Fang Ngil Mask 19", Final Price w/ commission $7,340,184 usd


It was Saturday at 2.30 pm at Drouot's in Paris.  The second floor was packed with dealers and collectors.  In attendance was a celebrity crowd of "who's who" in the tribal art world. There were three auction rooms with pre-assigned seating with the main floor and two satellite rooms having video monitors.  The main floor was reserved for those bidders with the largest bank accounts.

It would be an understatement to say that this landmark sale was brilliantly promoted.  It is the most important sale of objects since the Hubert Goldet sale in 2001 which also featured Alain de Monbrison and Pierre Amrouch as experts.  That sale contained 600 objects and raised $11.3 million.

It is no secret that there were masterworks quietly pre-sold from this collection prior to the sale which were never cataloged.  But the market didn't care as there were many other rare objects that attracted spirited bidding.  The official total take for the 514 lots in the sale is $55,440,000 USD (44,000,000 Euros)!!!!   This figure is not just significant it is "bombshell" when you consider Sotheby's claims a sale is a success after raising 5 million.  All 514 lots were sold, eight went beyond one million euros and another 36 fetched more than 150,000 euros.

The marketplace defined new record prices for published and known masterpieces.  However, many of the HUGE prices realized for other objects were true anomalies in an otherwise sensible marketplace where equilibrium is the norm.  One can not simply say that a 100,000 euros is now the going price for a Dan Ladle or that 350,000 euros is what a good tji-wara headdress goes for now.  No, on the contrary, this was a unique sale.  Its stellar hype and promotion attracted wealthy collectors of fine art, paintings and modern sculpture, who were buying tribal art for their first time ever and ultimately "inflating" prices.   It is believed that some the "first time" buyers who were artificially inflating prices were dignitaries and friends of the French President Jacques Chirac who arguably have more money than knowledge.

There were some insane prices for relatively common objects.  For example an average Batak Shaman's Staff from Sumatra sold for 33,000 euros.  A New Guinea Tapa Cloth sold for 35,000 euros.  A New Britain Tolai Dance Ornament completely void of pigment brought 37,000 euros.  A 7" Sherbro stone sculpture from Sierra Leone sold for 53,000 euros.  But prices did not go to Pluto for ugly or late objects.  This was true for both African and Oceanic pieces.  The deal of the sale, at first glance, seemed to be a New Caledonian Kanak post or house ornament which sold for a hammer price of 4000 euros!  No premium was placed on unattractive pieces.

The 2" thick catalog cost 100 euros and was hardbound.  After toting around such a heavy thing for a while it felt like you were carrying a whole book shelf.

Yes, the prices below are real and not your imagination! 


In the Foyer 10 minutes before the auction began


Grebo Mask, 34.25" Final Price w/ commission $886,103 usd


Baga Nimba Shoulder Mask 50", Final Price w/ commission $2,792,990 usd


Royal Baule Statue 38.75", Final Price w/ commission $1,032,472 usd


Baule Mask 11", Final Price w/ commission $1,619,521 usd


Senufo Deble Rhythm Pounder 36.75", Final Price w/ commission $3,673,092 usd


Fang Ngil Mask Bidding Opens at 600,000 euros


Fang Tete Head 15.5", Final Price w/ commission $2,059,572 usd


Kuyu Statue 32.75", Final Price w/ commission $1,472,837 usd


Chokwe Figure 58", Final Price w/ commission $4,699,878 usd


 Kongo-Solongo Reliquary 34.75", Final Price w/ commission $1,032,786 usd







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