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Auctions and exhibitions

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  • Rand African Art
    Hi all, I hope everyone is doing well. I know that we all are busy this time of year. I have been busy with tax time and the good weather in Colorado after the
    Message 1 of 6 , Apr 18 7:47 PM
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      Hi all,
       
      I hope everyone is doing well. I know that we all are busy this time of year. I have been busy with tax time and the good weather in Colorado after the recent blizzard. I'm trying to get back into a regular routine and devote a little more time and energy to African art again.
       
      For those who subscribe to the Sotheby's African/Oceanic/Pre-Columbian auction catalogs, you probably received it in the mail in the last day or so or will be getting it soon. They have also posted the catalog on their website so you can browse the listings.
       
      Here is the link to the May 12th auction catalog:
       
      or
       
       
      I'm interested to see what people's picks and thoughts are for this auction. There weren't a lot of African items in the catalog, but there were a few nice pices in my opinion.
      __________________________________
       
      Also, the Hamill Gallery of African Art in Boston is coming out with a new exhibition this weekend and it is called ART OF THE DOGON. Tim and Bobbi Hamill always do a great job with their exhibitions and I will be anxious to see the catalogs once they get them online this week.
       
      I have scanned the invitation postcard I received and the image and text can be found at the following link:
       
      __________________________________________________
       
      Also, here is some information on the African art exhibit at Queensborough Community College of from the collection of Gary Schultze that starts May 15 and runs through September 1, 2005:
       
       
      Cheers!
      RAND
       


      www.randafricanart.com
    • Craig Lewis
      Hi Rand, Only had time to quickly look through the catalogue and I agree that there are some nice pieces on there, my picks would be :- lot 52 Senufo Helmet
      Message 2 of 6 , Apr 19 8:15 AM
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        Hi Rand,
        Only had time to quickly look through the catalogue and I agree that
        there are some nice pieces on there, my picks would be :-
        lot 52 Senufo Helmet mask
        lot 66 A rather cool Gelede mask
        lot 76 an Igbo figure
        lot 82 A Pende Mbuya mask (I have metioned my fondness for this type
        of mask before so would almost always be in my "auction wish list" if
        there is one available)
        lot 101 A Luba figure
        lot 115 a Makonde comb, never seen a comb like this before but I
        think it is really something.
        Theres also a couple of nice Chokwe masks (can't remember the lot
        numbers)There are probably a few other pieces I'd like but only had a
        quick glance so it would be interesting to see what other people pick.
        Cheers
        Craig


        --- In African_Arts@yahoogroups.com, Rand African Art <rand@r...>
        wrote:
        > Hi all,
        >
        > I hope everyone is doing well. I know that we all are busy this
        time of year. I have been busy with tax time and the good weather in
        Colorado after the recent blizzard. I'm trying to get back into a
        regular routine and devote a little more time and energy to African
        art again.
        >
        > For those who subscribe to the Sotheby's African/Oceanic/Pre-
        Columbian auction catalogs, you probably received it in the mail in
        the last day or so or will be getting it soon. They have also posted
        the catalog on their website so you can browse the listings.
        >
        > Here is the link to the May 12th auction catalog:
        > http://search.sothebys.com/search/collArea/BrowseCat.jsp?
        &source_indicator=E&event_id=27209&sale_number=N08095&event_name=Afric
        an,%20Oceanic%20and%20Pre-Columbian%20Art
        >
        > or
        >
        > Browse Catalogue
        >
        > I'm interested to see what people's picks and thoughts are for this
        auction. There weren't a lot of African items in the catalog, but
        there were a few nice pices in my opinion.
        > __________________________________
        >
        > Also, the Hamill Gallery of African Art in Boston is coming out
        with a new exhibition this weekend and it is called ART OF THE DOGON.
        Tim and Bobbi Hamill always do a great job with their exhibitions and
        I will be anxious to see the catalogs once they get them online this
        week.
        >
        > I have scanned the invitation postcard I received and the image and
        text can be found at the following link:
        > http://www.randafricanart.com/Hamill_Gallery_Current_Exhibition.html
        >
        > __________________________________________________
        >
        > Also, here is some information on the African art exhibit at
        Queensborough Community College of from the collection of Gary
        Schultze that starts May 15 and runs through September 1, 2005:
        >
        >
        >
        http://www.qcc.cuny.edu/artgallery/Programs/Exhibits/AfricanArt/descri
        ption.asp
        >
        >
        > Cheers!
        > RAND
        > www.randafricanart.com
        >
        >
        >
        >
        > www.randafricanart.com
      • Rand African Art
        I have had a little more time to soak in the pieces from the catalog… There were quite a few pieces that were offered that only had provenance information of
        Message 3 of 6 , Apr 19 4:14 PM
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          I have had a little more time to soak in the pieces from the catalog�

           

          There were quite a few pieces that were offered that only had provenance information of  Sotheby Parke-Bernet in the 1960�s/1970�s, but there were also quite a few pieces with no provenance information or history.

