Another year, another Parcours des Mondes over but boy what a show. The mood at the 16th edition of the fair was lively and for new visitors, sometimes a bit overwhelming. This year brought in a huge crowd, with many visitors attending for the first time. ‘Good’ classic art from Africa really does pull in the crowds and a new generation is discovering the wonders of African cultures. And this growth in awareness and attendance was definitely reflected in some of the prices we heard mentioned.
67 exhibitors were at the event this year, making it harder and harder for galleries to stand out. But the variety gave visitors a plethora of amazing art to see, touch, analyse, and potentially buy. And buy they did. Museum-quality pieces with museum-quality prices did not deter collectors, many pieces were sold on day one. We’ve never seen so many red dots on opening day. This really speaks to the fact that collectors must do their homework before attending the event—ask for catalogues from your favourite dealers, tell them what you like, ask about what’ll be available.
Last year was all about thematic shows and this year was no different. Dealers used themed shows as a way to differentiate but also to drive focus, to focus the eye of the viewer. Which brings us to takeaway one.
With almost 70 exhibitors, many with thematic shows, it was pretty difficult to see all the art. However themed exhibitions, which focused on a specific type of object or on works from a single ethnic group, stood out. Many dealers also produced scholarly catalogues of the pieces on display.
Didier Claes held an exhibition on sublime African combs, Schoffel De Fabry displayed majestic Yoruba beaded bags and crowns (some from Pace Gallery—read the book Yoruba Beadwork by William Fagg to learn more about these beautiful objects), Galerie Abla et Alain Lecomte exhibited Teke figures from the collection of Sophie and Claude Lehuard, and Philippe Ratton had a Kota, Kota, Kota, Kota show. Were there too many themed shows? We’ll let you be the judge.
Thanks to the work by this year’s president, Javier Peres, of promoting art from East Nigeria and Cameroon, visitors had the chance to delve deeper into the art from other parts of Africa (Africa IS after all much more than the Democratic Republic of the Congo). And one sweetheart of the show this year was definitely art from the Kaka of Cameroon.
There isn’t a lot of research about the Kaka and their art is pretty rare but according to Bruno Claessens, they create "schematically rendered anthropomorphic figures with an encrusted surface(s)".
Although rare, we saw four Kaka figures this year: at 'The Lion and the Jewel' exhibition, curated by Javier Peres, combining contemporary pieces from his personal collection with Nigerian artworks from Parcours des Mondes’ exhibitors, at Galerie Olivier Larroque, at Galerie Afrique, and at Philippe Laeremans. Does this signal a shift in taste?
Yup, you guessed it, the standout piece for us this year was the Yoruba Arugba Sango bowl presented by Didier Claes. Monumental yet delicate and full of curves, the bowl would have been used in a Sango shrine to store ancient stone celts associated with the thunder god.
And then of course there was the Barbier-Mueller show full of masterpieces at La Biennale… but more on that later 😉
Check out the full catalogue for Parcours des Mondes 2017 and don’t forget to mark your calendars for the upcoming Tribal Art Fair in Amsterdam and the Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Zemanek-Münster auctions. The autumn African art season is now in full swing!