African Art Sets the Market Off

  • Christie’s is auctioning 105 African pieces from the Durand-Dessert Collection  
  • The Durand-Desserts have collected African art for 30 years

Christie’s is hosting an auction of one of the largest collections of African art. The pieces come from the collection of the Durand-Dessert family who have gathered these works for the past 30 years. Will this sale serve as a turbo boost for the valuation of future African sculptures?

Why This Matters: Little is known about African art dating beyond the 20th Century. During the colonization of African kingdoms Western occupiers muted creative practices including the development of the sculptures in this auction. Anthropologists and art historians have gained greater understanding of the art from various parts of Africa. In turn this has increased appreciation for these pieces. The items in this auction are estimated to go for between $9 million and $14 million.

Famed Nigerian sculptor Yinka Shonibare wants to see African art get more respect in the West. “I wanted to raise the fact that Western art owes a hell of a lot to African aesthetics. Where would Picasso be without the encounter with African art,” said Shonibare about a recent collection he is curating at the Stephen Friedman Gallery in London.

Christie’s anticipates the auction will set off the market for African art, in large part due to the Nigerian pieces in the sale. “Never before has there been so much good Nigerian material in just one sale at Christie’s, and it’s really a market-making moment. We want to put these works on the map and give them the attention and the platform they deserve,” said Christie’s Head of African and Oceanic Art Bruno Claessens.

What’s Next: Christie’s will hold the auction on June 27 in Paris. Look out for whether the pieces surpass the projected $14 million upper range for the sale. On June 13, Sotheby’s completed an auction of African and Oceanic art from multiple collections that sold for nearly $6.6 million.

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