This week may have set a record
in the number of major auctions held by Christie's, Sotheby's and
Philips de Pury but far and away the best auction was "Africa," one of
the new "theme" auctions that have been organized by Philips de Pury.
Its sale total of about $1,400,000 paled beside the
blockbuster Contemporary Art evening auctions at Christie's and
Sotheby's and it had few "big" names, indeed, few recognizable names.
But it presented a marvelous group of wonderful art objects
that were only a small fraction of the auction's total but very
memorable nonetheless. This was the third "theme" auction
that Philips de Pury has held and they have all raised the standards of
the marketplace even if they have not produced barrels of money, which is
not terribly important anyway.
"Africa is a continent that has totally fascinated me ever since I was
a child," declared Simon de Pury, the chairman of Philips de Pury, in
his introduction to the large and sumptuous catalogue for this auction, which is a must for any African art collector's library.
"Through my friends Jean-Paul and Monique Barbier-Mueller and their
extensive program of publications and exhibitions at the Musée
Barbier-Mueller and at major institutions around the world, I was later
introduced to the power and beauty of African art. Three
trips to Mali with Monique Barbier-Mueller then initiated me completely
to the magic appeal of Africa. A boat ride on the Niger from
Mopti to Niafunké to visit the music legend Ali Farka Touré, several
visits to the photography studio of Malik Sidibé, the architectural
beauty of Djenné or the Dogon villages, all confronted me with the raw
force and artistic genius of Africa. It is that total
originality that has been such a strong inspiration for countless
artists of the 20th Century. It is only through exhibitions
such as the pioneering show staged by Jean-Hubert Martin at the Centre
Pompidou in 1989, that a western audience began to focus on the great
intrinsic quality of contemporary African art. Jean Pigozzi
was the first to recognize its immense importance and started to build
then what today unquestionably is the greatest and most comprehensive
collection of its kind. We wanted this auction to put the
spotlight on the great art being done today in Africa but also art from
America, Europe and around the world that uses Africa as inspiration.
Among them a generation of outstanding African American
artists that mix some African influences with influences from America
and other parts of the world have become one of the most interesting and
novel elements in the international contemporary art world.
It is my hope the contents of this auction will be like the
haunting music of Salif Keita, a homage to Africa," Mr. de Pury wrote.
The important catalogue not only includes biographies of the artists
but a very long article on Monique Barbier-Mueller, a very good, long
article by Kobena Mercer on "Radio Ethiopia: Africa's Transcultural
Influences," a long article on Jakob Boeskov and his
activities in Nollywood, the world's fastest growing film industry that
happens to be in Lagos, Nigeria, and an article by Katerina Gregos with
Kendell Geers, a South African artist.
It is a cliché that
African men, and women, are wonderful portrait subjects, but Lot 163, a
portrait of a Dinka man at the cattle camp of Kei in Southern Sudan by
Sebastian Salgado is fabulous. Salgado was born in Brazil in 1944 and
is a social documentary photographer best known for his images of
displaced populations in underdeveloped countries. We cannot tell if his
subject in this lot is suffering or calm or happy. The
catalogue notes that "people cover themselves with ash from burned
cowpats to sterilize the skin against insects and parasites."
Not a bad idea for New Yorkers as well, of course.
The gelatin silver print from 2008 measures 20 1/8 by 14 1/2
inches. It has an estimate of $5,000 to $7,000. Incredibly, no one stepped
forward to be forever haunted by this humanity and it passed.
Maybe there is no hope for Americans!
176, "Lelesit from the Samburu," by Lyle Owerko, gelatin silver print
75 by 58 inches, 2006, number 1 of 10
Or, perhaps Americans
just like pretty pictures like Lot 176, "Lelesit from the Samburu," by
Lyle Owerko, a Canadian artist working in the United States who was
born in 1968. According to the auction catalogue, "his work
ranges from the September 11, 2001 Time Magazine cover image to
projects on MTV and the Sundance Channel." "His latest body
of work," it continued, "the Samburu project documents the humble tribe
with a level of understated dignity, pride, and reverence...."
This beautiful man is festooned with adornments including no
less than 8 headdresses/feathers. Why isn't he on the cover
of Vogue or at least the centerpiece of the annual party of the Costume
Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He's a lot more
glamourous than the swishy ladies who take tea in their LaCroix
garments! The lot has an estimate of $5,000 to $7,000.
It sold for
$11,875 including the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in
57, "Untitled I," by Patricia Coffie, color coupler print, 20 inches
Lot 57 is a marvelous picture
that puts all of Western culture on end. A magnificent nude
black man has a very pink feather on his head and enormously pink
feathers that he appears to be holding at his backside.
Appropriately, the background is a rather delicate red, white
and blue hanging of some delicacy. Maybe this is next month's
Vogue cover. Does the photographer, Patricia Coffie, really
want us to believe that this is an authentic native ritual and not some
posed fashion shot, but if it is a posed fashion shot is the product
pink feathers? One would like to believe that the picture is
a celebration of black and African physical beauty and its flair and
penchant for colorful, modesty-be-damned attire The lot has
an estimate of $2,000 to $3,000. It failed to
is from Ghana and was born in 1975 and had her first solo exhibition at
the Mary Boone Gallery in New York. The catalogue notes that
"her photographs appropriate, deconstruct and re-construct notions and
myths regarding African masculinity through playful role playing."
Can someone please buy it as a Christmas present and a DVD of "Funny Face" for Anna
158, "Delta Rebel," left, and Lot 157, "Niger Boy," both from
"Oil Rich Niger Delta, both 2006, by George Osodi, both Fujicolor
Crystal Archive print, 47 1/4 by 31 1/2 inches, "Delta Rebel" number 4
of 5, and "Niger Boy" number 3 of 5
John Chamberlain makes
colorful, abstract sculptures from automobile metal parts but Calixte
Dakpogan's "Night Bird," Lot 197, is a very realistic composition made
of steel, plastic, iron, glass and other found materials. It
was created in 2002 and measures 29 by 19 1/2 by 17 inches.
It has an estimate of $5,000 to $7,000. It sold for $8,750. Dakpogan
comes from Benin and was born in 1958.