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Sotheby's Paris African and Oceanic Arts department's last sale of the year totals $6.3 million
Portraits of King Pokam and of Queen Yugang, Sovereigns of Batoufam. High. 101 and 102 cm ; 39¾ in and 40 in. Collection René and Odette Delenne. Sold for: 1.443.000€ / $1,535,496. Photo: Sotheby’s / Art Digital Studio.

PARIS.- The African and Oceanic Arts department's last sale of the year totalled €5,932,500 ($6,312,773), with 81% of lots sold and 90% by value, with nearly 50% of lots sold above their high estimates. The highest prices went to works from collections built up several decades ago and masterpieces from restricted corpuses.

At €2.9 million ($3 million), the René and Odette Delenne collection largely exceeded its high estimate, with 100% of lots sold. This remarkable collection begun in the 1950’s was celebrated at several outstanding exhibitions, and more recently with the acquisition of thirty-four sculptures from Congo by the Cleveland Museum of Art in 2010.

The sale was led by a pair of statues portraying King Pokam and his wife Yugang: a masterpiece by the Master of Batoufam (Bamileke, Cameroon), which was sold for €1,443,000 / $1,535,500 (lot 14). Documented since 1920’s, this work joined the Delenne collection in 1970, and was unveiled in 1988 at the famous Utotombo exhibition (Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts).

From the same collection, the Kopar male figure from the Lower Sepik region was sold for €483,000 / $513,960 (lot 9, estimate: €150,000-200,000). Collected around 1960, this austerely beautiful sculpture is part of a very restricted corpus.

Bidding was also competitive for a ceremonial drum collected by Jacques Viot from the Lake Sentani region in 1929, which at €363,000 / $386,268, twice the high estimate (lot 8, estimate: €120,000-180,000). Here a figure forms part of the handle, and the beauty of the carving illustrates the superlative art of Western Papua.

The sale included nine lots of African Art from the Murray Frum collection, which achieved a total of €900,250 / $955,000. This took the overall total for this collection to €8.4 million /$8.9 million including the Oceanic art works from the collection, sold on 16 September 2014 by Sotheby’s in Paris.

The highest price for this group went to a superb dignitary's sceptre from Luba, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which featured in the frontispiece of William Fagg's 1981 book on the Frum collection. The successful bidder went all the way up to €267,000 /$284,000 to obtain this insignia of power: one of the largest still in private hands, and a masterpiece of the corpus (lot 23, estimate: €150,000-200,000).

The sale included several masterpieces from the Congo, which collectors were not slow to carry off.

A Fang figure from the former Louis Carré collection fetched €423,000 / $450,000 (lot 20, €400,000-500,000). This ancestral effigy illustrating the virtuosity of Fang master sculptors, featured in the iconic exhibitions of 1930 and 1933 staged by Charles Ratton, Pierre Loeb, Tristan Tzara and at the Louis Carré gallery.

Another masterpiece belonging to a restricted corpus of art from Congo, a Kota Ndasa reliquary figure, exceeded at €291,000 / $309,650 its high estimate of €250,000 (lot 68). The discovery of this reliquary figure - a newly revealed masterpiece - sheds new light on a corpus as narrow as it is illustrious: the style known as "Kota Ndasa". It is also an expression, in the sheer power of its forms pared down to their simplest lines, of the apotheosis of Kota art.

Bidding was competitive for a Kongo-Vili Nkonde figure from the former Arman collection, whose protective power clearly appealed. Estimated at €130,000-160,000, this went all the way up to €279,000 / $296,900 (lot 77).

Last but not least, a masterpiece of Madagascan statuary, a 164 cm-high commemorative portrait of a man with a touch of the adolescent, which could have come straight out of the Renaissance period, brought this session to a close with a price of €363,000 / $386,270 : world auction record for a masterpiece from Madagascar (lot 84, estimate: €120,000-180,000).

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