TRIBAL AUCTIONS Spring/Summer 2017

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1. BRUSSELS, Bruno Classens Feberuary 2017 Auction ‘surprise’ of the day: a rediscovered Maori flute (putorino)
These last few days there was a lot of buzz in the air in the circles of collectors and dealers in Maori art. Did you hear about this previously unknown flute in a small UK auction? Of course one did! Thanks to the well-consulted live online auction site The saleroom even the smallest British auction house (in this case in the small village of Haslemere, Surrey) now can reach a global audience. Even if mislabeled, so many aficionados are browsing these sales, that no sleeper stays unnoticed. Estimated at only £50-100, this masterpiece was bound to make a top price.
A few were somewhat skeptical about this offering. Surely it should be clear, even to the untrained eye, this is not a pipe. A one second google search would make that very obvious. They got the culture right, at least. In my view, just five minutes on google would eventualy end at the beautiful Maori flute we sold at Christie’s Paris last year. So, the auctioneers, or didn’t do their homework – but why then illustrating the lot with so many professional pictures ? – or did know the object would make what it is worth anyway and hoped to generate a lot of extra buzz with the low estimate. It did work if that was the case, as this exceptional Maori flute sold for £140,000 (without premium) this afternoon. With costs, the total price is around £180,000 or € 210,000 ($ 225,000). This might sound as a lot of money compared with the estimate, but in fact this still is a very good price for it and I’m sure we’ll see it again sooner or later.
Now, you’re probably wondering how these flutes sound like ? Well, you can hear (and see) Richard Nunns play an early 19th century putorino form the Oldman collection below..

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 2.  PARIS.- The auction house Binoche and Giquello, auctioned off an American collection of pre-Colombian works of art, March 31. The sale totaled 3 million euros, which is twice its estimate. During two hours, collectors from around the globe battled to obtain one of the sixty masterpieces out of the sixty-eight lots offered.
The queen of the auction, the Venus Callipyge of Chupicuaro led the sale. The winning bid came on the phone, double her estimate, at 285 750 €. This Venus is similar to one preserved in the Musée du Quai Branly - Jacques Chirac, of which she is now the muse. By style and size, these two Venuses are sisters, certainly coming from the same workshop. The last owner purchased it in 2008. (Lot N°48)
Among the finest auctions, these works are particularly memorable:
• A standing figure carved in gray-green diorite, from the Chantal culture, State of Guerrero, Mexico, was sold for 266,700 €. The work is dated around 300-100 BC, corresponding to the recent pre-classical period. It is suitable for the Merrin collection in New York. (Lot N°24)
• An anthropomorphic mask of the Teotihuacan culture, on the high central plateau of Mexico, reaped 222,250 €. Sculpted in yellow-green onyx, it dates from the classical period, between 450 and 650 BC In 1979, J.-C. Peter G. Wray, Scottsdale, bought the work of John Stokes, acquired in 1964. Then it belonged to Richard Manoogian, Detroit. The last owner of the object at the Merrin Gallery in New York in 1991. (Lot N°53)
• A Venus made of ceramic with the red and black winding, of the Chupicuaro culture, in the State of Guanajuato in Mexico, sold 110 490 €.This is a recent pre-classical work, dating from 400-100 BC This statuette was acquired in 1972 by Ann Nisensen, Los Angeles, then belonged to James Bodishbaugh, Santa Fe. By Hy Zaret, Westport and the last owner of the work in 2008 at the Lands Beyond Gallery in New York. (Lot N°49)

3. 1.NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s announced that the Collection of Edwin & Cherie Silver, Los Angeles, will be offered in a single-owner auction of African, Oceanic, Pre-Columbian, and American Indian Art during the height of the New York auction season in November. The dedicated auction is led by a magnificent selection of important Kota Reliquary Figures from Gabon – icons of African art. Assembled during the golden age of American post-war collecting in these categories, the group is a time capsule of the caliber of artwork that was available to collectors decades ago, but is very rarely found in the market today. The collection comprises more than 100 works and has an estimated total value in excess of $10 million.
In addition to the famed group of Kota Reliquary Figures, the collection includes a major group of Pre-Columbian terracottas from Ancient West Mexico, acquired in the early years of Edwin and Cherie’s collecting; a monumental seven-headed Ijo Forest Spirit Figure from Nigeria, which has been shown at LACMA and extensively published; a large and highly refined Hemba Ancestor Figure from the Democratic Republic of the Congo; important jewels of small-scale Yombe statuary, also from the Congo; an assortment of fine West African masks; and American Indian sculpture and baskets.
Selected highlights from the collection will travel to Sotheby’s Paris in September to be shown during the Parcours des Mondes fair, and then back to the Silvers’ hometown of Los Angeles for an exhibition at Sotheby’s headquarters there in October. The collection in its entirety will then be exhibited at Sotheby’s New York alongside the marquee autumn auctions of Impressionist & Modern Art and Contemporary Art, in a celebration of the historical connections and aesthetic affinities these art forms share.
Jean Fritts, Worldwide Chairman of African & Oceanic Art, said “Ed and Cherie Silver possessed a rare sophistication as collectors. Diligent, scholarly, and determined in their approach, they amassed one of the great American collections of African, Oceanic, Pre-Columbian, and American Indian Art over the course of 50 years. Acquiring from the best sources in America and in Europe, they absorbed the stories behind each artwork and developed a distinctive vision. It was always a great pleasure to visit Ed and Cherie in their elegant modernist home in the hills above Los Angeles. We are delighted that the family has chosen Sotheby’s to present the Silvers’ vision to the world.”
Alexander Grogan, Head of the African & Oceanic Art Department in New York, commented: “We are thrilled and honored to present the pioneering collection of Edwin and Cherie Silver, truly one of great American collections in the genre. The Silvers began their odyssey as collectors with Pre-Columbian Art, assembling an extraordinary group of terracotta couples from ancient Mesoamerica. Many of the African works in the collection are well-known to lovers of African Art, as the Silvers generously lent them to prominent museum exhibitions and kindly facilitated their publication in the scholarly literature. The striking silhouettes and abstract geometry of the famous Kota Reliquary Figures from Gabon were a sight to behold in the Silvers’ living room. The sale of the Silver Collection will provide rare opportunities for today’s collectors and Sotheby’s is delighted to celebrate their unique and sophisticated taste this fall.”