“Christie’s Paris will present on 9 April its annual Pre-Columbian auction, led by the most important private Swiss collection of Mezcala art with 90 works and further 50 lots with various owner provenances, ranging in date from 900 B.C. to 1350 A.D., from the cultures of Mezcala, Maya, Colima, Valdivia, Aztec and Veraguas. The auction is valued at a mid-estimate of €1.5 million.
Private collections in the field of Pre-Columbian art are rare and to bring these to light and to share the beauty of their items with the wider public is a true pleasure. In April 2018 the collection of the late Professor Prigogine, a Nobel Prize Chemist of Russian origin, who started collecting in the early 1960s, had not been seen publicly for over 30 years - the collection realized €1,986,750 doubling its pre-sale estimate. A year later, the upcoming Pre-Columbian auction leads with another important private collection, this time from Switzerland, where Felix and Heidi Stoll started to collect pre-Columbian art in the 1980s. As citizens of Basel, they regularly frequented the “Museum für Völkerkunde” and in 1982, whilst on a business trip, Felix Stoll visited the Metropolitan museum and which had recently opened the Michael C. Rockefeller wing of arts from the ancient Americas.
Felix and Heidi Stoll, the well-known Basel collectors, were a force in the Swiss fashion industry in the 1970s as they introduced the avant-garde, unisex clothing of the Finnish design firm, Marimmeko, to Germany and Switzerland. Their ‘design’ aesthetic let them to assemble an elegant collection of abstract Mezcala stone sculpture including figures and temple models.
The art of Mezcala and Chontal, from the mountainous region of Guerrero, Mexico, is known for its stone sculptures including animal effigies, masks, architectural models and most specifically, figurines dating from 300 to 100 B.C. Little is known about these people, their language or the intended purpose of their artefacts. Like many Mesoamerican cultures, they were most probably ritual offerings for the hereafter. Their sophisticated craftsmanship was likely inspired by the early Olmec tradition. The arduous task of carving into hard stones with simple tools led to simplifications in design, which gradually evolved into an expressive style of abstraction, recalling the serene Cycladic sculptures while also being referenced later in the artistic vocabulary of 20th century masters such as Henry Moore, Constantin Brancusi and Alberto Giacometti.
The highlight of the Stoll collection is a four-column Mezcala temple model, dating circa 300-100 B.C. this piece was exhibited at the renowned well visited “Terre des Dieux: trésors de l’art pre-colombien” exhibition at the Musée Rath in Geneva (estimate €25,000-35,000). The temple had a very particular standing in the spiritual concepts of the ancient Mezcala culture – the passing between two worlds. Also, a group of highly abstracted Mezcala stone figures have been a focus of the collector’s eye (estimates range from €600-€70,000).
Along with the Stoll collection, there are examples from various private collections of rare Mayan ceramics featured in international museum exhibitions, a majestic Aztec stone corn goddess named Chicomecóatl, a key fertility goddess of the Aztecs with the goal to look after the well-being of the society (estimate: €100,000-125,000).
Furthermore, Peruvian gold beakers which were important receptacles used in ancient celebration rituals are presented in the sale (estimates range from €20,000-50,000).
From the Maya civilization (circa 100 B.C. to 650 A.D.) comes a highly rare lidded vessel, commissioned for a highranking dignitary, modelled with mythical iconographic elements relating to the Mayan creation myth (estimate: €125,000-175,000).
An imposing tall Mezcala stone figure from the collection of Alberto Ulrich, circa 300-100 B.C., which is very similar to the top Mezcala figure ever sold at €439,500 from the Prigogine collection last April, just of a lighter greygreenish stone colour, could be considered as a twin (estimate: €80,000-120,000).”