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Sales of African, Oceanic & Pre-Columbian Art total $23.4 million at Sotheby's France in 2013
Figure de reliquaire, Kota Shamaye ou Shaké, bois et métal, Gabon, haut. 43 cm. Estimate: 150,000 - 200,000 EUR. Sold for: 529,500 EUR (731,181 USD). Photo: Sotheby's.
PARIS.- The African & Oceanic Art Department’s final sale of the year yielded €3.7m, to bring total sales in the field at Sotheby’s Paris to €17.7 million/$23,4 million for 2013. The year saw Sotheby’s – the only auction house to stage specialist sales in Paris and New York – offer an exceptional ensemble in each venue: the Barbier-Mueller Collection of Pre-Columbian Art in Paris, and the Allan Stone Collection of Tribal Art in New York. These collections, alongside works of varied provenance, ensured total sales in Paris/New York of a combined $42.1 million in 2013.

This final sale of the year centred on pioneering connoisseurs who made titanic efforts to promote African Art in France and America during the first half of the 20th century. Georges de Miré built up one of the most remarkable collections of African Art in 1920s Paris; it included a Fang masterpiece, an Eyema Byeri reliquary guardian figure (believed by Louis Perrois to be one of three works by a single master), that sold here to a private collector for €1,441,500/$1,990,553 (lot 23, est. €500,000-700,000). The De Miré Collection – described as ‘the most important aggregation of ancient African Sculpture in existence’ by Art News (5 December 1931) – was the first collection of African Art ever to be auctioned in Paris, by Charles Ratton and Louis Carré on 16 December 1931.

The celebrated Paris dealer Paul Guillaume embodied Modernist appreciation of African Art on either side of the Atlantic. A Kota- Shamaye reliquary figure (Gabon) once in his collection, of note for its refined volumes and minimalist decoration, posted the sale’s second highest price of €529,500/$731,181 (lot 21, est. €150,000-200,000). The sculpture was displayed in the landmark African Negro Art exhibition at the MoMA in 1935 (the first exhibition of African Art ever held in a modern art museum), and symbolizes Guillaume’s commitment to fostering recognition of African Art in Avant-Garde New York.

There was an unexpectedly enthusiastic response to pieces from South-East Asia. All seven such items found takers – led by an Ifugao figure from the Philippines (attributed to the Hapao-Hungduan style) dating from the 19th century if not earlier, and one of the finest Bulul rice divinities known, that soared to a world record €181,500/$250,632 (lot 67, est. €90,000-120,000). The power and sensitivity of art from the Philippines was revealed last Summer by the major exhibition – the first of its kind –held at Musée du Quai Branly in Paris.

Further proof of the burgeoning enthusiasm for ancient statuary from South-East Asia was the €49,500/$68,159 paid for a rare pair of elongated Atauro fertility figures from the Lesser Sunda Islands in East Timor (lot 66). The figures will henceforth be on public display at the Musée du Quai Branly.

Finally came various discoveries made in the Democratic Republic of Congo around 1900. Chief among them was an 18th century ivory pendant-figure of St Anthony (Ntoni Malawu) from the Léopold Dupret Collection, which swept past its €40,000 top-estimate to €69,900/$96,524 (lot 8).

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