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Monday, December 29, 2008

Artist Profile: Joan Miro (Note: There should be an accent over the 'o' in Miro)
Joan Miro Ferra was an influential 20th century painter, sculptor, ceramicist and printmaker, who was born in 1893 in the Catalan region of Spain, near Barcelona. He began drawing as a young boy, and later attended a business school, as well as La Lonja School of Fine Arts. At the latter school, he was encouraged by two teachers; one encouraged him to revive the spirit of primitive Catalan art, combining it with modern discoveries and techniques. (This was in the beginning of the 20th century, at the time modern art was just beginning in Europe, and the creative climate was energetic and progressive.) As a youth he was exposed to the rich folklore of Catalonia, which later influenced his images, such as how he saw all natural forms as beings, including pebbles and trees. He was also exposed to complete interiors of ninth to twelfth century fescoed churches in visits to the Museum of Catalonia in Barcelona, with their relatively crude execution and their simple, flat and cartoon-like imagery. They also used primary colors, all heavily outlined in black, with a darkly shaded surrounding field, as well as the also modern treatment of space as a flat surface rather than the traditional illusion of depth in an image (perspective, etc.). All of these elements can be seen in Miro's work, as well as the use of differences of scale, where one form is disproportionately larger than others, a method often used by children when they make the objects most important to them the biggest objects in the image. --> -->
After 3 years of business school, Miro took a job as an accounting clerk in a drugstore, which was the type of position his parents chose for him. He was overworked there, and became seriously ill, verging on a 'nervous breakdown,' followed by a bout of typhoid fever. His parents then took him to their new country farm, Montroig, in a secluded village in Catalonia. The state of his health caused his parents to allow him to do what he most wanted to do - paint. He attended the Academy Gali in Barcelona (a free-spirited academy with the influence of contemporary foreign painters, where there was also interest in literature and music). There individual expression was encouraged; Miro also learned to draw by the sense of touch alone, rather than by sight. At this time (around 1915), Dada was beginning, and Miro began reading avant garde Surrealist poets such as Apollinaire and Pierre Reverdy. He met Josep Llorens y Artigas, who was to become a lifelong friend, and with whom he was to collaborate in pottery projects in the years to come. Miro was also influenced by Fauvism (specifically Matisse) and Cubism, which started in the early years of the 20th century, and at first painted still lifes. (Spain has a historical tradition of mystical still lifes, which combine commonplace objects with eerie lighting against total blackness.) From 1915 to 1918 he painted nudes, then portraits, then landscapes. At this point he began "geometricizing" the forms, and used colors independently of their local color (like the Fauves, who used bright colors not seen in nature). He also began searching for signs and symbols to represent humans and animals in tension or movement. His two biggest influences when young had been Cezanne and Van Gogh, as well as other French artists. The Dalmau Gallery in Barcelona was a gathering place for foreign visitors; here Miro met Francis Picabia, a Dadist painter. --> -->
Miro's work had gone through a period of free expressiveness; he now decided to tighten up somewhat, doing landscapes until 1921-22. His best known work from this period is The Farm, a view of his parents' farm. The work done during this time shows minute details, using the precision of a naive primitive painter. At this time, and all his life, he was influenced by his Catalan heritage, such as the decorated Catalan pottery, and the Catalan murals which were restored in the 1920's, and painted in flat patterns in a folk style. He was also at this time beginning to be influenced by Surrealism (which began in the 1920's), and his work now took on a more spare look (paring down to essentials).
In 1919 he took his first trip to Paris, visiting Picasso in his studio. The painters Francis Picabia, Salvador Dali, Antoni Tapies, and the architect Antoni Gaudi were also born in Catalonia. Although Picasso was born in Malaga, in the Andalusian region of Spain, he was influenced by Catalan art. In Miro's life, there were three important places: Montroig (in Catalonia), Barcelona and Paris. (Catalonia is located in the northeast part of Spain, close to France, and Catalan culture is very close to the culture of the south of France. The Catalan people have always been a very independent people, holding fast to their language and traditions.) --> -->
One year later, he visited Paris again, meeting Surrealist poets Pierre Reverdy and Tristan Tzara. At this time he attended the first Dada demonstration in Paris. And finally, he moved to Paris, at an exciting time for young artists, who shared a supportive friendship. In 1923, there was a big change in Miro's art, moving toward more sign-like forms (i.e., like hieroglyphs), geometric shapes and an overall rhythm. There was also a move toward a more overall composition, with The Harlequin's Carnival of 1924-25. This overall type of composition was later used by Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Arshile Gorky and other modernists; rather than using a focal point such as that used in traditional painting, the composition encompassed the entire picture surface equally in all places. His forms included cats, butterflies, mannequins, and Catalan peasants, and there was visual movement in his images. Surrealism began at this time, with the writer Andre Breton issuing the Surrealist Manifesto. Surrealism was supposed to be a fusion of reality and the dream, a sort-of "super" reality. Breton felt that Miro's work had an innocence and freedom about it. Miro showed his work in Surrealist exhibitions, and was influenced especially by the Surrealist poets, who in their quest to tap the unconscious mind played games like the "exquisite corpse" in order to compose poems. Exquisite corpse was a technique where a dictionary was passed around in a group of poets, who would each choose a word randomly from it. Whatever words came up, they would organize into a poem; this is how the phrase "exquisite corpse" was created. They also used the techniques of psychic automatism (like free association), and "systematic derangement of senses." Miro and other painters (such as Andre Masson) worked out a way to transfer these techniques to their visual medium, using their dreams and visual free association. Miro painted about 100 paintings from his dreams at this time; this was his most Surrealist period. He also illustrated Surrealist poems in collaborations with poets. --> -->
Another concept introduced by the Dadaists was the element of chance or accident in art. They would start with a splotch of fluid, then add to it to make a painting. "The painter works like the poet; first the word, then the thought," is a quote that tries to describe how artists and poets may see or think of a concrete image or word, before they have formulated the idea or "symbolism" behind it. At this time, Miro was influenced by the work of Francis Picabia and Giorgio de Chirico. Although he exhibited with the Surrealists, and was friends with many of them, he never submitted himself totally to their movement, and did not sign the Surrealist Manifesto, perhaps because of the radical political activities of the Surrealists, who were also very interested in the psychological ideas of Freud and Jung.
