Tribal Art Auction Update December 2009




Sothebys Paris - Arts d'Afrique at d'Oceanie December 3, 2009
Depending on who you talk to this sale was either an unqualified success or an unpredictable mixed message for the curators, collectors, and art dealers seeking to find a sign for 2010. Out of 112 lots 44 failed to sell. But there certainly were some high flyers that far exceeded expectations. The haunting Hunstein mountains Sepik mask from the Friede collection and a Carbon 14 date between the 14th and 15th centuries sold for 324,750 euros with an estimate of 130,000 to 180,000 euros. Friede's Korowari figure in Lot 22 also exceeded the estimate by selling for 240,750 euros. The superb Korowari figure in lot 27 also from the Friede collection sold beyond the estimate at 138,750 euros. Louis Perrois called the Punu mask in lot 88 a late 19th century masterpiece and it sold in the middle of the estimate at 264,750 euros. A 15" Kongo/Vili possible mid 19th century fetish also sold for 264,750 euros with an estimate of 70,000 to 100,000. Undoubtedly the star of the show was the very well know Duperrier Bamana mask from Rubin's MOMA Primitivism exhibition in 1984. Sothebys saw the upper limit on this mask at 400,000 euros. It sold for 1,408,750 euros. So there certainly were some great successes in this sale. Too bad some great objects like the Arussi figure (Lot 112) and the Dogon figure (Lot 46) were passed and that many objects were included in the sale that probably did not belong.

Bonhams and Butterfield, Sale 17539, Native American Art, 14 Dec 2009.
This sale was a large with Bonhams offering 628 lots of Native American Indian art. Approximately 26% or 165 lots were bought in. I suspect that in a general sense Bonhams was somewhat disappointed in this sale. However, there were some great Northwest Coast pieces some of which exceeded the high estimates by a considerable margin. Even in this strange market I actually expected two of these grease dishes to do even better than they did. The Haida frontlet also exceeded the high estimate by selling for $146,000. The early Mohawk shirt illustrated in lot 4529 and estimated to sell between $200,000 and $300,000 failed to meet the reserve. There also were some very interesting historic pottery in this sale. Again some pieces did well while others either failed to meet the low estimate or sold with the estimate. The Kiua storage jar (22" in height) was estimated to sell between $30,000 and $40,000 and sold for $115,900 with the commission. In the last several Indian sales the dealers have been active and successful in picking up bargains passed by hesitant collectors. It will be interesting to see what pops up from this sale in the coming months at the shows and in the magazine advertisements.


Monbrison cataloged Encheres Rive Gauche sale December 2, 2009 feature Oceanic and African art from the collections of Armand Charles and Leon Folks. We will review this in next month's newsletter. There were some very interesting and unusual objects in this sale that to us seemed to have very low reserves.

African Ivories Pierre Bergé & Associés Brussels, 9 December 09 - A number of our subscribers have asked for information on this sale that included a number of important African ivories. To date we have been unable to get the catalog or price list. We were subscribers but like many European based auction houses you can be on the list today and then off tomorrow. We will pursue this.