Fang Bellows
wood and metal
height: 18½ in. (47 cm.)
Fondation Aborigo; sale, Jean-Louis Picard, Paris, 5 December 1994, lot 34.
Private collection, Europe; sale, Christie's, Amsterdam, 24 May 2000, lot 100.
Jan Krugier, acquired at the above sale.

Lot Essay

In this works is perhaps one of the most stunning aspects of African art--the urge to create sculpture and beauty in every realm of life. Here is a tool used among the highly important blacksmiths to fan the flames of the forge. The Fang artist, not satisfied to maintain the most basic elements, transformed the object into an anthropomorphic and dynamic presence with the addition of the neck and head above circular apertures. This type of object was clearly admired early on as we see a related Punu bellows (Gabon) already featured in 1935 at the landmark exhibition African Negro Art at The Museum of Modern Art in New York (1935: no. 48; Collection Antony Moris) and today in the Musée Barbier-Mueller, Geneva (see L. Perrois, Art ancestral du Gabon dans les collections du Musée Barbier-Mueller, Geneva, 1985, pp. 112-113 and 200, pl. 16).

The purity of this sculpture from Gabon, and its distillation of the human body to a spare and new form, is precisely where artists such as Giacometti saw the genius in African art. He owned a Kota sculpture from Gabon as early as the 1920s (fig. 1). In his bronze works from this same period, such as Femme cuillère, 1926-1927 and Homme, 1929 (fig. 2), the geometricized human figures show a clear aesthetic link to his appreciation and study of African art.

(fig. 1) Alberto Giacometti in his atelier with an African Kota sculpture, rue Hippolyte-Maindron, Paris.

(fig. 2) Alberto Giacometti, Homme, 1929. Private collection.

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