“The African art market is dead!”
“There are no new collectors of classic African art.”
“Collectors only want trophy pieces, there is no mid-market.”
Enough already! While some of the latest sentiment may be true, it’s on each and every one of us to share the beauty of classic African art with the world. It’s on us to promote, publicise, revolutionise, and innovate. We have to break out of our silo and educate new potential collectors about Africa, its cultures, and its art. Classic African art can, should, and will attract lovers of art from other fields.
Parcours des Mondes, in conjunction with this year’s honorary president, Javier Peres, aims to do just that. Now in its sixteenth year, the fair has been instrumental in encouraging people to visit classic African art galleries of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés quarter in Paris. Set to run from Tuesday 12 to Sunday 17th September 2017, this year’s instalment of the fair will combine African art with contemporary art—demonstrating that these two worlds can coexist in perfect harmony.
"At the Independent Art Fair Brussels, we showed a Fang figure and a Fang mask with contemporary art. A lot of the audience didn’t even realise it was classic African art. They were just like ‘who’s this artist’, that’s the main question we got."—Javier Peres
A contemporary art dealer and a passionate collector of African art, Javier demonstrates the symbiosis that can happen between classic African art and abstract art. Over the last 20 years, Javier has built an important collection of works by Igbo, Fang, Bassa, Vai, Mende, Dogon, Baule, Dan, Kaka, and Eket artists—an extensive collection. By regularly pairing classic African art with pieces by today’s leading contemporary artists, Javier encourages a new way of ‘seeing’. He seeks to break down the barriers between artistic domains and promote an open and inclusive vision to a broad audience.
At this year’s event, Javier will create an installation that provides a bridge between non-European art and works by contemporary artists. Important contemporary paintings and sculptures from Javier’s own collection will be installed alongside East Nigerian artworks selected from dealers participating in Parcours des Mondes. This intersection of periods, genres, and cultures should create a stimulating dialogue relating to the mixing and marrying of different art forms.
To give you a taste of what’s to come, we joined Javier in Paris to discuss the three African art objects he views as highlights of Parcours des Mondes 2017. His selections embrace objects of raw energy to those of refined and classic beauty.
Galerie Bernard Dulon
10, rue Jacques Callot
Photograph by Vincent Girier Dufournier
This Fang eyema bieri reliquary guardian figure was bought at the end of the 19th century and has been kept by the same family ever since. The figure, hung on the family’s wall with a nail at the back of its head, is a classic. Her heart shaped face and the solemn position of her arms, combined with the unusual red pigment on her body inspires the viewer to admire and respect her.
Galerie Lucas Ratton
Exhibiting at 33, rue de Seine
Photograph by Vincent Girier Dufournier
Galerie Lucas Ratton is showing an ensemble of Bamana works. This Malian ethnic group has produced a great diversity of objects (masks, marionettes and other ritual sculptures), and its exceptionally rich sculptural traditions correspond with a wide variety of rituals. Lucas Ratton has been assembling a group of Bamana sculptures over two years. This nyeleni figure is the masterpiece of the Bamana collection. Representing fertility and beauty among the Bamana, this figure is unique in its height, its composition, and its coiffure. It’s very modern and yet sensitive.
"Bamana objects are very special for me because they were part of my initial transition from naturalistic female figures from Ivory Coast to more modernistic and cubistic forms. I like this figure because it is still dealing with the notion of beauty. This figure would have been used as part of agricultural competitions to encourage men to be better farmers. The better you were in your business, the more beautiful the girl you were likely to attract—a hot girl wasn’t going to go with a bum. You can see the different decisions the artist had to make with this piece; the body, those legs, the torso, the scarification, and the face. The face is what got me. It has a little bit of swag and attitude but also sweetness. And I love the coiffure. It’s quite amazing."—Javier Peres
"To me this figure is all attitude. I love when Teke figures are complete, it still has its bundle, it’s amazingly intact. But so much is special about this figure—its face shape, its neck, the whole figure is full of zigzags. I love that you can see the little arms. The whole thing has that Teke power."—Javier Peres
Claude Lehuard, the brother Raoul Lehuard, offered Galerie Abla et Alain Lecomte his complete collection of Bateke figures collected by their father Robert Lehuard between 1924 and 1933. Robert Lehuard was instrumental in teaching the West what we know today about the Teke and their art. He documented the local terminology for the objects he acquired and captured the local use of these objects during his time in DR Congo.