News-Antique.com - May 09,2008 - New York, New York – The spring sale of African, Oceanic & Pre-Columbian Art is built around an historic offering
from several distinguished private collections. The 163 lots offered are estimated to sell for $4.7/6.7 million* and
will be on exhibition at Sotheby’s New York prior to the auction from May 10th through May 15th.
Sotheby’s will offer 32 works from The Dinhofer Collection, highlighted by A Magnificent and Highly Important
Baga Serpent (est. $1.5/2 million, pictured on page 1), a great sculptural object from The Republic of Guinea. This
monumental clan insignia was collected in 1957, just prior to the country’s independence, by art dealers Henri and
Hélène Kamer. By 1961, the serpent was sold by the Kamers to the gallery of one of the most important dealers of
20th century art: Pierre Matisse, the son of Henri Matisse. In Matisse’s gallery on East 57th Street in New York, the
Baga Serpent was exhibited alongside works by Joan Miró and various group shows of contemporary artists
including Wifredo Lam, Jean Dubuffet and Alberto Giacometti.
Examining the alliance of African and Contemporary Art at the gallery since the 1930s, scholar Michael FitzGerald
argues: “Perhaps the most fascinating association of the Baga piece is with the art of the 1960s. During the years
when Matisse owned the sculpture and periodically exhibited it in his gallery (1962-67), artists in New York were
defining a new art that eschewed the emotive goals of much Abstract Expressionist
work. In doing so, several turned again to tribal work for inspiration. Here, the
possibility exists that the artists may have seen the Baga Serpent on view at Matisse
and responded to it.”
Specifically, the exhibition of the Baga Serpent in Matisse’s gallery may have had an
influence on the creation of Alexander Calder’s Short Lipped Snake from 1973.
Matisse was one of the earliest dealers in New York to show African Art. Together
with Charles Ratton, a legendary dealer from Paris, Matisse organized exhibitions of
African and Oceanic art as early as 1934, which coincided with the landmark show of
African Negro Art at The Museum of Modern Art in 1935. Matisse’s 1934 exhibition
of Oceanic Art and 1935 exhibition of African Sculptures from the Ratton Collection
received high acclaim.
Selections from the 31 works being offered from The Walter and Molly Bareiss
Collection of African Art include A Superb and Important Songye
Community Power Figure, which was collected in situ by Gaston Heenen,
Governor of Katanga, before 1937 (est.$250/350,000, pictured on page 2).
Walter Bareiss was briefly an interim director of The Museum of Modern Art,
New York, and he amassed a strong collection of 20th century American and
European Art before turning his passions towards African art during the last
twenty years of his life. Walter and Molly Bareiss, who passed away in 2007
and 2006, respectively, viewed African Art as an aesthetic of the highest
accomplishment and complexity. They concentrated their collection on
pieces from Central Africa and Southeastern Africa, an