Tribal Art Auctions News - December 2010

Sothebys, Paris African and Oceanic Art - Sale PF1028 - 11/30/10
Sale Total: 8,508,625 euros 101 lots of which 76 sold leaving unsold lots at approximately 28% unsold. This sale had a number of fine pieces all of which paled in cmparison to the Luba Buli stool that sold for 5,440,750 euros which is just over $7,000,000. You may recall that the only single object that sold for this much at a public auction was the Fang mask that sold in Paris in the Verite sale several years ago.


Christie's Paris  - Six Masterpieces of African Art from the Kahane Collection - Sale 5618  12/1/10
Sale Total - 3,176,000 euros. All lots sold . A rare and great brass covered Baule mask sold for 983,400 euros ($1,282,624)

Christie's Paris - African and Oceanic Art - Sale 5612 12/1/10
Sale Total - 939,250 euros. 80 lots of which 44 sold  leaving unsold lots of approximately 45%

Heritage Auction, New York - Pre-Columbian Art  - Sale 6056 - 12/5/10
Sale Total - $427,229.23. 396 lots of which 228 sold leaving unsold lots of approximately 42%

Heritage Auction, New York - American Indian Art - Sale 6051 - 12/3/10
Sale Total - $364,203.56. 390 lots of which 292 sold leaving unsold lots of approxiately 25%

Sothebys, Paris A New York Collection, African Art - Sale PF1041 - 11/30/10
Sale Total - 3,311,100 euros 49 lots of which 40 sold leaving unsold lots at approximately 18%. A superb small Songe figure9 1/2" in height sold for 144,750 euros. Lot 11 was a Ngbandi spoon that sold for 168,750 euros which three times the estimate. A 34 2/3" Mumuye figure sold for 156,750 euros which iscertainly a record for this type of Mumuye figure. (Note I believe the Jack Naiman Mumuye sold for considerably more). 

Bonhams, New York African, Oceanic, and Pre-Columbian Art - Sale 18631 11/11/10
The total lots in this sale was 356 of which 202 sold leaving unsold lots at approximately 43%

Bonhams, San Francisco - American Indian Art - Sale 18407 12/6/10
The total lots in this sale was 288 of which 219 sold leaving unsold lots at approximately 24%. One of te highlights of this sale was a Hopi canteen attributed to Nampeyo that was estimated to sell between $20,000 and $40,000. It sold to the highgest bidder for $164,000. In this previous lot a Nampeyo jar 13 1/2" in diameter exceed the estimate of $60,000 - $90,000 by selling for $350,000.  An interesting and somewhat unusual quilled shirt attributed by Benson Lanford to the Northern Sioux sold for $170,000.  Both Benson and Skinners carefully avoided assigning a date to this object which seemed curious and maybe relevant.

Zoller, Zurich African Auction 29 November 2010
The total lots in this sale was 218 of which 90 sold leaving  unsold lots at approximately 59%


The big winner for this fall auction season was Sothebys who not only topped their rivals in total gross sales but also in their low percentage of unsold lots. And Dallas based Heritage looking to make a statement entering the New York tribal market in their new facilities on 78th St in Manhatten  unfortunately miscalculated the market and failed to impress buyers with this offering. If you look at Bonhams they apparently learned Skinner's lesson by having reasonable to low reserves. Bonhams knew they had winners in their two Nampeyo pots; however, they remained conservative and came up big winners with brisk bidding. Pre-sale estimates have been compared with verbal approximations of value provided by appraisers. Clearly this example against demonstrates that the savy auction house can use pre-sale estimates as an important tool in manipulating the market.