Barbier - Mueller Pre-Columbian, Sothebys March 22nd

PARIS MARCH 2013: I have written several times about this collection which now is just weeks away from being sold in Paris. As I have watched the press releases it seems apparent that this even is drawing worldwide attention. The two focal points of the sale seem to be the great Chupicuaro figure which at 28" is monumental by any standards. The fact that this "Grande Venus"(Lot 137)  is also in great condition, has a superb collection history, and is masterpiece might well be enough to justify the reserve of 2,000,000 to 3,000,000 euros. One can only speculate as to whether this price range will seem reasonable to any major institutions or whether it might find a home in the private sector.  It's difficult not to hope that it winds up in an institution where the price of admissions guarantees visiting rights. The other object which has been heavily promoted by Sothebys is the flying Tarascan duck (Lot 160). This wonderful ceramic also has a collection history that complies wit the new guidelines followed by US museums as written and amended in January 29, 2013 by AAMD (Alliance of American Museum Directors). It is the cover piece on the Barbier catalogue.

The auction sale will be regarded in the company of Helena Rubenstein (Sothebys 1966), Goldet (Sothebys 2006) Verite (Sothebys) and other single owner sales with distinguished and very expensive objects. The Barbier sale is unique in that it is the first single owner Pre-Columbian sale of this quality. At a time when collectors and institutions alike are worried about UNESCO, ICOM, and UNIDROIT it is also the first offering with a significant number of objects that have been documented to have acquired prior to November 1970.

If you are accustomed to the order of past Pre-Columbian catalogs, get ready to be confused by the chaos of presenting objects with no apparent rationale. Lot 159 is an anthropomorphic urn from the Amazon Basin. Lot 160 is our flying Tarascan duck (AD 1200 - 1521)  from Michoacan Mexico. Lot 161 is a seated Veracruz figure dating 600 - 900 AD. The entire catalog jumps from country to country and time period to time period. Maybe not a big deal but if you are trying to find an object, it can make you a little nuts.