“tribal art”

The Fondation Dapper opts for nomadism

The announcement of the Musée Dapper’s closure in May this year came as sad news. But the foundation suffers from no shortage of projects and intends to refocus on outside-the-walls initiatives. A meeting with its president, Christiane Falgayrettes-Leveau. After thirty years of activity and around fifty exhibitions on its counter, the Musée Dapper closed its doors permanently on 18 June this year. In the face of dropping visitor numbers and overly high operational costs, this private museum, well known for its collection of around 6,000 pieces — including 2,000 ancient works from Africa, the Pacific and the Caribbean — was forced to shut. “Maintenance costs were too high, not to mention the cost of putting on exhibitions,” explains Christiane Falgayrettes-Leveau, president of the Fondation Dapper. “But the other reason, just as important, is that we wanted to renew ourselves.” The Fondation Dapper, which Christiane Falgayrettes-Leveau set up in 1983 with her husband Michel Leveau, who died in 2012, took on a museum structure in Paris from 1986 onwards. Here, it exhibited the collection that would raise its reputation and open up knowledge of Sub-Saharan cultural heritage to a wider public as yet unfamiliar with classic African arts. Leaving the townhouse that housed it on Avenue Victor-Hugo in 2000, the museum settled in a larger new space on Rue Paul Valéry in the 16th arrondissement in Paris to welcome exhibitions but also music, dance and even films. “With 1800 square metres including a performance room and an exhibition room, the building became very difficult to manage,” regrets Christiane Falgayrettes-Leveau. High maintenance fees, unsuitable building premises and visitor numbers stagnating at 60,000 per year caused the Dapper to fall victim to the syndrome afflicting private museums deprived of public subsidies that can only balance their figures by ticket sales and donations...

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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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The tribal art market at auction in 2016

Growing sharply since 2000, tribal art has not been spared of upsets in the last three years: a dilution of the historic Sotheby’s-Christie’s duopoly, consolidation of the intermediary market, mainly in favour of African pieces whose average value is dropping. The past inertias are shifting… If there’s one sure thing about this market – an extremely heterogeneous one as it is made up of classic African, Pacific, Pre-Colombian and North American arts –, it would be its growth. The turnover from auction sales, despite a little fluctuation, is following an upward trend, jumping up from around ten million euros in 2001 to flirt with 60 million euros in 2013, up to the excellent year in 2014 when it exceeded the symbolic bar of 100 million euros – an absolute record for the auction market. Meanwhile, the number of lots placed on sale has varied greatly, but its growth is just as indisputable. An average of around 3,100 objects has been presented every year from 2000 to 2005, compared to 5,800 in 2014, 7,050 in 2015, and over 8,300 in 2016. The evolution of the Artkhade price index makes the phenomenon all the clearer: between 2000 and 2016, the price level for classic African and Pacific objects has tripled. However, the last three years have sent out contradictory signals, seemingly sanctioning the market’s mutations. Certain historic dealers and collectors have withdrawn, to be replaced by young buds; the market has globalised; Internet has changed the habits of both professionals and amateurs. Since 2014, the rise in the number of lots presented at sales – following a first phase of growth between 2006 and 2009, nonetheless incomparable with the current one – has been accompanied by a significant drop in the turnover of the tribal-art auction market. Following the absolute record...

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Alex Arthur, Tribal Art and its market

What are the evolutions and limitations of the tribal-art market? How is it nurtured by the contributions of research and ethnology? Alex Arthur offers us a few indications… Alexander Arthur is a well-informed collector and a fine connoisseur of tribal arts. For over twenty years, he has been the publishing director of Tribal Art Magazine. In 2009, he also became involved, with Pierre Moos, in the management of Parcours des Mondes. You are one of the key protagonists of Parcours des Mondes. How have you seen the fair evolve? I actually participated in the very first Parcours so I remember well how it consisted of only a handful of galleries. But the concept was a good one and it grew rapidly into the world’s premier event. The event grew in quality as has the market overall and Parcours des Mondes has become the annual focal point for many galleries today, a situation that is reflected in the quality of many artworks on show and the number of thematic exhibitions. Tell us about vetting at the fair. Like other fields of art, forgeries will always be an issue, but as the market has evolved, so has the level of expertise. Most of the problem is solved by the fair’s selection of exhibitors. The exhibitors at Parcours are all professional and almost exclusively seasoned veterans who go to great lengths to avoid mistakes. The initial selection for the catalogue is open to all exhibitors and we collect and compare comments on these artworks. If a piece raises doubt, we replace it, whilst others may be replaced because they are deemed to be of insufficient quality. For the event itself, we have a knowledgeable committee that strolls around the galleries during setup and will let us know if they see a problem....

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Javier Peres, art out of time

Iconoclast or iconophile? Innovative, or the product of an era? This year, Parcours des Mondes has invited Berlin gallerist Javier Peres to exhibit a few pieces from his personal contemporary-art collection alongside a selection of dealers’ works. The recent years have demonstrated a step-up in boldness amongst exhibition curators. Events such as “Bord des Mondes” (Palais de Tokyo, 2015), “Une Brève Histoire de l’Avenir” (Louvre, 2015) and “Carambolages” (Grand Palais, 2016), have brought together works without any immediate or flagrant historical ties, but other less obvious links. History has not been cast aside, but played down in relation to anthropological or formal connections. In this way, these exhibitions can be compared to essays or protocols rather than demonstrations, their intention less being to highlight a moment in art history than to speak about Man, to investigate the great history of human representations, or to operate formal matches that convey meaning. This same audacity is behind the appealing display of classic African art next to contemporary art. In this way, in May this year, Bernard de Grunne and Almine Rech joined forces to organise an exhibition that was highly publicised: “Imaginary Ancestors”, unveiled at Almine Rech’s New York gallery. The latter restaged a Paul Guillaume exhibition shown at the Durand-Ruel gallery in 1933 (displaying Fang sculptures next to contemporary works of the time, proof that this curatorial gesture has been around for a while), and in parallel, matched “modern primitivists” with artists such as Joe Bradley, Mark Grotjahn, Ana Mendieta, James Turrell and Erika Verzutti. Javier Peres is familiar with this game of mix-and-match. The gallerist (Peres Projects, Berlin) has already played it on three occasions. First of all, in 2014, in his Karl Marx Allee gallery, with the exhibition “Group Spirit”, at which he showed Bundu helmet-masks from his personal collection...

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