• Art Africain et Océanien auction at Christies

    Sale 5584

    Art Africain et Océanien

    4 December 2009, Paris

  • Lot 22

    IMPORTANTE PAIRE DE STATUES BAOULE

    CÔTE D'IVOIRE

    Price Realised  

    IMPORTANTE PAIRE DE STATUES BAOULE
    Côte d'Ivoire
    L'homme et la femme debouts portant une coupe sur la tête, l'homme avec une main en avant, les visages et les corps scarifiés de différents motifs géométriques élaborés, les coiffures en tresses, l'homme avec un ancien numéro de collection à la base 225. Belles patines sombres et brillantes.
    Hauteur: 110 cm. (43¼ in.) (2)


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    Ce couple Baoule, saisissant par leurs proportions et leurs gestuelles, a captivé deux icônes de la culture moderne, le critique d'art Félix Fénéon et le metteur en scène John Huston. Ces deux collectionneurs l'ont très probablement acquis lors de ventes aux enchères à Paris, Félix Fénéon en 1927 et Huston lors de la dispersion de la collection de ce dernier en 1947.
    Félix Fénéon était un critique d'art et un critique littéraire qui devint par la suite collectionneur et marchand d'art. Il inventa le terme "néo-impressionnisme" pour décrire l'oeuvre de Georges Seurat dans "Les Impressionnistes", revue de la huitième et dernière exposition Impressionniste, (La Vogue, Paris, 1886). Entre 1905 et 1925, il dirigea la Galerie Bernheim Jeune et continua la promotion des Néo-Impressionnistes comme Henri-Edmond Cross et des Fauves (dont Matisse). Toujours à l'avant-garde, il organisa la première exposition des Futuristes en France en 1912 et montra les oeuvres des Synchromistes en 1913. La galerie publia les monographies de ces artistes et aussi la revue Bulletin de la vie artistique.
    C'est dans cette publication que Fénéon posa la question : "Iront- ils au Louvre ? Enquête sur des arts lointains" (Fénéon, F., Bulletin de la vie artistique, Paris, 15 novembre, 1er et 15 décembre 1920, pp.662-669, 693-703, 726-738). Il demanda à des universitaires reconnus et des membres célèbres du monde de l'art comme Paul Guillaume et Kees van Dongen de répondre à cette question.
    (Il obtint finalement sa réponse en 2000 quand les "arts premiers" furent exposés au Pavillon des Sessions).
    Sa collection d'art Africain et Océanien, exposée avec des peintures de Matisse, Braque, Modigliani, Seurat et Bonnard, pour ne citer qu'eux, fut de son vivant considérée comme très importante. On lui attribue la découverte par Apollinaire de l'art Africain et des oeuvres de sa collection furent illustrées dans les premières publications et expositions dédiées aux "arts premiers" considérés désormais comme de l'art et non plus comme de l'ethnographie. Ceci comprend le catalogue de l'exposition à Paris en 1923-1924 organisée par Clouzot et Level, l'exposition à la Galerie Pigalle en 1930 et il fut un des principaux donateurs de l'exposition "African Negro Art" au Museum of Modern Art in New York (1935).
    John Huston (1906-1987) est le metteur en scène oscarisé des films Le Faucon Maltais (1941),Le Trésor de la Sierra Madre (1948),Key Largo (1948),Quand la Ville Dort (1950), L'Odyssée de l'African Queen (1951), Les Désaxés (1961),L'Homme qui Voulut Etre Roi (1975).
    Il acquit cette paire de statuettes juste avant de commencer le tournage de L'Odyssée de l'African Queen (1951). Parallèlement à sa collection d'art africain, il rassembla des peintures et des oeuvres d'art précolombien. En tant que metteur en scène, il avait un don reconnu pour interpréter visuellement et psychologiquement les romans à l'origine de ses films. Peintre accompli, il déclara dans son autobiographie "rien n'a joué un rôle aussi important dans ma vie". Dans sa jeunesse, il étudia à la Smith School of Art de Los Angeles et plus tard à l'Art Students League de New York. Il possédait un atelier dans chaque maison et peignit tout au long de sa vie. C'est donc sans surprise que ses centres d'intérêts rejoignirent ceux de Fénéon, influencés tous les deux par le Cubisme et l'école américaine du Synchromisme.

