The daddy of all tribal art fairs and now in its 15th year, Parcours des Mondes impressed and at times, left us speechless! Over 70 exhibitors, dealers and gallery owners descended onto the streets of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris to exhibit the latest, greatest and never before seen classic African masks, figures and objects. Walking round, three things immediately struck us…
Many galleries had themed exhibitions focused on a particular class of objects or on an ethnic group. Galerie Bernard Dulon displayed a collection of Tsogho figures and heads from Gabon, Yann Ferrandin presented a huge collection of combs and hairpins in their exhibition entitled ‘Hair’, Finch and Co. had a whole wall dedicated to Yoruba ere ibeji figures from Nigeria and Didier Claes curated a small but beautiful collection of Songye nkisi figures from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
As a viewer, this focus and depth made it easier to compare; to view the similarities and differences between exhibited pieces.
That being said, it really was refreshing to walk into a gallery with a plethora of objects from various ethnic groups. This allowed us to discover previously unknown pieces many of which really were the best we had ever seen. Quality… that’s the word that came to mind as we viewed premium pieces, with equally premium prices (some objects were priced at over €1 million). Bernard de Grunne displayed a wonderful Yoruba onígbá obì vessel (more on that later) and a powerful Bangwa head from Cameroon. Galerie Schoffel de Fabry presented a Kuyu helmet mask, quite unlike anything we’ve ever seen before and believed to be one of only three in existence – we’ve nicknamed him ‘two-face’.
Now this, THIS Yoruba onígbá obì vessel at Bernard de Grunne left us… oh my… wow! This vessel of a Yoruba woman holding a bowl, would have been traditionally used by Yoruba royalty or a senior chief to offer kola nuts to guests. The colour, the smooth surface, the shape of the coiffure and head all speak to its prestige.
To see the full list of galleries and exhibitors at the fair this year, you can view the full catalogue here