Journey Through Treasures

Three Takeaways From Parcours des Mondes 2017

September 24, 2017 By: Adenike Cosgrove

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.

Baule Bowl-Bearing Monkey Figure, Ivory Coast
Dalton Somaré
Bete Mask, Ivory Coast
Dalton Somaré
Yoruba Apo Ifa Bag, Nigeria
Schoffel de Fabry

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.

Thematic Shows - Variety in 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.

Dogon Maternity, Mali

Exhibition: "Des Palais de Bandiagara aux Plaines de Bamako"
In the works for over two years, the exhibition brought together about forty Dogon and Bamana objects.

© Galerie Dodier
Photo by Michel Gurfinkel
Mbala Prestige Adze, DR Congo

Exhibition: "Pouvoir et Prestige"
The exhibition, 'Power and Prestige', was devoted to the symbolic and visual ceremonial objects which function as social markers that attest as much to man’s desire for power as they do to the traditional cultures and the skills of the artists that made them.

© Yann Ferrandin
Photo by Hughes Dubois
Dan Bagle Mask, Ivory Coast

Exhibition: "Picasso l’Africain"
The exhibition presented a selection of objects that demonstrated the affinities Picasso had for tribal art. The highlights of the show included a Baga shoulder mask (Picasso owned a mask of this type, and it inspired his series of portraits of Marie-Thérèse Walter) and a rare asymmetrical Dan mask (idem).

© Charles-Wesley Hourdé
Photo by Vincent Girier Dufournier
Bambara Nyeleni Statue, Mali

Exhibition: "Bamana"
The Bamana, a Malian ethnic group, have produced a great diversity of objects. Lucas Ratton assembled a group of Bambara masks, marionettes, figures, and other ritual statues collected over several years.

© Galerie Lucas Ratton
Photo by Vincent Girier Dufournier

Cuckoo For Kaka

Kaka Figure, Nigeria-Cameroon Border
© Galerie Olivier Larroque
Photo by Hughes Dubois

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?

Masterpiece - Arugba Sango

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.

Yoruba Arugba Sango, Nigeria
Didier Claes
Yoruba Arugba Sango, Nigeria
Didier Claes
Yoruba Arugba Sango, Nigeria
Didier Claes

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!

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