of Liberty in Luxembourg Gardens
all the turmoil going on in the planet, the Parcours felt especially timely
and positive, providing a needed break and potent art experience to
rearrange our neurons. This
year they added 16 additional Asian art dealers to the fair. They
seamlessly merged the expanded format and added the coolest stylized dragon
logo. The entire production and execution of the fair is impressive
and noteworthy. They also made specialized flags and carpets with the dragon
logo for the Asian exhibitors, further carrying the theme and making them
most crowded day of the fair was on Tuesday which you might find strange since
the official catalog opening states Wednesday. The day before the fair
begins you'll find about one third to half of the galleries are open, many with
paper still covering their windows to look like they are complying. That's
when the enthusiastic and aggressive buyers descend. I suspect
this is also the time when GREAT pieces are sold, reserved and removed to never
see the light of day again. Incidentally, when you start to focus on the
"sold" art pieces with red dots, you'll see a nearly perfect correlation between
quality and expressiveness. The takeaway is that the active collectors truly have refined
taste. With few exceptions, you'll seldom see a piece that was marked
"sold" that was
awkward or unworthy. Unlike American collectors, the Europeans are
more comfortable and confident buying very small miniatures and fragments.
were sales? Really hard to say, and a question getting harder to answer since
dealers are deliberately vague on that topic. Lots of things sold and lots
did not. However, I can tell you some
dealers had a distinctive look on their face like it wasn't much fun anymore, and
some said as
much. Some are again feeling like there are too many dealers coupled with
too much competition and too few buyers. That usually means:
"sales could have been better". More competition in a soft
market equals increased tension among dealers. It is
quite competitive as well. with vast differences among exhibitors; some
having as little as 200,000 euros to 20 million in inventory.
the amazing Martin Doustar skull exhibition of last year, there was not a
distinctive buzz about which gallery was a "must see" for an intense
art experience. That said, the names most discussed by collectors were
probably Donald Ellis Gallery, and definitely Bernard Dulon- who had the
record-setting Sotheby's cover Fang Mabea figure. Also Didier Claes
and again Doustar were frequent conversations. Dealers were more
guarded about their sales results, likely meaning the sales tempo was
modest at best. Either that or they want things on the down-low for
the taxman. That said, I would be surprised if anyone sold more than a third of their
pieces as I've seen in prior years.
It's difficult to "stand
out" and be relevant at the Parcours any given year, but it is virtually
impossible to create a stellar quality exhibit "consistently".
We see this again with a rotation among dealers (some major ones) who choose to
sit out this time. There is one French dealer I've seen
exhibit the same piece for at least 8 years in a row now. Its a good
piece and there's nothing wrong with it. The reason I mention him is that
his approach is kind of lets see what sticks. Its not a formula for success,
however, in a forum where collectors have HIGH expectations and anticipate seeing new, unexposed exciting
pieces every time. I'm more easily pleased with the overall quality
shown in Paris but collector-critics judge things more harshly. I ran into
a few of them with established collections who said the quality was
lacking. That might be true for them, but this is where to buy art to
elevate a collection and it always has been. Often, you'll see objects
out of collections you wouldn't have dreamed of.
and overall dynamic are so different in Paris, as "good" pieces can wither, and be
lost among everything else, and great pieces can be killed in heartbeat.
This has some paranoid associations, and brings me to something new I began to see more of; the selling tactic of
not automatically " displaying" a top piece. Very high-end art was kept in a backroom and only available
for view if you specifically asked and then there was no guarantee of a
look. This year I saw the
fewest number of advertised catalog pieces on display in memory, so this could
be a factor. Yes, some pieces were pre-sold, as always, but I found dealers
to be noticeably cautious about expensive material this time. Photography of pieces is not getting easier
either. One dealer
told me that if your best piece is on display for more than a few days without
being sold (red dot) that's a "negative", as collectors begin to question and even
get nervous if there might a problem with it. Most of the time someone is whispering into their ear
to cause them
alarm. So, in this atmosphere I can fully understand the shifting
Wow! A handsome display of highly selected war clubs.
Main catalog photo, PNG Papuan Gulf Agiba skull rack from the Kerewa
people. Look at the width and shape of the head!
Exterior showcase display- New Zealand Maori "Paepae" handle.
This is worth one more view. Often these are quite early, dating to the 18th
century. With few exceptions, it felt like Polynesian art was sparsely
represented this year. There were, of course, clubs but little
sculpture and only one Polynesian object in the catalog.
Left showcase display
PNG Sepik ancestor figure.
The grand scale and quality of this Tongan "apa api" club was a
jaw-dropper! A memorable piece discussed among dealers and
collectors alike. Not to be overlooked, an incredible Austral Island
carved paddle (left).
rue des Beaux-Arts) Exterior- Bruce Frank Primitive Art. The fair is
just kicking off. Left to right:
Amyas Naegele, Bruce Frank, Fred and Kathleen Taylor and Alan Marcuson
Frank Primitive Art) exhibiting archaic New Guinea terracottas from
the Jolika collection.