           

          Lot 52 The (superb) Senufo helmet mask � Estimate $50,000 - $60,000 USD

          I was surprised that there was no provenance information listed and no history/collection date listed on the piece. It�s an interesting piece, but for an estimate of $50,000 I would probably like a little more reassurance on the piece and its history instead of citing examples of published pieces that are similar to it like they do in the listing. Since the mask is supposedly so rare, I have to think back to all of the people in the past that state � if it looks like the example in the book it is likely a fake. I am not saying that this piece is fake, but given the lack of information on the history, and the rarity of the piece, it makes me wonder. The same was also true with lot 31 (superb Dogon figure). I would be interested to hear from others on this.

           

          From the listing - Cf. Robbins and Nooter (1989: ill. 160 and 161) and Barbier ((ed.) 1994: ill.7) for related examples. See also Goldwater (1964:figures 82 and 83) for even more closely related masks. Figure 82, was collected by Maesen in 1939, and is most similar to the offered lot in terms of age and refinement of the features.

           

          The rarity of these masks is suggested not only by the few early examples that are published, but also by their use�they were only brought out for the �Great Funeral�, an all-community festival to commemorate important elders who died over the course of a four or five year period.

           

          http://search.sothebys.com/jsps/live/lot/LotDetail.jsp?lot_id=4F7N7

           

          I liked lot 54, the (fine) Dan spoon, estimate $25,000 - $35,000,  that was collected by Hans Himmelheber in the Ivory Coast, 1952-1953.

           

          http://search.sothebys.com/jsps/live/lot/LotDetail.jsp?lot_id=4F7N9

           

          I also liked lot 64, (superb) Senufo helmet mask, provenance Christian Debenest, Abidjan, circa 1970's, estimate $25,000-$25,000.

           

          http://search.sothebys.com/jsps/live/lot/LotDetail.jsp?lot_id=4F7NM

           

          I found lot 65 interesting, a (superb) Benin terracotta head, estimate $30,000 - $40,000.

          Again, another exceptionally rare piece and they state as being in the range of 484 years old through thermoluminescent analysis. Hmmm

           

          From the listing - According to the note accompanying this head, in 1981 a sample was taken from the front inside of the neck, and subjected to thermoluminescent analysis at Daybreak Nuclear and Medical Systems Inc., in Connecticut. The median date for the firing of the terracotta was 1521 A.D.

          http://search.sothebys.com/jsps/live/lot/LotDetail.jsp?lot_id=4F7NN

           

          Lot 66, the (sorry no adjective in the catalog) Yoruba Gelede mask, estimate $5,000-$8,000, provenance - The Carl Monzino Collection.

           

          There were a couple of pieces in here from the Monzino collection (lot # 69 was as well) and I found this one to be my favorite. I liked your adjective to describe this piece � A rather cool Gelede mask. I thought it was rather cool myself, very unique. I was surprised at the low estimate, especially with the provenance.

           

          http://search.sothebys.com/jsps/live/lot/LotDetail.jsp?lot_id=4F7NP

           

          I also thought that lot 82, a Pende mask, estimate $12,000-$18,000, was a very nice piece along with the 2 Chokwe masks, lots 104 and 105, estimates $15,000-20,000 and $25,00-$30,000 respectively.

           

          I found the (fine) Baule male figure, lot 45 estimate $7,000-$10,000, to be very nice in my opinion. I loved the detail and placement of the hands on the piece.

           

          I am curious as to people�s thoughts on lot 51, a (fine) Baule male seated figure, estimate $20,000-$30,000. I didn�t find the figure to be particularly �fine�. I don�t have much experience with Baule figures, but I found the hands to be a little strange and the square with scarification on the chest was also strange to me. Interested to see if anyone else has thoughts on this piece?

