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Lot 70. “Grebo” mask, Ivory Coast, from the former Vérité collection, wood and pigments haut. 74 cm ; 29 1/8 in. Estimate: €200,000-€300,000. © Sotheby's.

Paris - On 4 December, Sotheby’s will present a new sale dedicated to African art, complemented with a selection of works from America and Indonesia. Oceania, a sale dedicated exclusively to Oceanic art, will also take place at Sotheby’s on the same day.

This select group of 66 lots will bring together works chosen for their aesthetic and powerful forms, such as the extremely rare Grebo mask from the Vérité collection. The pieces have also been selected for their exceptional quality – several have been kept in the same collection for several decades. For the first time, Sotheby’s will exhibit these works alongside pieces from the contemporary art auction.

Arts of Africa

An icon of modern art – an extremely rare “Grebo” mask, Ivory Coast, from the former Vérité collection

Exhibited in 1955 at the legendary exhibition, Les Arts africains, held in Paris at the Cercle Volney, this Grebo mask exemplifies the impact African art had on 20th century Western art (lot 70 – estimate: €200,000-€300,000). Pablo Picasso himself owned a similar mask, which is said to have triggered a line of artistic study that led him to create, in 1912, his famous Guitar, the first Cubist sculpture. Grebo artists were known to produce radically simplified forms in a dramatic departure from naturalism.

This reinvention of the human figure, in which powerful forms are combined with geometric elegance and the expressionism of polychromatic contrasts, is revealed here in one of the most accomplished works within one of the rarest corpora of African art.

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Lot 70. “Grebo” mask, Ivory Coast, from the former Vérité collection, wood and pigments haut. 74 cm ; 29 1/8 in. Estimate: €200,000-€300,000. © Sotheby's.

Provenance: Collection Pierre (1900-1993) et Suzanne Vérité, Paris, acquis avant 1950
Enchères Rive Gauche, Paris,  Collection Pierre et Claude Vérité, 17 juin 2006, n° 148
Collection privée, Paris, acquis lors de cette vente.

Exhibited: Paris, Cercle Volney,  Les Arts africains, 3 juin - 7 juillet 1955

Literature: Vérité, Rousseau et Lejard,  Les Arts africains, 1950, p. 170, n° 159C (non illustré)
Segy,  African Sculpture Speaks, 1969, p. 170, n° 146b

An illustration of male/female duality – “Janus” Kota reliquary figure, Gabon

Offered at auction for the first time in nearly 30 years, this Kota reliquary figure, called “Janus” because of its dual faces, has immense ritualistic value, and its type is rare in Western collections (lot 52 – estimate: €180,000-€250,000). The two faces are identified as different genders: a male face on the side with the bulging forehead, and a female one on the concave side, illustrating the essential duality between original man and woman. These large effigies were also known as mbulu-viti, and are notable for their exceptional craftsmanship, characterised by the use of plated metal on a wooden core, unusual in Africa. This piece is particularly sophisticated, with virtuoso metal work in superbly contrasting colours.

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Lot 52. “Janus” Kota Ndassa reliquary figure, Gabon, wood and metal, haut. 64 cm ; 25 1/8 in. Estimate: €180,000-€250,000. © Sotheby's.

Provenance: Collection Eugène Foufé, acquis ca. 1912
Collection privée
Ader-Picard-Tajan, Paris, 18 octobre 1990, n° 56
Collection privée, France, acquis lors de cette vente.

Exhibited: Turin, Galleria d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea,  Africa. Capolavori da un continente, 2 octobre 2003 - 15 février 2004.

Literature: Bassani,  Africa. Capolavori da un continente, 2003, p. 234, n° 3.69.

Also included in the sale is a rare Mbole mask, Democratic Republic of Congo (lot 56 – estimate: €70,000- €100,000), which is on the market for the first time in more than 40 years. It stands out for its minimalist linear beauty and sophisticated execution as well as its great age, attested by its dark patina. Discovered relatively late, Mbole art represents one of the rarest corpora of African art. A masterpiece of invention in the representation of the face, pared down to a two-dimensional form, and in the refined structure of the sculpture, this mask is represents one of the most beautiful examples of this rare type.

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Lot 56. Mbole mask, Democratic Republic of Congo, wood and pigments, haut. 39,5 cm ; 15 1/2 in. Estimate: €70,000- €100,000. © Sotheby's.

Provenance: Collection Han Wolf, ca. 1976
Collection privée européenne.

Exhibited: Turin, Galleria d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea,  Africa. Capolavori da un continente, 2 octobre 2003 - 15 février 2004.