Frank Primitive Art) New Guinea Blackwater Hook figure.
Frank Primitive Art) cont.
Thieme- Amsterdam. Catalog photo of a superb Korwar figure.
des Beaux-Arts) Michel Thieme with a classic PNG Lake Sentani Drum.
The Lake Sentani people wore especially huge afros as depicted in his
Thieme) Had a number of early and edgy Asmat figures from the old
days of headhunting when the practice was woven into the fabric of the
culture. Later figures, lack the uncanny brute and powerful
qualities so desirable but not these obviously.
Thieme) The large Asmat figure on the right was sold. Being an
accommodating gentlemen, he brought it from the back room for this
Thieme) I really liked him, reminding me of the same
hand as a figural Sago dish once owned.
Temps Qui Passe: Dessins des Indiens des Plaines 1865-1900"
rue des Beaux-Arts)
Ellis) I've never been very impressed or inspired by ledger
drawings until now! These were fabulous ones (some from the historical Macnider
Ledger Book) largely showing Plains Indian life just before the onset of the
reservation period. They were truly touching and radiated soul and
purpose. Many people were affected by them and you often heard
Ellis) These were amazing, I assume Sioux warriors in full regalia.
Ellis) A very power image that stuck with me.
Ellis) Detail of above. Hear the rhythmic drumming... A Lakota Sioux Buffalo dancer with shamanic
imagery? Lightening bolts coming out of Eagle's mouths and raining
fish. Simple, connected and dramatic.
Ellis) wow, various group of ancient ivory Okvik figures.
Various Arctic masks.
Eskimo group, all sold
Various Yupik masks.
fine ancient ivories. Old Bering Sea cultures.
various Yupik masks.
Ellis) ancient Ivory Okvik figure and head fragment.
Ellis) fine ancient ivory harpoon components and comb.
Ferrandin) Philippine seated Bulul figure with especially sensitive face
and bone structure. We'll see more of Yann's pieces later too.
Ferrandin) Philippine Ifugao Bulul figure (poor photo). An early one
Incidentally, a Whale of a buyer emerged in the last couple years,
purchasing every collection in sight of Philippine sculpture and material
culture. The large-scale buying activity
was unlike anything the
market had seen before. Apparently whomever it was had not found these
Doustar's Exhibition: "Masken, Expression of the Spirits"
Doustar) 11 rue des Beaux-Arts. This large gallery is typically occupied by
Antonio Casanovas. Martin produced an accompanying 167 page
catalog for his "Masken" exhibition. One of his Parcours
catalog photos was of a rare New Guinea Astrolable Bay mask.
Doustar) (left) A superb PNG mask from the Bogia region of Madang
Province. (right) A PNG Sawos Helmet Mask (published: The
Doustar) PNG Yuat River Terracotta mask, next to a large 19th century terracotta
Ramu River mask (right).
Doustar) A rare PNG Sawos dance mask, provenance galore.
Doustar) Carved stone Teotihuacan Mexican "Tecali" Mask, 200 BC-200 AD.
The countenance was profoundly serene and sensitive in person.
Doustar) This early lower Sepik mask was also amazing in person. The kind
of age and quality you can read as authentic from 100 feet away. At
only 36 years old, Martin is a "phenom" in this business.
He's accomplishing so much so quickly and greatly enhancing the art
experience for us all while doing it. I think there are a handful of dealers who
could never be fooled by a fake, no matter how GOOD. I
consider Martin is one of
them. The selection and vetting of his pieces is ironclad from
what I know and have seen.
Doustar) An edgy looking skull mask with goggle-like eyes from the Villi
of Southern Gabon. Martin told me that regarding African Art, he
completely follows his own taste and ignores any and all influences.
des Beaux-Arts) Thomas Murray with an exhibition of Indonesian Dayak
sculpture "Art Classique Dayak de Borneo". He also
produced an ambitious catalog to accompany the exhibit. The Modang
Dayak Hampatong guardian figure was his catalog piece.
Murray) The highest sales per square foot come out of this compact
gallery. The broad title was once held by Bloomingdale's department store,
then Apple, now maybe Murray? I noticed his intimate gallery lends
itself well for rich dialog and interaction with the visitors.
Meyer- Oceanic & Eskimo Art) A Melanesian Santa Cruz Island feather currency/ money roll
"tevau". Their value is largely determined by color,
completeness and condition. This one being quite lavish with shell
wealth and bold color.
des Beaux-Arts) Exterior showcase display Galerie Meyer Oceanic
& Eskimo Art.
Meyer- Oceanic & Eskimo Art) detail of a New Guinea Lower Sepik
pre-contact food dish with
native repair, encrusted surface and small relief-carved male ancestor
Meyer) Exceptional Trobriand Island Massim ebony lime spatulas,
together with an early beetle nut pestle.
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