Bonhams African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian Art department offers a wide range of unique and traditional works of art from sub-Saharan Africa, the islands in the Pacific and from Central and South America. Objects include ceremonial and religious items as well as utilitarian and specialised items for daily use within the culture.
On December 12th in Paris, a variety of highly unique African and Oceanic sculptures will pay tribute to the remarkable richness of this area in art history. With highlights ranging from historical pieces to recently discovered masterpieces of exquisite quality, the auction will explore the vitality of these styles and celebrate the inventiveness of the artists from this continent, and its impact on 20th century art. The auction will include a highly curated selection of works from Central Africa, attesting to the 19th century Western fascination with traditional sculptures linked to ancestral cults.
When and how did they start working iron in Africa? It is clear from the archaeological findings that in 500 BC there were blacksmiths throughout the continent who melted copper and iron ore in clay kilns. Weapons made of iron gave their owners legal and religious authority, and they carried them, danced with them in ceremonies, waved them and threw them into the air. African blades were the currency of their owners' most precious possessions. The ceremonial swords and the weapons presented here are of the most special types, valued by their fine engraving, their ornaments and the composition of their materials.
Nearly as universal as war itself has been the inclination to decorate the weapons of war. People through time and in nearly all cultures have painstakingly embellished their weapons. From maces, clubs, daggers, and spears, to shields, helmets, and entire suits of armour, this exhibition offers more than 150 striking examples of weapons that are also extraordinary works of art.
Before colonization, complex hierarchical societies flourished in Central and West Africa. At their summits were a select few—kings and chiefs whose authority was derived from their direct connection to powerful ancestors and predecessors. These rulers were wrapped in expensive textiles or costly furs, and covered in beads and precious metals—materials that not only signaled their extraordinary status, but were also intended to safely contain the great power they wielded. The famous minkisi sculptures of Central Africa were similarly activated through the addition of charged materials. This exhibition explores the parallels between the adornment of the king’s physical body and minkisi. The exhibition demonstrates how authority was expressed and power contained across a range of historical cultures in Nigeria, Ghana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Cameroon.
Africa is considered the cradle of humanity - all our ancestors come from there. Today the continent comprises more than 50 countries and has the world's widest range of languages and cultures. The exhibition presents impressive examples of traditional art from sub-Saharan Africa. The spectrum ranges from courtly bronzes from the realm of Benin, powerful power figures from the Congregation and centuries-old filigree Ivory carvings from West Africa to fascinating ancestral sculptures or masks from Mali to Tanzania. A special focus of the exhibition are works by international contemporary artists such as Romuald Hazoumé, El Loko, Pieter Hugo and Ransome Stanley.