“Didier Claes”

The Dealers speak out

They’re the ones who murmur into the ears of collectors. Gallerists play a crucial role in the tribal-art economy. For this special issue, a number of them, each with their own specialities, have agreed to share their feelings on the sector. Confidences. At auctions, the eclectic nature of the tribal-art market indicates sure growth in the long term, both in terms of the number of lots placed on sale and their proceeds, even if the last three years have seen heavy fluctuations, if not a slight decline. However, by overshadowing the reality of the world of dealers, auction results are only a partial indicator of the health of a sector characterised by deep restructuring. Between a generational shift among collectors, sourcing difficulties, and a complex balance between auction houses and dealers, what does the future hold? Collectors: a new generation takes the reins? In the eyes of Alain Lecomte from the gallery Abla & Alain Lecomte, specialised in ancient African arts, there’s no doubt about it: the sector is in for a shakeup: “The tribal-art market is at its early stages; we are talking about a form of art that is still relatively unknown by the international market. Everything is yet to be achieved. The current market — more specifically, that of ancient African art, but in my opinion, the same goes for other forms of tribal art — is mainly made up of passionate enthusiasts, people who invest themselves, who read specialist books, who spend a great deal of time on the topic, without necessarily being very well off. These are sincere collectors, and their number is growing, both in Europe and in the United States. They need to hurry up and create their collections, because soon the African continent is going to wake up. We can see...

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Archaeology and tribal art: transactions under pressure

Stratospheric-level auctions, overheated prices… The market for archaeological and tribal pieces is booming! We retrace the phenomenon of star status for these highly coveted objects. An issue that we examine by seeing what dealers, collectors and members of the scientific community have to say… Ever since the start of the 2000s, the tribal-art market has literally exploded, with its turnover jumping up from €13.7 million in 2001 to €92.1 in 2014. Despite this strong growth, tribal art remains a marginal market, which represents only 0.68 % of the global turnover of art auction sales, in other words, 40 times less than the proportion occupied by modern art, according to a report published by Artkhade, Art Media Agency and Art Analytics in December 2015. Largely in front, Africa and Oceania leave other geographical zones behind in the shadows. Between 2000 and 2014, these two continents represented 64.8 % of lots offered at auctions and 81 % of the sector’s total sales proceeds. Above all, the market’s growth has been accompanied by a multiplication of auctions raising millions of euros in sales rooms. In 2014 alone, fourteen lots went over the million-euro mark, yielding a total of €39 million, in other words 42 % of the yearly turnover of the tribal market at auctions. “The market turned around when the first major public sales were held, first the sale of the Hubert Goldet collection in 2001, then above all the Vérité sale in Paris in 2006 [editorial note: which totalled €44 million at Drouot]. A spectacular sale, on the media and marketing front as well,” explains Didier Claes, African arts specialist. “This was the first time that African objects reached such records, including a Fang mask which went for €5 million. This was an important milestone for the acceptance of this...

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Interview with Didier Claes: the new Director of Bruneaf in Brussels

Brussels, 15 January 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA). Winter Bruneaf (Brussels Non-European Art Fair), which takes place between 22 and 26 January, is to mark this edition with a new committee, elected on 10 October 2013, which includes Didier Claes as President, Marc Leo Felix as Secretary and Patrick Mestdagh as Vice-President and Treasurer. The first African art fair in Brussels, this is the sister edition of June’s original Bruneaf event. AMA met with the new president to discuss his ambitions for the fair. For this new edition of Bruneaf, there has been a certain element of renewal in the event’s management – why was this necessary? Bruneaf has existed for 24 years, and has always been directed by its founder, Pierre Loos. For 2014 we needed to renew the team and to breathe a bit of new life into the fair. To coincide with the event’s progression, certain things had to be changed, for example at senior level, and I think that any self-respecting fair deserves to have a committee of experts. What was the first thing you did? There was this creation of a committee of experts to go and visit galleries, and I created a ethics board with five dealers who kind of survey what the committee does. Why did you feel the need to create this ethics board? Because we had been criticised on what was happening. Bruneaf, as well as being a a nonprofit organisation, is a small team. Some people were questioning interior matters such as gallery rental and the subscription of new members, because to become one you normally have to appear before a committee, and members were joining without having been approved by the board… Every decision is made by the ethics board. It’s been very successful and has returned people’s...

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