Yesterday, a Fang head from Gabon was sold in Paris for €2.5m well above the €1.5m high estimate. Another Fang statue, once owned by dealer Paul Guillaume, estimated at €700k is in Christie’s Durand-Dessert sale on June 27th.
On 27 June Christie’s in Paris will offer 105 African art treasures from the celebrated collection of Liliane and Michel Durand-Dessert, assembled over the course of more than 30 years.
Liliane and Michel Durand-Dessert built their collection of African art over the course of 30 years, and the rich variety of objects and forms represented in the 105 pieces offered at Christie’s in Paris on 27 June represents a significant moment for the market. This is not only because of the analytical and original approach the couple applied in each acquisition, but also because of their visionary take on exhibiting the most radical 20th-century art in their gallery, which was the subject of a 2004 retrospective organised by the Museum of Grenoble.
The most emblematic work in the collection is an extremely rare Mbembe drum figure. Mbembe statues from south-eastern Nigeria are among the oldest and most spectacular preserved wooden sculptures in sub-Saharan Africa; fewer than 20 sculptures are known of this group, which was first introduced to the market in 1974 by Hélène Leloup (formely Kamer).
The exceptional Fang statue shown above was once owned by the Parisian art dealer and tastemaker Paul Guillaume (1891-1934), and is among a group of works considered the epitome of African classicism. In the early 20th century, Fang statuary could be found in the homes of sophisticated European collectors and was widely admired by avant-garde art critics. It has remained one of the most sought-after types of African art ever since. Conceived by a master sculptor as a guardian and protector, statues such as this would sit on top of a bark box containing relics of a clan’s ancestors.
Ignoring convention, the Durand-Desserts used African art to explore the origins of contemporary art.<