    Bibliographie :
    Chilvers, I., Fénéon, Félix. A Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Art, 1999, Encyclopedia.com, 18 octobre 2009
    Paudrat, J. L., Primitivism and 20th Century Art, vol.I, 1984, pp.139 et 147
    Paris, Hôtel Drouot, Tableaux modernes, dessins, aquarelles, gouaches, pastels. Collection Fénéon, Paris, 1947
    Clouzot, H. et Level, A., Sculptures africaines et océaniennes: Colonies Françaises et Congo Belge, Paris, 1924
    Sweeney, J. J., African Negro Art, New York, 1935, n.243
    Paris, Exposition de L'Art indigène des Colonies françaises et du Congo belge, novembre 1923-janvier 1924, n.125
    Paris, Exposition d'art africain et d'art océanien, Galerie Pigalle, 28 février-1er avril 1930
    New York, African Negro Art, The Museum of Modern Art, 18 mars-
    19 mai 1935
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Huston

    Special Notice

    " f " : In addition to the regular Buyer’s premium, a commission of 7% (i.e. 7.49% inclusive of VAT for books, 8.372% inclusive of VAT for the other lots) of the hammer price will be charged to the buyer. It will be refunded to the Buyer upon proof of export of the lot outside the European Union within the legal time limit.(Please refer to section VAT refunds)


    Provenance

    André Breton, Paris
    Etude Flagel-Portier, Paris, Art Primitif, 18-20 Mai 1927, lots 337 et 338
    Félix Fénéon, Paris
    Etude Bellier, Collection Fénéon. Afrique-Océanie-Amérique, 11-13 juin 1947, lot 77 (femme), lot 78 (homme)
    John Huston, Los Angeles
    Evelyn Keyes Huston, Santa Barbara


    Saleroom Notice

    La provenance de ce lot est également André Breton, Paris, vers 1925, reproduit dans le catalogue de l'exposition André Breton-La beauté convulsive, Paris, Musée national d'art moderne/Centre Georges Pompidou, 25 avril-26 août 1991, p.54.
    The provenance of this lot is also André Breton, Paris, ca.1925 and was reproduced in the catalogue of the exhibition André Breton-La beauté convulsive, Paris, Musée national d'art moderne/Centre, 25 avril-26 août 1991, p.54.


    Literature

    André Breton-La beauté convulsive, Paris, Musée national d'art moderne/Centre Georges Pompidou, 25 avril-26 août 1991, p.54


    Post Lot Text

    IMPORTANT PAIR OF BAULE FIGURES

    This Baule couple, striking in their overall tall proportions and active gestures, captured the attention of two icons of modern culture-the art critic Félix Fénéon and the director John Huston. Presumably each collector acquired this pair from auctions in Paris-Fénéon in 1927 and Huston from the former's estate auction twenty years later in 1947.
    Félix Fénéon was a literary and art critic who later became an art dealer and collector. He was most famous for coining the term 'Neo-Impressionism' to describe Georges Seurat's work, in particular, in 'Les Impressionistes' (in La Vogue, Paris, 1886), his review of the eighth and last Impressionist exhibition. From 1905 to 1925 he was the director of Galerie Bernheim-Jeune.
    In this role, he continued his promotion of the Neo-Impressionists such as 'Henri-Edmond Cross and the Fauves (including Matisse). Always at the vanguard, he also arranged the first group exhibition of the Futurists in France (1912) and showed the work of the Synchromists (1913). The firm published monographs on its artists and also issued the periodical, Bulletin de la vie artistique.
    It was in this publication that Fénéon posed the prescient question: 'Iront-ils au Louvre ? Enquête sur des arts lointains' (Will arts from remote places be admitted into the Louvre?, 1920 Bulletin de la vie artistique 1, Félix Fénéon (ed.) November 15 and December 1 and 15, 1920, pages 662-669, 693-703, 726-738). He called upon leading scholars and members of the artworld, such as Paul Guillaume and Kees Van dongen to answer this question. (His call to action was finally answered in 2000 when the 'arts premiers' were placed on view in the Pavillon des Sessions).
    His collection of African and Oceanic art, which was held together with paintings by Matisse, Braque, Modigliani, Seurat and Bonnard, for example, was considered important during his lifetime. He has been credited with introducing African art to the poet Apollinaire and works from his collection were included in some of the earliest publications and exhibitions dedicated to promoting the 'arts premiers' as art rather than ethnography. This included the catalogue and exhibition in Paris (1923-24) organized by Clouzot and Level, the exhibition at Galerie Pigalle in Paris (1930), and he was a major lender to the landmark exhibition 'African Negro Art' at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1935).