           

          Cheers,

          RAND



          Craig Lewis <craig_n_emma@...> wrote:


          Hi Rand,
          Only had time to quickly look through the catalogue and I agree that
          there are some nice pieces on there, my picks would be :-
          lot 52 Senufo Helmet mask
          lot 66 A rather cool Gelede mask
          lot 76 an Igbo figure
          lot 82 A Pende Mbuya mask (I have metioned my fondness for this type
          of mask before so would almost always be in my "auction wish list" if
          there is one available)
          lot 101 A Luba figure
          lot 115 a Makonde comb, never seen a comb like this before but I
          think it is really something.
          Theres also a couple of nice Chokwe masks (can't remember the lot
          numbers)There are probably a few other pieces I'd like but only had a
          quick glance so it would be interesting to see what other people pick.
          Cheers
          Craig   


          --- In African_Arts@yahoogroups.com, Rand African Art <rand@r...>
          wrote:
          > Hi all,

          > I hope everyone is doing well. I know that we all are busy this
          time of year. I have been busy with tax time and the good weather in
          Colorado after the recent blizzard. I'm trying to get back into a
          regular routine and devote a little more time and energy to African
          art again.

          > For those who subscribe to the Sotheby's African/Oceanic/Pre-
          Columbian auction catalogs, you probably received it in the mail in
          the last day or so or will be getting it soon. They have also posted
          the catalog on their website so you can browse the listings.

          > Here is the link to the May 12th auction catalog:
          > http://search.sothebys.com/search/collArea/BrowseCat.jsp?
          &source_indicator=E&event_id=27209&sale_number=N08095&event_name=Afric
          an,%20Oceanic%20and%20Pre-Columbian%20Art

          > or

          > Browse Catalogue

          > I'm interested to see what people's picks and thoughts are for this
          auction. There weren't a lot of African items in the catalog, but
          there were a few nice pices in my opinion.
          > __________________________________

          > Also, the Hamill Gallery of African Art in Boston is coming out
          with a new exhibition this weekend and it is called ART OF THE DOGON.
          Tim and Bobbi Hamill always do a great job with their exhibitions and
          I will be anxious to see the catalogs once they get them online this
          week.

          > I have scanned the invitation postcard I received and the image and
          text can be found at the following link:
          > http://www.randafricanart.com/Hamill_Gallery_Current_Exhibition.html

          > __________________________________________________

          > Also, here is some information on the African art exhibit at
          Queensborough Community College of from the collection of Gary
          Schultze that starts May 15 and runs through September 1, 2005:

          >
          >
          http://www.qcc.cuny.edu/artgallery/Programs/Exhibits/AfricanArt/descri
          ption.asp
          >

          > Cheers!
          > RAND
          > www.randafricanart.com

          >
          >
          >
          > www.randafricanart.com








          www.randafricanart.com
        • Craig Lewis
          I have looked at the two Baule pieces you mention. I also prefer lot 45 to lot 51 although Baule sculpture is not really my thing , I prefer more stylized
          Message 4 of 6 , Apr 20 2:23 AM
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            I have looked at the two Baule pieces you mention. I also prefer lot
            45 to lot 51 although Baule sculpture is not really my "thing", I
            prefer more stylized works.
            I have looked through some books and on the internet for an example
            with the same style hands as lot 51 but couldn't find any similar.
            Most I have found have rather more "elegant" hands, I find these ones
            quite stubby. The figure on the whole is well carved, with some nice
            details of scarification etc but I still prefer lot 45.
            By the way,is it just me or are a lot of the photos quite dark
            against a black background thus making it difficult to see a lot of
            the detail?
            As far as the terracota is concerned I think many more people are
            doubtful of testing and also of terracotas in general since the
            famous fake ram incident.
            I have also, since my last post noticed a Dogon Kanaga mask which I
            also like.

