Friday, November 13, 2009

Some Thoughts November 2009

After being involved with tribal art for slightly over 35 years, you begin to recognize a few patterns. Bad things do happen occasionally and when they do, events sometimes cause people to take a few short cuts. Some are scrambling now to recover from an over extended financial position last fall. Whether that is an aggressive dealer buying on credit that suddenly dried up with no sales to service the line, a collector that suddenly saw liquidity in their collection vanish over night, or maybe even a museum that has pledged gifts that now are being reconsidered, we all are forced to adjust to a new fiscal reality. Opportunity now is defined as understanding the agendas of the moment. You remember in the early 1980's when we had over twenty African art dealers in New York City that suddenly when the art market dropped or "corrected" as some might say, couldn't sell their inventory for what they paid for it. This is the tribal art version of musical chairs and if you want to have a place to sit down, you do need to be alert to the times. Dealers are already become more vicious as they jockey for position. This might be damning a colleague's objects, lying about provenance, or failing to meet their obligations. It's a nasty world. This is a time when people are nervous and when they are nervous they are subject to being influenced more easily. You can use your imagination... this can come in many forms. Be careful and understand what the agendas are. Put your trust in long term performance and not the "expert" that just happens to be on your door step. Rely on the people that you have had successful dealings with in good times and in bad. Any believe me any decision you have to make immediately is probably not worth making. For many it will probably get worse before it gets better. Be careful and you will increase your chances of having a place to sit when the music stops.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tribal Art Auction Schedule Nov/Dec 09

Asian and Tribal Art Sale
Dates :20 Nov 09
Place :
Drouot-Richelieu 3 Paris , France
Event type :Auction
Topic :Tribal art
Auctioneers Aguttes will present selections from a number of ethnographic art collections––including the Asian and tribal art collection of Fernand Devèze––at the Hôtel Drouot in Paris on November 20. The offerings will include a range of Indonesian, African, and Chinese works, as well as material from Papua New Guinea, North America, and the Himalayas. Drouot Richelieu9, rue Drouot 75009 ParisTel: +33 01 48 00 20 03

African Art at Auction
Dates :23 Nov 09
Place :
Pierre Bergé & Associés Bruxelles , Belgique
Event type :Auction
Topic :Tribal art
Pierre Bergé & Associés will present a small but important selection of African tribal art objects in the midst of a much larger sale of European decorative arts on November 23 in Brussels. Three Congolese lots will be the focus of this group, including a fine Mangbetu box, an important Lega ivory in the Bibendum style, and an intriguing Kongo staff finial. Pierre Bergé & Associés 40 place du Grand Sablon 1000 - BrusselsTel: +32 (0)2 504 80 30

Sothebys, Paris
African & Oceanic Art
Sale: PF9018
Session 1: Thu, 3 Dec 09, 2:30 PM

Bonhams and Butterfield
Native American and Pre-Columbian ArtMonday December 14, 2009
San Francisco

Gallery Holiday Open House

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Picture of the month - November 2009

Breaking the sound barrier,
Maybe a guy thing but
regardless a great image

Health watch - a tip for 2009

This is worth just a simple reminder for all of us...

Remember the 1st Three Letters.... S T R

S Ask the individual to SMILE.

T Ask the person to TALK and SPEAK A SIMPLE SENTENCE (Coherently)

R Ask him or her to RAISE BOTH ARMS

If he or she has trouble with ANY ONE of these tasks, call emergency number immediately and describe the symptoms to the dispatcher.
New Sign of a Stroke Stick out Your Tongue
If the tongue is 'crooked', if it goes to one side or the other, that is also an indication of a stroke.
A cardiologist says if everyone who gets this e-mail sends it to 10 people; you can bet that at least one life will be saved.
I have done my part. Will you?

