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Sotheby's Sales of African, Oceanic, and Pre-Columbian Art Bring $12 Million
A Large Vera Cruz seated figure, Classic, ca. AD 450-650, of the El Zapotal style, a form which rarely appears at auction, is another highlight of the sale. Est. $125/150,000. Photo: Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s spring sales of African, Oceanic, Pre-Columbian and American Indian Art brought a combined total of $12,383,819 today. The morning sale of African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian art brought a total of $9,915,376; Important American Indian, African, Oceanic and Other Works of Art from the Studio of Enrico Donati, totaled $1,023,004; and American Indian Art achieved $ 1,445,439.

African Art
Jean Fritts, Worldwide Director of African and Oceanic Art, commented, ‘‘We saw today a depth in the global bidding and buying as well as a great influx of new collectors entering the field at all levels of the market. It is clear that the market is truly global, and that it has expanded far beyond the traditional American and European collecting bases. We had strong participation from new buyers, some of whom participated at the highest level, and many of whom are familiar with other collecting areas and are entering the field of African and Oceanic Art to embrace works of the highest quality.’’

Heinrich Schweizer, Director of African and Oceanic Art in New York, noted, “It is significant to have two lots sell for over $2 million and to sell works at that level in both the African and Oceanic categories. We were also thrilled to achieve an average lot value of over $100,000 for the African and Oceanic works sold. Both of today’s top lots, the Lega Four- Headed Figure and the Biwat Male Ancestor Figure, were met with tremendous interest The prices achieved today are in line with the trend for iconic masterpieces seen over the last twelve months across collecting categories. Collectors compete vigorously for masterpiece quality. Historic price boundaries are wiped out and new records are set. We are currently experiencing a re-evaluation of the top of the market which increasingly closes the still existing gaps to other collecting areas such as modern and contemporary art.”

The morning sale of African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian art brought a total of $9,915,376, surpassing pre-sale expectations of $4.7/7.1 million. The sale was 95.3% sold by value and 79.9% sold by lot. Two works sold for more than $2 million and over half of the lots sold achieved prices in excess of their pre-sale high estimates. The auction’s highest price was achieved by a Lega Four-Headed Figure, Sakimatwematwe, Democratic Republic of the Congo, which sparked a battle between seven bidders. After several minutes, the piece finally sold to an anonymous bidder over the telephone for $2,210,500, more than forty times the expected price (est. $30/50,000) and achieved a world auction record for a Lega Figure. Also among the highlights of the African works on offer was a Banda Ancestor Figure from the Ubangi Region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo attributed to the Master of Mobaye, which sold for $326,500 (est. $250/400,000). Only eight figures have been attributed to the Master of Mobaye, who was active in the second half of the 19th century, and the present example is the only remaining figure on the market. A Fang Reliquary Head from Gabon with recently discovered exceptional provenance, including André Derain, achieved $326,500, surpassing a pre-sale estimate of $150/250,000.

Oceanic Art
The Oceanic works on offer were led by a Biwat (Mundugumor) Male Ancestor Spirit Figure from a Sacred Flute, wusear, Papua New Guinea, from the JOLIKA Collection of Marcia and John Friede, which was pursued by at least five collectors who pushed the final price to $2,098,500 (est. $1/1.5 million). No figure as complete or of such high quality is known ever to have appeared at auction. An Asmat Shield, Unir (Lorenz) River, Irian Jaya, also from the JOLIKA Collection, totaled $338,500, more than doubling the presale high estimate of $100,000. All eleven works offered from the JOLIKA Collection found buyers, with most achieving prices that were multiples of their presale estimates. A Rarotonga or Atiu Pole Club, Akatara, Cook Islands from a Private European Collection also performed well, bringing $326,500 (est. $250/350,000).

Pre-Columbian Art
Stacy Goodman, Senior Consultant, Pre-Columbian Art, said, ‘‘We achieved strong prices today, spurred by competition from a broad range of both new collectors and clients who have been participating in this field for many years. Our results show a continued enthusiasm for this collecting category, which is only represented once a year. Our annual sale is an anticipated event among collectors.’’

A rare Taino Wood Snuffer, Haiti, ca. AD 1300-1500 is one of only three known examples and has remained in the same collection since the 1930s; it sold today for $290,500, making it the top lot of the Pre-Columbian art offered this morning (est. $80/120,000). A Large Vera Cruz seated figure, Classic, ca. AD 450-650, of the El Zapotal style, a form which rarely appears at auction, was another highlight of the sale, selling for $278,500 (est. $125/150,000). A fine group of Costa Rican polychrome ceramics from a Private Collection sold extremely competitively due to the fine quality.

Important American Indian, African, Oceanic and Other Works of Art from the Studio of Enrico Donati
Speaking of today’s sales, David Roche, Senior Consultant, American Indian Art, said, “We are thrilled with the results of today’s sales. We received global interest in our sales, particularly the works from Enrico Donati’s collection, and we saw a large number of new clients bidding and buying. Private collectors were out in force today snapping up the best material, and we are delighted to have set a new world record for a basket at auction with the sale of the Large Yokuts Pictorial Coiled Gambling Tray.”

The day continued with a single-owner sale of Important American Indian, African, Oceanic and Other Works of Art from the Studio of Enrico Donati, which totaled $1,023,004 (est. $600/940,000). The auction was 95.7% sold by lot and 82.2% sold by value. The sale comprised works from Surrealist painter Enrico Donati’s studio in the landmark Gainsborough Building on Central Park South. In his studio, Donati mixed Eskimo masks and kachina figures with his own work, works of his contemporaries, found objects, stones, fossils, and the mystical mandragora root to create an entirely new world, and a fountain of inspiration.

The session’s top price was achieved by An Important and Rare Eskimo Polychrome Wood Mask, Yup’ik or Anvik, which totaled $362,500 (est. $300/500,000). The mask would likely have been used for both festival dancing and shamanistic activities, however its specific meaning remains an enigma, the mystery of which is part of the strong attraction Donati and his Surrealist compatriots had for Eskimo art during the middle of the 20th century. Donati’s collection of Hopi kachina dolls was also particularly sought-after, with many achieving prices that were many multiples of their estimates. A Large Hopi Polychrome Wood Kachina Doll depicting a Snake Priest was pursued by at least five collectors and brought a total price of $104,500 when it sold to a client bidding by telephone (est. $25/35,000). A Large Haida Wood Feast Bowl was also among the top lots of the sale and achieved $104,500 (est. $60/90,000).

A various-owner sale of American Indian Art followed, which achieved $ 1,445,439 (est. $1.1/1.5 million). The sale was 85.8% sold by value and 63.6% sold by lot and was led by A Large Yokuts Pictorial Coiled Gambling Tray, which totaled $374,500 (est. $180/220,000), setting a world record for a basket at auction.

Sotheby's | Heinrich Schweizer | African and Oceanic Art | Jean Fritts |

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