            Cheers
            Craig


            --- In African_Arts@yahoogroups.com, Rand African Art <rand@r...>
            wrote:
            >
            > I have had a little more time to soak in the pieces from the
            catalog…
            >
            >
            >
            > There were quite a few pieces that were offered that only had
            provenance information of Sotheby Parke-Bernet in the 1960's/1970's,
            but there were also quite a few pieces with no provenance information
            or history.
            >
            >
            >
            > Lot 52 The (superb) Senufo helmet mask – Estimate $50,000 - $60,000
            USD
            >
            > I was surprised that there was no provenance information listed and
            no history/collection date listed on the piece. It's an interesting
            piece, but for an estimate of $50,000 I would probably like a little
            more reassurance on the piece and its history instead of citing
            examples of published pieces that are similar to it like they do in
            the listing. Since the mask is supposedly so rare, I have to think
            back to all of the people in the past that state – if it looks like
            the example in the book it is likely a fake. I am not saying that
            this piece is fake, but given the lack of information on the history,
            and the rarity of the piece, it makes me wonder. The same was also
            true with lot 31 (superb Dogon figure). I would be interested to hear
            from others on this.
            >
            >
            >
            > From the listing - Cf. Robbins and Nooter (1989: ill. 160 and 161)
            and Barbier ((ed.) 1994: ill.7) for related examples. See also
            Goldwater (1964:figures 82 and 83) for even more closely related
            masks. Figure 82, was collected by Maesen in 1939, and is most
            similar to the offered lot in terms of age and refinement of the
            features.
            >
            >
            >
            > The rarity of these masks is suggested not only by the few early
            examples that are published, but also by their use—they were only
            brought out for the `Great Funeral', an all-community festival to
            commemorate important elders who died over the course of a four or
            five year period.
            >
            >
            >
            > http://search.sothebys.com/jsps/live/lot/LotDetail.jsp?lot_id=4F7N7
            >
            >
            >
            > I liked lot 54, the (fine) Dan spoon, estimate $25,000 - $35,000,
            that was collected by Hans Himmelheber in the Ivory Coast, 1952-1953.
            >
            >
            >
            > http://search.sothebys.com/jsps/live/lot/LotDetail.jsp?lot_id=4F7N9
            >
            >
            >
            > I also liked lot 64, (superb) Senufo helmet mask, provenance
            Christian Debenest, Abidjan, circa 1970's, estimate $25,000-$25,000.
            >
            >
            >
            > http://search.sothebys.com/jsps/live/lot/LotDetail.jsp?lot_id=4F7NM
            >
            >
            >
            > I found lot 65 interesting, a (superb) Benin terracotta head,
            estimate $30,000 - $40,000.
            >
            > Again, another exceptionally rare piece and they state as being in
            the range of 484 years old through thermoluminescent analysis. Hmmm
            >
            >
            >
            > From the listing - According to the note accompanying this head, in
            1981 a sample was taken from the front inside of the neck, and
            subjected to thermoluminescent analysis at Daybreak Nuclear and
            Medical Systems Inc., in Connecticut. The median date for the firing
            of the terracotta was 1521 A.D.
            >
            > http://search.sothebys.com/jsps/live/lot/LotDetail.jsp?lot_id=4F7NN
            >
            >
            >
            > Lot 66, the (sorry no adjective in the catalog) Yoruba Gelede mask,
            estimate $5,000-$8,000, provenance - The Carl Monzino Collection.
            >
            >
            >
            > There were a couple of pieces in here from the Monzino collection
            (lot # 69 was as well) and I found this one to be my favorite. I
            liked your adjective to describe this piece – A rather cool Gelede
            mask. I thought it was rather cool myself, very unique. I was
            surprised at the low estimate, especially with the provenance.
            >
            >
            >
            > http://search.sothebys.com/jsps/live/lot/LotDetail.jsp?lot_id=4F7NP
            >
            >
            >
            > I also thought that lot 82, a Pende mask, estimate $12,000-$18,000,
            was a very nice piece along with the 2 Chokwe masks, lots 104 and
            105, estimates $15,000-20,000 and $25,00-$30,000 respectively.
            >
            >
            >
            > I found the (fine) Baule male figure, lot 45 estimate $7,000-
            $10,000, to be very nice in my opinion. I loved the detail and
            placement of the hands on the piece.
            >
            >
            >
            > I am curious as to people's thoughts on lot 51, a (fine) Baule male
            seated figure, estimate $20,000-$30,000. I didn't find the figure to
            be particularly "fine". I don't have much experience with Baule
            figures, but I found the hands to be a little strange and the square
            with scarification on the chest was also strange to me. Interested to
            see if anyone else has thoughts on this piece?
            >
            >
            >
            > Cheers,
            >
            > RAND
            >
            >
            > Craig Lewis <craig_n_emma@y...> wrote:
            >
            > Hi Rand,
            > Only had time to quickly look through the catalogue and I agree
            that
            > there are some nice pieces on there, my picks would be :-
            > lot 52 Senufo Helmet mask
            > lot 66 A rather cool Gelede mask
            > lot 76 an Igbo figure
            > lot 82 A Pende Mbuya mask (I have metioned my fondness for this
            type
            > of mask before so would almost always be in my "auction wish list"
            if
            > there is one available)
            > lot 101 A Luba figure
            > lot 115 a Makonde comb, never seen a comb like this before but I
            > think it is really something.
            > Theres also a couple of nice Chokwe masks (can't remember the lot
            > numbers)There are probably a few other pieces I'd like but only had
            a
            > quick glance so it would be interesting to see what other people
            pick.
            > Cheers
            > Craig
            >
            >
            > --- In African_Arts@yahoogroups.com, Rand African Art <rand@r...>
            > wrote:
            > > Hi all,
            > >
            > > I hope everyone is doing well. I know that we all are busy this
            > time of year. I have been busy with tax time and the good weather
            in
            > Colorado after the recent blizzard. I'm trying to get back into a
            > regular routine and devote a little more time and energy to African
            > art again.
            > >
            > > For those who subscribe to the Sotheby's African/Oceanic/Pre-
            > Columbian auction catalogs, you probably received it in the mail in
            > the last day or so or will be getting it soon. They have also
            posted
            > the catalog on their website so you can browse the listings.
            > >
            > > Here is the link to the May 12th auction catalog:
            > > http://search.sothebys.com/search/collArea/BrowseCat.jsp?
            >
            &source_indicator=E&event_id=27209&sale_number=N08095&event_name=Afric
            > an,%20Oceanic%20and%20Pre-Columbian%20Art
            > >
            > > or
            > >
            > > Browse Catalogue
            > >
            > > I'm interested to see what people's picks and thoughts are for
            this
            > auction. There weren't a lot of African items in the catalog, but
            > there were a few nice pices in my opinion.
            > > __________________________________
            > >
            > > Also, the Hamill Gallery of African Art in Boston is coming out
            > with a new exhibition this weekend and it is called ART OF THE
            DOGON.
            > Tim and Bobbi Hamill always do a great job with their exhibitions
            and
            > I will be anxious to see the catalogs once they get them online
            this
            > week.
            > >
            > > I have scanned the invitation postcard I received and the image
            and
            > text can be found at the following link:
            > >
            http://www.randafricanart.com/Hamill_Gallery_Current_Exhibition.html
            > >
            > > __________________________________________________
            > >
            > > Also, here is some information on the African art exhibit at
            > Queensborough Community College of from the collection of Gary
            > Schultze that starts May 15 and runs through September 1, 2005:
            > >
            > >
            > >
            >
            http://www.qcc.cuny.edu/artgallery/Programs/Exhibits/AfricanArt/descri
            > ption.asp
            > >
            > >
            > > Cheers!
            > > RAND
            > > www.randafricanart.com
            > >
            > >
            > >
            > >
            > > www.randafricanart.com
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            > ---------------------------------
            > Yahoo! Groups Links
            >
            > To visit your group on the web, go to:
            > http://groups.yahoo.com/group/African_Arts/
            >
            > To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
            > African_Arts-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com
            >
            > Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to the Yahoo! Terms of
            Service.
            >
            >
            >
            >
            > www.randafricanart.com
          • M.E.F.
            Lot 45 is what I would acquire if I could afford it right now. Margalit __________________________________________________ Do You Yahoo!? Tired of spam?
            Message 5 of 6 , Apr 20 12:35 PM
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              Lot 45 is what I would acquire if I could afford it right now. Margalit

