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Fang Head Sells for Record €12.6m at Christie’s Tribal Art Auction

Fang Head Sells for Record €12.6m at Christie’s Tribal Art Auction

Fang Head Sells for Record €12.6m at Christie’s Tribal Art Auction. Photo: “A new record for African and Oceanic tribal art was set by Christie’s in Paris when this Fang reliquary head sold for €12.6m (£10.8m) at Christie’s in Paris.”


A highly acclaimed Fang reliquary head, previously sold pre-World War II and renowned for its refinement, recently sold €12.6m (£10.8m) at auction. It reached €14.77m (£12.6m) including buyer’s premium. (Fang Head Sells for Record €12.6m at Christie’s Tribal Art Auction).

Possibly for the first time, top-tier ethnographic art commands prices comparable to modern Western art it influenced. At a March 6 auction, 13 out of 100 Barbier-Mueller lots sold for over €1m each, marking new milestones in tribal art collecting. The sale totaled €73m (£62m), setting a record for any tribal art collection. Furthermore, the collection was primarily amassed by Josef Müller (1887-1977), later expanded by his daughter Monique (1929-2019) and son-in-law Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller (1930-2016). The Barbier-Mueller Museum in Geneva, housing over 7000 pieces, was established in 1977. A portion of the collection was sold following the passing of one of the heirs. – Fang Head Sells for Record €12.6m at Christie’s Tribal Art Auction.

Notable Acquisitions from Prominent Dealers

In his years residing in Paris, Josef Müller’s art collection began with iconic pieces by Picasso and Cézanne. However, by the mid-1930s, his interests expanded to include African artworks, meticulously documented in his notebooks.

In 1939, Müller acquired a 14-inch ebony ‘Tête de reliquaire Fang’ from Antony Innocent Moris, a renowned ethnographic dealer in Paris. This piece was among 14 lots in the auction with undisclosed estimates.

Previously, the highest recorded sale for Gabonese sculpture was a Fang head, formerly owned by artist Maurice de Vlaminck, which fetched €6.5m (£5.91m) in June 2021. This sale, part of the Michel Périnet collection at Christie’s Paris, set a previous tribal art collection record, totaling €66m (£57m). Among its highlights was a white painted tapuanu mask from the Mortlock Islands, Micronesia, sold for €7.8m (£7.1m), setting a record for Oceanic Art. – Fang Head Sells for Record €12.6m at Christie’s Tribal Art Auction

Photo: One of five lots bought by the Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac at Christie’s Paris sale of the Barbier-Mueller collection, this mask from the Vitu Islands took €300,000 (£256.000).


French Institutions Secure Prominent Lots at Barbier-Mueller Auction

French organizations participated in the Barbier-Mueller auction and secured several lots. Among these acquisitions by the Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac in Paris was a helmet mask from the Vitu Islands in Papua New Guinea, purchased for €300,000 (£256,000). This mask, adorned with blue-green, iron red, and white paint, was originally acquired by Monique and Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller in 1978.

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