciens de l'Afrique NoirePalais des Beaux Arts.  Brussels.  (Lot #14)
        1935  African Negro Art.  Museum of Modern Art.  New York.  (Lot #42)
        1953  Negerkonst.  Nnational Museum.  Stockholm. (Lot #33)
        1958  Art Traditionnel  (Section du Congo Belge et du Ruanda-Urundi).   (Lot #49)
        1980  Masterpieces of the People's Republic of the Congo.  African-American institute.  New York.  (Lots #27, 28, 31 and 34 -- [pp. 36, 37, 34 & 26]  in the exhibition catalogue which accompanied that exhibition.)
        1984  Primitivism in 20th Century Art.  Museum of Modern Art.  New York (Lots #47
        1988  Perspectives:  Angles on African Art.  Museum for African Art. New York.  (Lots #19, 22)
        1990  Likeness and Beyond.  Museum for African Art.  New York.  (Lots # 27)
        1993  Formes et couleurs.  Musée Dapper.  Paris (Lot #19)
        1993  Secrecy:  African Art that Conceals and Reveals.  (Lots #16[cat. no. 68, p. 149; #22 [cat. no. 47, p. 109]; #47 [cat. no. 73, p.151.] )
        2000  Imaging Women in Africa.  UCLA FOWLER MUSEUM.  Los Angeles. (Lots #9, 31) 
        2000  Body Politics.  The Female Image in Luba Art and the Sculpture of Alison Saar.  UCLA Fowler Museum. (Lots # 9, 39, 40.)
        2005  Treasures.  National Museum of African Art.  Wash., DC.  (Lot #35).

        Thirteen of the auctioned works appear in Warren M. Robbins and Nancy Ingram Nooter's African Art in American Collections (1989), an important text from which canons of African art in contemporary collection are established.  These are the works included in that text, from which enhanced value was logically derived:
        Lot #5:    Dogon Seated Figure.  p. 61, fig. 24. (also in Hélene Leloup. Dogon Statuary. 1994.  pl. 95.)
        Lot #7:    Dogon Maternity Figure.  p. 61, fig. 23.
        Lot #9:    Senufo Female Figure.  p. 199, fig. 166.  (also in Mary Nooter Roberts and Alison Saar.  Body Politics:  Female Image in Luba Art... p.65, fig. 4.)
        Lot #10:  Guro Mask. p.172, fig. 337.  
        Lot #23:  Sango Reliquary Guardian Figure.  p. 342, fig. 890. (Also in Chaffin, L'Art Kota. 1980.  p. 286, fig. 170).
        Lot #27:  Bembe Seated Male Figure.  p. 378, fig. 965.  (Also in Masterpieces [1980] (see above) and Lehuard's Art Bakongo, Vol. 2, p. 410)
        Lot# 28:  Bembe/Bwende Female Figure.  p. 378, fig. 966.  (Also in Masterpieces...  1980, see above).
        Lot #31:  Sundi Maternity Figure.  p. 371, fig. 961. (Also in Masterpieces [1980], cat. 35., p. 34; Lehuard [1989] p.607;  Roberts & Saar [2000], p.75, fig. 20).
        Lot #33:  Yombe Power Figure.  p. 363, fig. 943.  (Also in Eklund, Kongo Niger [1968] and Lehuard [1989], p.280.)
        Lot #34:  Yombe Kneeling Figure.  p. 357, fig. 928.  Also in Masterpieces [1980] and Kerchache et al [1993], p. 565, fig 993.
        Lot #46:  Azande Female Figure.  p. 499, fig. 1290.
        Lot #47:  Lega Figure.  p. 483, fig. 1240.
        Lot #48:  Bena Lulua Crouching Figure.  p. 437, fig. 1128.

        Additional publication instances which have helped to establish the considered importance and heightened value of the works offered from the Stanoff Collection in this commercial context include:
        Henri Clouzot and A. Level.  Sculptures Africains et Océaniens.  Paris. 1923. (Lot #14)
        Eliot Elisofon and William Fagg.  The Sculpture of Africa.  1958.  (Lot #20)
        William Rubin, ed.  Primitivism in Twentieth Century Art.  pp. 365 and 411.  (Lots #42 and 47)
        Raoul Lehuard.  Art Bakongo:  Les Centres de Style, vol. II, p. 396. 1989. (Lots #29 and 31)
        Jacques KERCHACHE, Jean-Louis Paudrat and Lucien Stéphan, Art of Africa.  New York.  1993.  (Lots #19 [p. 382, fig 357], 21 [p. 381, fig. 355] and 34 [p. 565, fig. 993. )

        Additionally, David DeRoche's article on the Stanoff collection, entitled "Monumental Miniatures:  The Saul and Marsha Stanoff Collection"  appeared in Tribal Arts magazine in Autumn, 2003 (No. 32) -- the issue on which Lot 19, the Krou mask, appears on the cover and on page 69 (fig. 14).  Other auctioned lots pictured include #5 (p. 66, fig. 8) and Lot #22 (p. 65, fig. 7). 

        As noted in the Sotheby's listing, Lot #39, the Hemba caryatid stool, also appeared in these publications and exhibitions:

        François Neyt, Luba, aux Sources du Zaire, Musée Dapper, 1993, p. 97
        Mary Roberts, Memory. Luba Art and the Making of History, 1996, catalogue of the exhibition, p. 19
        Mary Nooter Roberts and Alison Saar, Body Politics : The Female Image in Luba Art and the Sculpture of Alison Saar, Los Angeles, 2000, p. 18, fig. 9
        David Deroche, "Monumental Miniatures: The Saul and Marsha Stanoff Collection," Tribal Art, 32, Autumn, 2003, p. 66, fig. 10

        New York, Museum for African Art, Memory. Luba Art and the Making of History, February 2 - September 8, 1996 (for additional venues see bibliography, Roberts 1996)
        Los Angeles, UCLA Fowler Museum, Body Politics. The Female Image in Luba Art and the Sculpture of Alison Saar, November 12, 2000 - May 13, 2001

        The ethnographic research details that accompany many of the offerings in the Sotheby's catalogue provide very valuable, current reports for parties interested in identifying further research directions and resources for any of the specific classes of objects offered as well as for locating comparative examples and market history for such objects.  The inclusion of this information provided by highly skilled and experienced specialists remains one of the great benefits accessible through Sotheby's auctions -- even when the desired works are out of financial or geographic reach.  

        I would like also to note -- in concluding -- that the Heritage Auction Galleries have just issued their on-line and printed catalogues for an upcoming auction of African works which will be held in Dallas (and on-line) on June 7.  Featuring diverse selections from the collections of Gary Hendershott, H. Bruce Greene and Thomas D. Slater -- among others, the auction appears to offer an enticing opportunity to acquire works of very good quality at reasonable starting offers that I think are worth a careful perusal.  Under the direction of Heritage's Senior Advisor on African Art, James Willis, the catalogue was prepared by John Lunsford and Herbert M. Cole -- an impressively experienced and scholarly team!  Visit the on-line catalogue at 

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