              __________________________________________________
              Do You Yahoo!?
              Tired of spam? Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around
              http://mail.yahoo.com

            • leerubinstein
              Rand et al: Some obsessive-compulsive observations on the most recent Sotheby s catalogue and my birthday wish-list for those who like to shop early and give
              Message 6 of 6 , Apr 23 8:54 AM
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                Rand et al:



                Some obsessive-compulsive observations on the most recent Sotheby's
                catalogue and my birthday wish-list for those who like to shop early
                and give generously…



                The Catalogue of the May 12, 2005 Sotheby's Auction



                Of the 96 African lots included in the current auction, about a dozen
                were indeed offered through Sotheby Parke-Bernet in the 60's and
                70's; and another 8 or so are traced through J.J. Klejman (including
                the few from the Helen Benjamin collection) in lieu of in situ or
                more direct collection provenance. I, too, would have expected a
                little more "provenance" than the fact that they were previously sold
                either by Sotheby's or Klejman (although how I wish I had spent my
                childhood allowance at Klejman rather than on candy!). Perhaps there
                is more detailed information in the S P-B catalogues, so if anybody
                happens to have any of those old catalogues, I would be interested to
                know whether this is in fact the case. A few other galleries are
                well represented such as those of Pace Primitive and Dimondstein,
                whereas Merton Simpson is seemingly (and only indirectly) linked to
                one object in this particular sale after being more boldly associated
                in some manner with at least one significant offering in most recent
                Sotheby's auctions, it would seem.



                Generally speaking, this particular grouping lacks the extremely high-
                priced/high-profile objects that often anchor these auctions. So,
                perhaps there were exceptions made in order to generate a respectable
                number of mid-priced objects during a less than certain economic
                climate. Given the apparent absence (perhaps intentional omission)
                of "major" pieces, it would seem that the motivating factors
                underlying this auction might have been: 1) to offer first-time
                sales opportunities for objects not previously offered through
                Sotheby's for and/or to new or special clients and collectors
                (although most offering collectors are anonymous) and 2) to generate
                numerous smaller sales to create respectable revenues while also
                serving to bring more pieces into the circle of objects generally
                traded through the auction houses.