Monday, November 09, 2009

African picture of the month

Bena Lulua head
Ex Collection Jay Last, Beverly Hills
c. 1900

Picasso's Collection of African and Oceanic Art- a Book Review

"A hundred years ago, in June 1907, a young Spanish artist visited the Musée d’Ethnographie du Trocadéro in Paris. His visit took place just as he had left behind the wistful mood of his blue and rose periods and was making heavy-weight nudes with blank, classical faces.
Peter Stepan’s research on the consequences of this event opens up a new window on the sources of Picasso’s inspiration. Stepan is an expert on African art and has researched the collections of Georg Baselitz and Fritz Koenig. He approaches his subject with passion and an extensive knowledge of the African art prized by European artists.
Picasso first came into contact with African and Oceanic culture when the horrors of colonialism in the Belgian Congo were hitting the news. Fellow artists and writers, such as Juan Gris, Alfred Jarry and André Salmon, were satirising European attitudes to Africa. The cultural historian Patricia Leighton has described how such modernists embraced what she terms an ‘imagined primitiveness whose authenticity they opposed to a “decadent west”’.
Three decades later Picasso was still haunted by the smell and sight of ‘that awful museum’. The African and Oceanic artefacts he saw were not simply pieces of sculpture, he later told André Malraux: ‘They were magical things. …The Negro pieces were intercesseurs, mediators… they were against everything – against unknown, threatening spirits. I always looked at fetishes. I understood; I too am against everything.
I too believe that everything is an enemy!’
Picasso turned painting inside out. As a Malagan from southern Spain, he was already an outsider in the sophisticated Parisian metropolis. He wanted to assert himself by identifying with both French culture and an ‘absolute’ Other. The most shocking way that he could do this was by introducing the unknown and feared continent of Africa into his work – which he did in the ferocious masks worn by the prostitutes in his ‘brothel’, the name Picasso gave to his aggressive depiction of five nude women which became known as the Demoiselles d’Avignon. Far from being just another stylistic stimulus confined to the making of the Demoiselles, the African and Oceanic sculptures that Picasso continued to acquire over the course of his life provided him with a constant conceptual and emotional charge. The artist would show these pieces to visitors to his studio before showing his own work. He had himself photographed in front of key African sculptures, as well as taking his own pictures of visitors in front of tribal masks and figures. Not only did his collection parlante, as Stepan describes it, supply Picasso with a source of immediate inspiration, but the figures and masks that peopled his studios offered a form of continuity with his own past, his own alter-ego. They were spokespeople for a primeval, non-European form of communication and attitude to life. Picasso initially rejected a ceremonial body mask that Matisse (who had introduced him to tribal figures) gave him in 1950 (Figs 2 and 3), ‘this thing from New Guinea scared me,’ Francoise Gilot records him as saying.
‘It will have scared Matisse too, and for that reason he so wanted to give it to me.’
Photographs of Picasso’s studios, taken by himself and others, reveal his life-long attraction to masks. Not only did he collect, paint, draw and make them, he also enjoyed clowning with them and hiding behind them. The idea of disguise, of becoming an Other, fascinated him. Stepan demonstrates that this enthusiasm was central to Picasso’s artistic evolution. He argues that it was inseparable from the artist’s fascination with mythical hybrid creatures – the Minotaur, Pan, centaurs, fauns and satyrs: ‘Fluctuating between realistic representation and abstraction, equally in contact with the worlds of man, animals and imagined spirits, metamorphosis was and is a great specialty of Africa. Natural life forms came on stage and demanded their right to be made corporeal.’
The artist’s support for the African independence movement became explicit in the 1940s when he worked with Léopold Sédar Senghor and Aimé Césaire, founders of the Négritude movement amongst black intellectuals. He offered to make a monument to celebrate the end of slavery for the island of Martinique in 1947.
Over four decades ago, John Golding’s account of the Cubist revolution analysed the way in which Picasso’s mystic shock at the Trocadéro acted like an exorcism and paved the way for his Cubist deconstruction of pictorial space. It gave him the confidence to break completely with old-style naturalism and introduce the brutal, the ugly and the unexplained.
But although the catalytic effect of Oceanic and African art upon the Cubist revolution has been thoroughly documented, it continues to provoke argument and perplexity in accounts both of Picasso’s own development and of the modernist movement.
Over the past half-century, the relation-ship between African, Oceanic art and Western art has undergone a great change. ‘Primitivism’, to use a politically-charged word, is no longer patronisingly viewed as an ethnographic curiosity but as an artistic phenomenon, encompassing varying aesthetic styles, histories and cultures. Stepan touches on these issues in his critique of the former director of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, William Rubin, whose 1984 exhibition ‘The Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern’ provided an early opportunity to study the connections between 20th-century art and tribal cultures. He accuses Rubin of elitism, and of misjudging Picasso’s assembly of art by applying the inappropriate criteria of a rich museum collector.
Christopher Green, in an essay on the Demoiselles has argued that Picasso’s view of the idea of the ‘primitive’ was offered as a counter canon to that of Europe, but in terms of ‘sameness in difference, the essentialist theme of the unity of human-kind’. Similarly, Stepan shows that Picasso’s attitude to the ‘primitive’ was anything but patronising towards his African counterparts.
The book has beautifully laid-out colour and black-and-white photographs, which include extraordinary images from the storeroom at Villa La Californie, Cannes. There is a detailed catalogue of Picasso’s entire collection of 110 objects, 96 of which are of African origin, making clear where his enthusiasm lay.
Although he pays tribute to prominent Picasso scholars, Stepan fails to provide a bibliography. The lack of a full index is infuriating and the prose can be awkward, with the odd Germanism creeping in. Nor are we told about a major exhibition, ‘Picasso and Africa’, curated by Laurence Madeline and Marilyn Martin in South Africa last year, which set 80 works by Picasso alongside African art objects.
But, nonetheless Stepan provides a comprehensive chronology detailing those aspects of the artist’s life connected with tribal art, including unpublished documents from the Picasso archives in the Musée Picasso in Paris. By giving a visual account of the artist’s collection and documenting the circumstances in which Picasso brought it together and made use of it, Stepan shows the emergence of a generous, all-encompassing and revolutionary vision of human culture. " Apollo magazine