Literature: Bassani,  Africa. Capolavori da un continente, 2003, p. 240, n° 3.100
Neyt,  Fleuve Congo, 2010, p. 80, n° 37..

North American Art

Rattle, Tlingit, British Columbia

Another dual-sided object is this Tlingit rattle that illustrates the richness and sophistication of creations from British Columbia (lot 50 – estimate: €30,000-€50,000). Selected by Jacques Kerchache for his Head exhibition in 1966, this work is one of the most remarkable featured in that seminal exhibition.

The two faces are rendered in the traditional Tlingit style but display a rare degree of aesthetic accomplishment. Matching this technical quality is the delicacy of the painted motifs and the remnants of pigments, which attest to the age of the work.

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Lot 50. Tlingit rattle, British Columbia, from the former Jacques Kerchache collection, wood and pigments, haut. 22 cm ; 8 2/3 in. Estimate: €30,000- €50,000. © Sotheby's.

Provenance: Jacques Kerchache, Paris
Collection privée, Paris, acquis ca. 1966
Collection privée, Paris, acquis ca. 2010.

Exhibited: Paris, Galerie Jacques Kerchache,  La Tête, amérique, océanie, afrique, mai - juin 1966

Literature: Fouchet et Kerchache,  La Tête, amérique, océanie, afrique, 1966, n° 18
Provenance: Jacques Kerchache, Paris

A British Columbian rattle, from the Tsimshian culture, takes the form of a raven, on which sits a human figure (lot 87 – estimate: €50,000-€70,000). With a Chilkat cape, head-dress with ermine train and seal whiskers, the raven rattle is one of the three main insignia used in chiefs' dances, which evoke high-ranking figures meeting supernatural beings.

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Lot 87. Rattle, Tsimshian culture, British Columbia, wood and pigments, haut. 35,5 cm ; 13 inEstimate: €50,000-€70,000. © Sotheby's.

Provenance: Collection Marie-Ange Ciolkowska (1898-1992), Paris
Loudmer, Paris, 28 juin 1989, n° 236
Collection privée, Paris, acquis lors de cette vente.

Marine ivory head, Okvik period, St Lawrence Island, Alaska

Further north, this marine ivory head comes from Alaska and is associated with the Okvik culture, which spread across St Lawrence Island between 100 and 400 AD. This culture offersthe first important signs of the Inuit way of life (lot 51 – estimate: €30,000- €50,000). Its statues, particularly the strong tradition of marine ivory sculpture, reveal the complex social and political life of the communities. The characteristic stylisation is complemented by the beautiful dark orange patina and the veins of the ivory underneath.

 

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Lot 51. Marine ivory head, Okvik period,"Old Bering Sea 1" (100 - 400), St Lawrence Island, Alaska, walrus tusk ( Odobenus rosmarus), haut. 6,5 cm ; 2 1/2 in. Estimate: €30,000- €50,000. © Sotheby's.

Provenance: Kenneth Pushkin, Santa Fe, acquis ca. 1974
Jonathan Holstein, New York
Harry Klamer, Toronto
Jeffrey R. Myers, New York, acquis ca. 1992
Collection privée américaine, acquis ca. 1996.

Art of Indonesia

Portrait of a high-ranking ancestor – “Tau Tau” Toraja statue, Sulawesi, Indonesia

Tau tau wooden figures represent the apex of the art of the Toraja group from the mountains in the north of Sulawesi. The figures are portraits commissioned by highranking families to commemorate their deceased ancestors.

Sotheby’s is pleased to offer an antique tau tau figure, representing a male ancestor. The example is notable for its elongated, flowing body and the intense expressions of the face (lot 62 – estimate: €60,000-€90,000). Previously, it would have been richly adorned in a sarong, gold jewellery, head ornaments, sacred knife and family attributes. Today, it remains imposing in its original form. The beautiful patina of the jackfruit wood – reserved for statues of the highest dignitaries – merges with the elegant and rare carved and sculpted tattoos. 

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 Lot 62. “Tau Tau” Toraja statue, Sulawesi, Indonesia, wood and others, haut. 171 cm; 67 1/3 in. Estimate: €30,000- €50,000© Sotheby's.

Provenance: Collection Guy Piazzini, Paris
Jean-Jacques Dutko, Paris
Collection Michel Perinet, Paris, acquis en 1997
Alain de Monbrison, Paris
Collection privée, Paris, acquis en 2001.

Exhibited: Paris, Galerie Jean-Jacques Dutko, Mata Hari di Indonesia, 1 octobre - 15 novembre 1997.

Literature: Tasset, "Le retour de Mata Hari", in  Le Figaro, 1997.