                It does appear generally that ethnographic information has been
                inserted to fill the void that is often dedicated to exhibition and
                publication histories, histories in which this Spring's auction lots
                seems to be lacking. While the ethnographic details are very much
                appreciated, I can't help but wonder whether these details are here
                intended to obscure the lack of verifiable provenance among the
                offerings. On the other hand, good information is good information;
                and I'll gather it anywhere that I can find it! Perhaps the benefit
                of these leaner seasons is that it promotes a shift of focus that is
                ultimately more educational than immediately commercial, reflecting a
                commitment to long-range planning rather than immediate impact). The
                catalogues, too, are generally so well produced and photographed. And
                this one is no exception save for a few minor typographical errors
                and bibliographical omissions.



                A close inspection of the African selections suggest the application
                of some marketing analysis with the break-down by group an almost
                mathematical reflection of general public interest in specific
                regional traditions although this appearance could be purely
                coincidental. Then again, included with my (each, I'm sure)
                catalogue was a flyer for Sotheby's Financial offering Loans Using
                Art Objects as Collateral so clearly the Marketing Department is at
                work. Also this article on art collection as investment strategy
                may be of interest to those people who are spending every spare
                nickel on art (or even those spending within their projected
                budgets):
                http://www.artnet.com/newsletter/related_pages/virtualexhibition405a.a
                sp



                Back to the catalogue:



                Perennial (or semi-annual) stylistic favorites including Bamana
                objects – 13, including 5 Tji Wara including one collected by F-H Lem
                (Sculptures Soudanaises), Dogon -- 10 objects ranging from masks and
                doors to Tellem and N'duleri figures, 7 Senufo and 7 Baule pieces
                make up nearly 2/5 or almost 40% (37 of 96) of all African lots
                offered. 32 additional traditions are represented by between one and
                four objects offered from each tradition. The second-tier in
                emphasis of particular traditions -- with four objects offered from
                each -- are Yoruba, Makonde, Dan and Igbo (again suggestive of pretty
                clear market demand!).



                These mathermatical musings are not meant to indicate by any means
                that I don't find a great number of the objects very appealing AND
                more affordable than usual, although the delectations of this auction
                are still more than I generally can afford or am inclined to spend.
                I enjoy eating too much…every day even...and my (Kuba) cup runneth
                over at the moment with barely an inch to place another object!



                But if I have to pick some show-stoppers, I would have to go with…



                Firstly, #31, Dogon N'duleri Male Figure If the Dogon offerings
                provide a core of interest in any sale of African objects, this
                figure is a good emissary to promote the persistence of that
                interest. One of the reasons for such interest in the Dogon works
                lies in the extreme stylistic diversity of this captivating cultural,
                geographical and artistic complex that is the Dogon… I find it
                interesting, though, that the forgiving and accepting allowance of
                impression rather than fact in establishing a piece's credentials in
                this catalogue -- a catalogue so filled with references to related
                pieces in lieu of exhibition and publication histories (thus, the
                lower average price point and the birth of newly "provenanced" pieces
                if these objects sell!) -- is offered early on, specifically in the
                short text accompanying Lot #27 – more a statement of philosophy than
                a description. In "describing" an example of Dogon Monkey Mask
                referred to as "Fine" and "from a Belgian Private Collection," the
                authors designate "related examples" (the real stars of this year's
                show) and then proceed as follows:



                "The range of carving style of the black monkey mask is vast,
                explained perhaps in part by the diverse geographic origin but more
                importantly by the capacity for invention of the Dogon sculptors
                themselves."(p. 31.)



                It is a true statement indeed on all counts – geographical variation
                and personal artistry -- but these disclaimers hardly set the stage
                for presentation of anything approximating scientific proof. Nor
                does the closing pronouncement regarding the mask's "worn and eroded
                surface" as "a testment[sic] to its age." (p.31.) Suggestive
                perhaps, but conclusive?