Stolen Warhols valued at $25 million

Occasionally someone else's loss makes us in a peculiar way feel better. What if a thief broke into your home and stole $25 million dollars worth of Warhol silk-screen paintings of one set of a series called “Athletes”. These are portraits of sports icons that were commissioned by you, the collector in 1977 directly from the artist. At the time you paid $800,000 for eight sets. You are mad. The insurance company offers a reward of $1,000,000 for return of your property. Seems reasonable.. Not quite..

One month later the collector cancels his claim and the insurance company cancels the reward. The collector, Richard Weisman, won't return calls from either the media or the insurance company but did give an interview to the Seattle Times and said that the insurance company tries to turn you into a suspect and that he didn't plan on going through all that for three to five years before it settled. By the way there was no sign of a break in and no other art was touched..And one source has said Weisman has been trying to sell some or all of the Warhols for some time. Clearly there is a lot more to this story.

You wonder how often the insurance companies pay off a wealthy client who has deep pockets to fight for breach of contract if the claim is not paid.
The answer, as we say in Texas, is all about bidness and the bottom line is that fraud becomes a line item on an insurance company's budget. This is a cost that is passed to us. No surprise that insurance companies are reporting an increase in fraud during this economic downturn.

You can never stop all fraud but if the insurance companies wanted to get serious about dealing with the problem they could be as committed to solutions as they are in collecting premiums. Maybe agree that any property scheduled over $5,000 must be appraised and photographed by a qualified appraiser and the location of the property must be registered by the insurance company prior to issuing a policy. Now that the appraisal standard of USPAP (see previous blogs) has been accepted, appraisers that are in compliance could impact the fraud problem.

Masterpieces for Kansas City -

Morton and Estelle Sosland have given a significant portion of their American Indian Collection to the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City. The bulk of this collection is Northwest Coast; however, the Soslands also included several magnificent horn bowls from the Wishram of the Columbia River area (Washington/Oregon), the wooden Chugach bowl masterpiece, and a magnificent Maria plate. I did the appraisal on this collection and can personally attest that this gift is unprecedented in the history of the museum. The curator , Gaylord Torrence, completed the installation whose opening was celebrated recently during festivities at the museum.

The Nelson Atkins American Indian collection will not overtake the major collections that were built for a few museums at the turn of the century: however, I think I can speak for more than a few interested parties when I say that I would rather be in Kansas City than on the mall in Washington D.C.. If you love American Indian, KC is now a must visit and we should all be grateful to the Soslands for their generosity.