If asked to “categorize” Murray Frum in a “typology” of collectors, my response would be that he was one of the most rarefied. Murray was a highly individual collector which is in many ways, perhaps what endeared him to so many of us.
His ever-present and insatiable curiosity for knowledge and information, his essential passion for art and history, his astute ability to assess what was quintessential, combined with his highly discriminating and exquisite taste level, put him in a place that one could only describe as exceptional. While today many collectors often rely on the services of professional art advisors, it is impossible to even fathom Murray ever seeking this type of advice; he relied on the advice of his heart, his soul, his own gut instinct and his eye. At the same time, it is hard to imagine a conversation with Murray when art was not included, nor could one imagine Murray anywhere in the world and ever missing an exhibition, a great piece of theatre, music or any site that was worthwhile to see. An insatiable traveller, Murray was continually looking, asking questions, acquiring knowledge about works already in his possession as well as learning
about new areas of interest and often acquiring works related to it.
In the fields of American Indian, African and Oceanic art many will recall that the decades of the 1970’s and 1980’s were a time of transition. Perhaps, part of the catalyst may have been the coming of age of one generation of collectors and the dispersion of their holdings. These sales enticed and allowed professional dealers, institutions and both established and new private collectors to meet and enter an arena where the excitement of competitive bidding often made for compelling theatre as well as record-breaking prices. For example, in the late 1970’s, the well-known and highly regarded collector George Ortiz sold his collection of world-class Oceanic Art at Sotheby’s London, a sale that generated tremendous international interest not only in the art community but also in the international press. This landmark auction was soon followed by the
2. PARIS - Sothebys.com
Total : € 7.53 million / $9.74 million 100% of lots sold
New world auction records include
Uli Memorial Figure, New Ireland – €1.6 million / $2 million
Maori statue, New Zealand - €1.4 million / $1.8 million
14 works sold over €100,000
3 works sold over €1 million
Paris, 16 September 2014 : This evening’s sale at Sotheby’s Paris of Murray Frum’s
collection of Oceanic Art was greeted with lengthy applause, confirming its place as the
landmark event which launched the Paris auction season. The record result achieved by the
sale is a triumphant homage to the exceptional eye of Murray Frum, who over the course of
fifty years brought together one of the world’s most beautiful collections of Oceanic Art,
combining extremely rare pieces of remarkable quality with historical provenance. With an
auction total of €7,530,838, almost $10 million, this ensemble of just 49 works set a new
world auction record for a sale of Oceanic art and confirms Sotheby’s position as leader in
Speaking after the sale, Jean Fritts, Sotheby’s International Director of the African and Oceanic Art Department commented: “This event is the most important in 40 years to focus entirely on Oceanic art. This evening’s result offers recognition of Murray Frum’s eye. It sets
a new reference point in this field and inscribes Oceanic Art as a new area for collecting, beyond conventional boundaries.” The highest price achieved this evening was for a monumental uli carving from New
Ireland. This ancestral image of a powerful clan leader, which includes a rare secondary character, achieved the world auction record for an Uli art work, selling for €1,609,500 ($2,082,194). Collected before 1908 by Wilhelm Wöstrack, the uli passed into the collection
of the Linden Museum in Stuttgart, belonged to the early German collector in this field, Ernst Heinrich, and later to the Swiss surrealist painter and sculptor Serge Brignoni. The major work from Polynesia was a pou whakairo Maori statue – whose imposing face stands out all the more thanks to the beauty of his tattoos and added hair – considered as
the apogee of Maori art. Dating back to the late 18th century, it was acquired by a European
collector for €1,441,500 ($1,864,854), a world auction record for Maori work. It takes its
place in the very small corpus of free-standing Maori figures.
Among the other standout Polynesian pieces being offered today was a magnificent
which sold for €1,201,500 ($1,554,369). Formerly in the James Hooper collection, the Frum
staff god is one of the few examples to have survived the destruction carried out by John
Williams of the London Missionary Society in the 1820s.
A striking example of imunu sculpture by the Iwaino people of Papua New Guinea achieved €373,500 ($483,193), exceeding the pre-sale high estimate of €250,000. This magnificent example of the dancing spirit figures created in the Gulf of Papua is without
equal both in sculptural quality and the expressiveness of the gesture. Connoisseurs could not fail to see the remarkable quality of an important figurative
fly whisk handle, tahiri ra’a, a masterpiece of small scale carving from the Rurutu Islands or Tupua’i, Austral Islands. Having caught the eye of many collectors, it was acquired for more than triple its pre-sale high estimate: €337,500 ($436,620). The sculpture
has a distinguished history, probably collected by a member of the London Missionary Society in the 1820s.
Dr Murray Frum (1931-2013)
Murray Frum was a Canadian real estate developer. His parents had emigrated to Canada from
Poland in 1930, and he grew up in Canada. It was a visit to New York in the late 1950s to the
Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York that sparked his passion for collecting. During this visit, he
was able to buy a duplicate Egyptian standing figure from the Met's collection. The idea
for Murray and his wife that you could own a work of art which was several hundred years old was
astonishing. Over the next fifty years, he assembled an extraordinarily diverse collection of African,
Oceanic, Pre-Columbian, Silver, Art Deco, and Renaissance art as well as Canadian paintings.
Upcoming auctions of African Art at Sotheby’s
This winter Sotheby’s will host two important collections from both sides of the Atlantic. On the 11th of November in New York, we will offer for sale the Myron Kunin collection of African Art. On the 10th of December, Sotheby’s Paris will present the Alexis Bonew collection of African Art, centering on works from the former Congo and featuring several historical pieces unseen in public since 1937.
3. PARIS - Sothebys results Murray Frum Collection
Murray Frum’s collection of Oceanic Art sold at Sotheby’s in Paris yesterday. All 49 lots were purchased for a total of $9.4m. The pre-sale exhibition had drawn a healthy 2300 visitors and there were records set as well as 3 works making more than €1m.