                The climate is indeed forgiving and welcoming…and I do agree that
                there is greater value in the openness that leads to consideration of
                stylistic variations along the vast and impressive geography of the
                Bandiagara region of Mali as well as the fascinating if seemingly
                impenetrable (or regionally diverse) interpretations and variations
                on cosmogonical premises among villages within this awe-inspiring
                culture amid a breath-taking and challenging terrain…which leads us
                back to Lot #31, the N'duleri figure. The "provenance" of this piece
                beyond its attribution to a "New York Private Collection" is
                generated through the related examples. Unfortunately, in this
                particular instance, reference is made to the rare and costly (but
                oh, so desirable) Statuaire Dogon (Dogon Statuary) by Helene Leloup,
                which is, alas, not readily accessible. But the diversity of styles
                and the ability to trace their correspondence to specific regions and
                villages throughout the Bandiagara region is among the features of
                this range of objects that has led numerous impassioned collectors
                (e.g., Wunderman) to devote themselves solely to the Dogon artifacts
                to the exclusion of all others.



                Personally, I am more enthused by the presentation of objects
                supported by the identification of specific geographical coordinates
                from which the origin of objects can be logically traced than by the
                listing of key publications and exhibitions in which like objects
                have been presented. Thus, the description provided for Lot #34 --
                Bamana Headcrest is illuminating as it directs the viewer to
                recognize the various regional styles of Bamana artistry . This line
                of investigation into the distinct styles within Bamana tradition is
                pursued and/or visible further in Lots 40-44, a diverse grouping of
                Bamana Tji Wara "Antelope Headdresses." Such comparisons of types
                within related forms through a range of geography can yield insights
                and revelations into the local character that may be seen to adhere
                to specific objects, when these objects are treated as very real
                signposts leading to specific places and events of which these
                objects remain as traces of specific cultural realities and
                historical moments.



                Interestingly, the entry for Lot #39 Boli (Bamana, Kono Association,
                Power Figure) , which naturally precedes Lots 40-44, once again
                offers a definition but nary a description for the most part – in
                this case of the Boli figure which has been preceded by a
                presentation on Bamana Iron Work that again generally seems to
                introduce general knowledge combined with undisclosed "private
                sources" (of various nationalities) as an alchemical mixture from
                which to turn a relatively unknown object into a valuable,
                provenanced one by presenting them within a well-photographed, highly
                glossy presentation.



                Where provenance is offered and involves objects which were collected
                by – not necessarily from the collection of – some seminal figures in
                20th century African Art literature, I must admit that while I
                consider the recent ownership not so compelling as the consideration
                of indigenous cultural symbolism associated with or illustrated
                through (on various levels) African objects, there is something
                endearing and seductive about a figure gather by Lem Lot #44 – an ex.
                Helena Rubinstein Tji Wara to boot!) or Himmelheber (Lot #54 – the
                Dan Spoon from the "Belgian Private Collection" ex. The Himmelheber
                Family Collection).



                But beside the N'duleri, the only other Lot that really seduces me is
                Lot #52 -- Senufo Helmet Mask . Again, this is from a "Belgian
                Private Collection" and the entry offers "related examples" and some
                geographical-regional variation details on the form but no specific
                provenance. Generally, the discussion, while interesting indeed
                remains very general and does not seem rooted in any real knowledge
                of the piece itself but once again avails itself an opportunity to
                educate and offer a class of objects to the collector/buyer that is
                indeed worthy but raises questions regarding which (and whose)
                objects are included in such a sales event. This is yet another
                beautiful, but unproven, object in search of a provenance. I love
                the mask's uniqueness, even a whimsicality and a nonchalance of
                figure (and symmetry, I might observe) juxtaposed with a simple
                helmet – "…dome-shaped…with a square opening to the front…" The adze
                marks on the helmet and the wonderful figure atop it combine to form
                a striking object indeed, made even more intriguing and human by its
                lack of precision and symmetry! An additional ellipsis of factual
                knowledge appears to me in the closing statement:



                "The rarity of these masks is suggested not only by the few early
                examples that are published, but also by their use – that they were
                only brought out for the `Great Funeral'…" (p.54).



                I see the logic of the point that an object would be less frequently
                produced when used only at 4- or 5-year intervals; however, this is
                merely a logical premise and not a proven theorem with regard to
                verifying authenticity. Indeed, the rarity of the object could also
                be derived from other equally (and even more) feasible explanations,
                such as the more established fact of the specifically regional
                character of the particular mask form, which, however, do not serve
                the desired purpose of attesting to (in fact, merely suggest the
                possibility of or hope for) the piece's authenticity. In other
                words, I'm not certain how an object's rarity can sometimes be used
                as proof of authenticity when such a fact of rarity may as easily be
                used to serve the purpose of discrediting such an assumption of
                authenticity. But again, coming from (and being sold on behalf of)
                a "Belgian Private Collection," there are agendas at work here that
                are not included in the description or the estimated value. This
                calls to mind the "Rare" Kuba Female Figure (*Lot #126, pp146-7.)
                from a private European collection (specified on-line but not in the
                printed catalogue) that grossed $39,000 with Buyer's Premium at the
                November 11, 2004* New York auction "described" as follows:

                Sculptures of female figures are rare among the Kuba,
                and there is little documented information as to how they were used.
                Vansina (1978: 212) speculates that they 'were used in the late
                nineteenth century by the central Kuba...[and] employed during boys'
                initiation.'

