The New York County Public Administrator, which serves as fiduciary of the Simpson estate, confirmed Quinn’s appointment and said the proceeds will “directly benefit Mr. Simpson’s estate.”
With an acclaimed eye for spotting exceptional art and a career as an art dealer that spanned more than 50 years, Merton D. Simpson was one of the world’s most respected African and tribal art dealers. He was instrumental in helping individuals and institutions around the world to build comprehensive, historically significant collections. He was also a gifted artist in his own right and an early member of the Spiral group, a collective of black artists founded in 1963 by Romare Bearden, Hale Woodruff and others.
The 2,000+ pieces to be auctioned consist of artworks and rare tribal relics from Simpson’s personal collection, as well as selections from the New York art gallery he operated, and some of his own works.
With his passion for collecting African art and artifacts, Merton Simpson enlightened the public with an otherwise untapped perspective of a continent with diverse and rich cultures and traditions. The mystery behind some of those traditions was unraveled by Simpson’s uncompromising desire to document and collect art and artifacts that otherwise would have remained obscure.
Quinn’s Executive Vice President Matthew Quinn said Simpson had maintained extensive archives documenting his acquisitions as far back as the 1960s. “It’s one of the most impressive archives of its type that I’ve ever seen,” Quinn said.
“Quinn’s is known for selling entire collections, with care and respect. Because of the historical importance of the Simpson collection, we hired John Buxton of Arttrak to serve as our auction consultant,” Quinn continued. “John has an impeccable reputation as a specialist in his field and will be evaluating each and every item in the two sales.”
Detailed information about the October 1 auction’s contents will be included in a preview press release to be issued in September.
2. LONDON.- This autumn the British Museum will host the first major UK exhibition on South African art that explores a 100,000 history through archaeological, historic and contemporary artworks, which look at the long and rich artistic heritage of the country. South Africa: the art of a nation is sponsored by Jack and Betsy Ryan and will use art to tell the story of the region’s deep history, the colonial period, apartheid, the birth of the ‘rainbow nation’ and South Africa today. Objects from the British Museum’s own South African collections will be displayed alongside contemporary acquisitions. There will also be significant loans in the exhibition, including objects coming to the UK for the very first time, thanks to the exhibition’s logistics partner IAG Cargo.
The exhibition will shed light on the varied artistic achievements of South Africa with around 200 objects arranged chronologically across seven key episodes from the country’s history, from ancient history to the present day. Each section is illustrated with artworks by contemporary artists that provide new perspectives regarding South Africa’s past. One example of this approach is a new acquisition that the British Museum has made to its permanent collection for this exhibition, Karel Nel’s ‘Potent fields’ (2002). Nel created ‘Potent Fields’, with its two planes of red and white ochre, in the same year as the discovery of the approximately 75,000 year old cross-hatched ochre at Blombos Cave in the Western Cape. This discovery repositioned southern Africa, not Europe, as one of the earliest sites of artistic thought and creation. The tension in the piece between white and coloured planes echoes the colour divide of apartheid. Nel collected the ochre in Nelson Mandela’s ancestral lands in the Eastern Cape, and so the artwork also acknowledges the balance that Mandela dedicated his life trying to create among all people in post-apartheid South Africa.
One of the most significant loans is the gold treasures of Mapungubwe, four of which are leaving South Africa for the very first time. From AD 1220 to 1290 Mapungubwe was the capital of the first kingdom in southern Africa. These gold figures, discovered in three royal graves there, are among the most significant sculptures in Africa today. They depict animals of high status – a cow, a wild cat and a rhinoceros, and objects associated with power – a sceptre and a bowl or crown. The only one of the Mapungubwe treasures to have travelled to the UK before is a gold bowl which underwent conservation work at the British Museum. The golden rhino is now the symbol of the Order of Mapungubwe, South Africa's highest honour that was first presented in 2002 to Nelson Mandela.
The gold treasures of Mapungubwe are evidence of new developments in artistic production at the start of the second millennium around the time of the creation of the first southern African kingdoms, as society shifted towards more hierarchical styles of rule. These archaeological artworks are important in contemporary South Africa for many reasons, not least because they are evidence that complex societies existed in the region immediately prior to the arrival of European settlers. This history was hidden during the apartheid era when the colonial concept of ‘terra nullius’, the myth of an empty land, was used to legitimise white rule. In the exhibition, gold treasures of Mapungubwe will be displayed alongside a modern artwork by Penny Siopis and a sculpture by Owen Ndou that encourage the viewer to challenge the historic assumptions of the colonial and apartheid eras.