    John Huston (1906-1987) is the award-winning director of such films as The Maltese Falcon (1941), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), Key Largo (1948), The Asphalt Jungle (1950), The African Queen (1951), The Misfits (1960), The Man Who Would Be King (1975). Huston acquired this Baule pair shortly before he began shooting The African Queen (1951). In addtion to his collection of African art, he collected paintings and Pre-Columbian art. As a director, he was known for his skill of visual interpretation of the particular psychological nature of the novels on which his films are base. He was an accomplished painter who wrote in his autobiography, "Nothing has played a more important role in my life". As a young man he studied at the Smith School of Art, Los Angeles, and later at the Art Students League, New York. He had studios in each of his homes, and painted throughout his life. Not surprisingly, his interests ran parallel to Fnon in that he was particularly influenced by Cubism and the American school of Synchromism.

    References:
    Chilvers, I., Fénéon, Félix. A Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Art, 1999, Encyclopedia.com. (October 18, 2009).
    J-L Paudrat, in 'Primitivism' and 20th Century Art, Vol I, 1984, pp.139 and 147.
    Hotel Drouot, Tableaux modernes, dessins, aquarelles, gouaches, pastels Collection Fénéon Paris, [1947]
    Clouzot (Henri) et Level (André), "Sculptures africaines et océeaniennes: Colonies Françcaises et Congo Belge", Paris, Librairie de France, 1924
    Sweeney (James Johnson), African Negro Art, New York, Museum of Modern Art, 1935, #243.
    Paris, France: Exposition de L'Art indigène des Colonies françcaises et du Congo belge", Musée des Arts Décoratifs, November 1923-January 1924 (Organized by André Level), No.125
    Paris, France: Exposition d'art africain et d'art océanien, Galerie Pigalle, 28 February-1 April 1930
    Brussels, Belgium: Les Arts anciens de l'Afrique Noire, Palais des Beaux-Arts. Brussels, 1930. No.556.
    New York, USA, African Negro Art, The Museum of Modern Art, 18 March-19 May 1935
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Huston

    We are grateful to Alain-Michel Boyer for offering his commentary on this Baule couple (October 2009)

    These two statues are quite unusual, because of the bowls or cups they hold, which is unusual in Baoule art. The position of the bodies and, especially, the arms is also not typical. However, the scarifications are typically Baoule, as well as the facial style with pursed mouths and lifted chins. According to the scarifications and the general style, and also because of the bowls on their head (found more often in Senufo art), I would say they come, probably, from the northern part of Baoule country, from the Fari, or Mamela, or Satikran subgroups, who live in close contact with the Tagbana (who are very closely related to Senufo). It is rare to see a couple preserved as such, because over time and through various trades they were usually separated.
    The height and overall large proportions of this Baoule couple, together with an expressionistic quality, make them without doubt representations of asie usu which belonged to an important trance diviner, komyen fwe, who needed several statues for divination and possession. The fact that they are a couple, like the famous Baoule couple in The Metropolitan Museum (1978.412.390,391 ), for instance, further indicates their function as asie usu made for a komyen fwe as opposed to being carved individually as spirit spouses, blolo bla/blolo bian. Moreover, the spirit spouse figures are never represented with such large proportions.
    In old times, it seems (as I was told) that asie usu statues were much taller, between 70cm and 100cm, for instance. Most comparables one finds, however, are closer to 60cm or less, which can be a symptom of the decline of the cult.
    One large-scale female asie usu, 77 cm high, is illustrated in the catalogue of the recent exhibition, at the Musée Louis Senlecq of L'Isle-Adam, L'Afrique en noir et blanc, du fleuve Niger au Golfe de Guine (1887-1892), Binger explorateur, (2009, p.84). Also published in this catalogue is a unique reproduction (p.85), I would say an extraordinary one, of an 1892 engraving from the book published by Binger, illustrating the ceremony of possession of the komyan. Here, one can see that the statue is nearly one meter high, since the head reaches the thighs of the dancer-diviner. In the engraving, the figure is seated like the asie usu statue of the Musée Africain of Aix Island, France, which is 62 cm high.