                Torday (1910: 281, figure 397) described the meaning of various Kuba
                coiffures. In comparison, it seems likely that the coiffure depicted
                on this figure was worn by a woman who was pregnant for the first
                time. Undoubtedly, this would have been considered a very important
                and symbolic reference, especially in the context of a male
                initiation ceremony.

                Cf. Roy (1992: 146, figure 100) for a related figure from the Stanley
                Collection. (2004, p.146.)

                The details are fascinating and inspire further investigation but do
                not to my mind convince me that these objects' rarity provides proof
                of their authenticity or value. Perhaps they are merely mis-
                identified or prematurely classified based on insufficient
                information. In any case, I cannot help but question the specific
                instances (this auction's Senufo Helmet or the November 11, 2004
                Kuba) wherein the benefits of doubt are seemingly offered in a
                setting where such benefit is not uniformly offered or applied. If
                rarity offered sufficient grounds for value, then each unique piece
                would be deserving of such; and specific provenances would become
                superfluous to basic research and comparison studies of known works
                and general ethnography. Rather, though, in these cited cases, the
                generally published requirements of provenance have been fulfilled by
                the hidden presence of an unnamed owner and the willingness to extend
                these research/reference links cum provenance as a part of the client
                services package. Such courtesies in the global marketplace do not
                diminish the aesthetic values that the objects may indeed possess or
                the appreciation they may indeed deserve but simply locates them
                within a socio-economic milieu wherein the objects of one demarcated
                group are transferred to members of another defined (albeit
                anonymously) group, defined by factors quite dissimilar from those
                that linked the members of the group that previously possessed the
                objects and instilled them with their original values. As such, the
                objects and their meanings and values associated with them are
                continually transformed as the pieces travel through time, space,
                cultures and ideologies.



                Another ambiguity that is at once acknowledged and dismissed is that
                regarding alleged authorship or signature attributed to like but
                untraceable objects as a means of generating a provenance where it
                cannot be firmly attributed. Lot #58 is a Senufo Male Torso which
                has been linked through similarity to provenanced, published pieces
                the characteristics of which – are "…almost certainly by the same
                hand, or atelier" and "point to the hand of a single carver." (P.60)
                I do not dispute the similarities nor disagree with the research
                methods but long for a clearer understanding of the instances
                wherein, once more, these generosities are applied. Is there some
                overlapping of pure and distinctive form? Or…is there some
                overlapping of economic and social interests that prompt the
                generosity of these attributions? When do we err on the side of
                caution; when do we not?



                Politics and economic aside…finally…I can say that many of the pieces
                are aesthetically pleasing and ethnographically interesting. Among
                the many objects that I could enjoy are:

                Lot #57 -- Senufo Staff (the deterorated binding!)

                Lot #64 -- Senufo Helmet Mask (Intriguing Form!)

                Lot #66 -- Yoruba Gelede Mask (the upper construction!)

                Lot #70 -- Igbo Mask (the abstract form and the surface details!)

                Lot #74 Mambila Helmet Mask(bold and enigmatic indeed!)

                Lot #75 -- Ijo Headdress(Just fascinating geometry!)

                Lot #81 -- Pende Stool (Exquisite erosion!)

                Lot #85 -- Ngbaka Mask(simple yet detailed with a patina…oy!)

                Lot #90 -- Kete Mask(Compelling geometry and expression!)

                Lot #112 -- Mossi Lidded Container (Brilliant form, bold AND
                whimsical)

                Lots #114-118 4 Makonde objects --

                (a wonderful comb plus 3 delightful pieces "Collected by Henrique de
                Brion…between 1914 and 1918. The comb was not from the same original
                collection but, hey, why break up the set?)



                Incidentally, twenty-six (26) of the African lots are described
                as "Fine" with an additional five (5) "Fine and Rare " (or "Rare and
                Fine") and five (5) merely "Rare" (but not necessarily "Fine"?). Six
                (6) Lots have been deemed "Superb." My birthday is in October for
                those who wish to make this coming Birthday a "Fine, Rare and/or
                Superb" Day"!



                Any other thought or interest on this catalogue and/or group of
                objects?



                By the way, my web-site is under construction and will be coming
                soon. Lee
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