The British Museum has been collecting contemporary African art for over 20 years, and this exhibition presents an opportunity to showcase some of the pieces acquired from South African artists. A recent acquisition to the British Museum’s permanent collection is a stunning 2 metre wide textile ‘The Creation of the Sun’ (2015), a collaborative piece from Bethesda Arts Centre in South Africa. The artists at the centre are descendants of South Africa’s first peoples, San|Bushmen and Khoekhoen who have been inspired by archival recordings of their ancestors’ beliefs to produce contemporary representations of their founding stories, such as the creation of the sun.
South Africa has a dynamic contemporary art scene with a rapidly growing global reputation. A variety of contemporary works are coming on loan to the British Museum from a self-portrait by Lionel Davis’ to video featuring Candice Breitz, and a 3D installation by Mary Sibande. These pieces conclude a show punctuated throughout with pieces by artists including Willie Bester, William Kentridge and Santu Mofokeng. This exhibition will open the eyes of visitors to the long and diverse history of South African art. Through the exploration of key episodes and objects from throughout the country’s history, it will reveal unique insights into South Africa today.
Hartwig Fischer, Director of the British Museum said South Africa: the art of a nation is a chance to explore the long and diverse history of South African art and challenge audience preconceptions in the way our visitors have come to expect from a British Museum exhibition. Temporary exhibitions of this nature are only possible thanks to external support so I am hugely thankful to Betsy and Jack Ryan’s continuing commitment to sponsoring projects at the British Museum. I would also like to express my gratitude to our Logistics partner IAG Cargo who are safely transporting incredible loans that will allow audiences in London to see the unique and powerful stories these objects can tell.”
3. BERLIN.- Dada is 100 years old. The Dadaists and their artistic articulations were a significant influence on 20th-century art. Marking this centenary, the exhibition “Dada Africa. Dialogue with the Other” is the first to explore Dadaist responses to non-European cultures and their art. It shows how frequently the Dadaists referenced non-Western forms of expression in order to strike out in new directions. The springboard for this centenary project was Dada’s very first exhibition at Han Coray’s gallery in Zurich. It was called “Dada. Cubistes. Art Nègre”, and back in 1917 it displayed works of avant-garde and African art side by side. In five sections, “Dada Africa” broadens the focus on this dialogue between Dadaist output and African, Asian, American and Oceanic artefacts. The exhibition and catalogue were created in partnership with Museum Rietberg in Zurich.
Reacting to the First World War, Dada challenged bourgeois norms and cultural values to the core. Forms of artistic expression had to change radically. The art and culture of “non-Europe” was seen as offering a coherent alternative. Breaking with the aesthetic past was associated by the Dadaists with the idea of social renewal. Expressionists and Cubists had already taken an interest in the formal elements of non-European artefacts in their quest to develop a new visual vocabulary. The Dadaists went beyond this by merging what was seen as “the Other” with home-grown formats. Marcel Janco drew, for example on objects from Cameroon to make his Dada pictures and masks. Sophie Taeuber-Arp, for her part, was struck by the expressive power of indigenous works from North America and Southern Africa. Tristan Tzara took literary cues for his “Poèmes nègres” from African and Australian texts, while Hugo Ball borrowed input from Oceania for his richly creative use of materials.
The Dadaists launched their assault on conventional views of art with cross-genre performances consisting of music, text and dance. The pseudo-African sound poems, the rhythmic drumming and the masked dances – spontaneous, vibrant and primal – were intended to shock the audience and to overcome the divide between the show and its audience. At the same time, the “primitive” flavour tested the minds and bodies of the performers to their limits. The exhibition retraces these enactments with the aid of historical photographs, documents and acoustic specimens.
Hannah Höch’s collages from her series “From an Ethnographic Museum” are another distillation point in this exhibition. In works with a grotesque feel, the Dada artist combines depictions of non-Western artefacts with others of “white” physicality. Now these collages are displayed alongside the original objects from Africa, Asia and Oceania, still in the Museum Rietberg collection, from which Höch borrowed her motifs – just one example of the unusually fruitful collaboration between two institutions with very different profiles.
The exhibition describes a historical situation. Wherever use is made of racist and colonialist terms such as “primitive”, “negro” or “nègre”, they are taken from historical quotations and have been placed in inverted commas. In the early 20th century, these concepts were applied to societies in Africa and also Oceania, which were regarded as primeval.
Artists: Approx. 120 works (collage, assemblage, masks, sculptures, documentary material, photographic reproductions, sound installations) from Africa, Oceania and Asia, the Master of Buafle, as well as Hans Arp, Johannes Baader, Carl Einstein, George Grosz, Heinz Harald, John Heartfield, Raoul Hausmann, Erich Heckel, Hannah Höch, Richard Huelsenbeck, Marcel Janco, Man Ray, Hans Richter, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Robert Sennecke, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Tristan Tzara.