In 1927 and 1928, Miro painted figures derived from Catalan folk art. In 1928 he began painting images based on postcards of some Dutch interiors he had seen in Holland, by such painters as Jan Steen. The images he worked from were crowded with forms; he gradually simplified the forms and stripped the image down greatly, using geometric divisions and curving movements in the compositions. At this time he moved further away from his points of departure, and began using unusual sources, such as a diesel motor, influenced by Surrealist thinking. From 1928 to 1929 he produced a number of collages; in Paris he had moved closer to Max Ernst, Rene Magritte, Paul Eluard and Jean Arp, so was influenced more by the work of these Surrealist painters and one poet. Max Ernst in particular is known for his collages. In Surrealist art there were two tendencies: the representational imagery of Dali and Magritte, and the more abstracted images of Masson and Miro, though both were affected by Surrealist ideas of anti-logic and the subconscious; and Dali's and Magritte's images, though painted in a highly realistic fashion, depict objects and scenes which do not appear in the rational world, such as a train coming through a fireplace into a room, or melting clocks. --> -->
By 1929, Miro had finished the first phase of his art-making, and he began to question and reappraise his work during the following 10 years, which were a struggle for him, financially and artistically. He began experimenting with materials - doing papiers colles and collages, using pictures of ordinary objects such as household utensils, machines, and real nails, string, etc. This period of experimentation helped him to drop any lingering traditional practices, and eliminate usual habits of working. By using objects of no significance, artists are able to concentrate on the abstract qualities of objects, rather than their associated meanings or emotions, allowing for more formal freedom; the viewer also is less able to attach literal meanings to the images. These "neutral" subjects with little aesthetic value or significance take the attention away from subject matter and toward the forms and content in the image. After creating these collages, Miro would make a painting of the collage - transferring a flat collage image onto the equally flat canvas. These paintings from the collages are highly refined and strongly graphic images, and even though they contain no identifiable subject matter, the paintings do contain content, or meaning. Although Miro is often characterized as an abstract painter, he himself considered that he was not - he even felt it an insult to call his work abstract, since he claimed that every form in his images was based on something in the external world, just simplified into his characteristic biomorphic shapes and curving lines. --> -->
In the 1930's, conflict was active around the world, in particular the Spanish Civil War and the beginnings of World War II. Many atrocities occurred during the Spanish Civil War, inflicted by Franco's fascist forces, as depicted by Picasso in his famous Guernica. Although Miro was not a political artist, his forms during this time depict a certain brutality, with distortions and garish color. He created a mural for the Spanish pavilion at the Paris Exposition of 1937, called The Reaper.
In 1940 and '41, he began his well known series of 22 Constellations, which consist of black dots representing stars on a white ground, using gouache and thinned oil on paper. These are very intricate works, with every part of the canvas activated. The carefully placed dots create a 'jumping' or 'dancing' sense of movement, even a "connect the dots" feeling. They remind me of Mondrian's late work of the 1940's, when he discovered American jazz - Broadway Boogie-Woogie of 1947, which has the same visual movement, and a cool, dancing quality of the little squares. However, Miro's work tends toward more of a cosmic awareness - these are stars, rather than just abstracted dots (painted poetry). --> -->
Miro stayed in Spain during World War II, his work being influenced by the night, music and stars. His forms became even more abstracted, and he used a number of techniques in his work, for example whenever lines intersected, there was a splash of primary color; when red and black overlap there is yellow. He gave the works evocative titles such as The Beautiful Bird Revealing the Unknown to a Pair of Lovers. In 1942 he began his interest in engraving and ceramics (with his friend Artigas, a highly skilled potter), and in 1944 he returned to painting, now adding a calligraphic quality to his images. By now he was beginning to gain international fame, due to his 1941 retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and his presence in the International Surrealist Exhibition of 1947 in Paris, organized by Marcel Duchamp and Andre Breton. That year he was invited to do a mural commission for a hotel in Cincinnati, Ohio, which was 30 feet long. In 1950 and '51 he did another mural for the Graduate Center at Harvard, which consisted of loosely squared blocks of color combined with black lines and small areas of pure color. These elements form cartoonish figures. (This mural was later replaced by Miro's ceramic mural.) During the 1940's he also painted some "stick figures," and in the 1950's his images contained forms that were almost like primitive pictographs. In his paintings, forms often do not touch the edges of the picture area - most are an even distance away from the edges, with perhaps one small element touching the edge of the canvas at the top or elsewhere. His backgrounds also have become more mottled now, rather than flat areas of paint, which gives the images more of a sense of visual depth. Despite not contacting the edges completely, his forms at this time still manage to have an overall type of composition. He also began painting ceramics during this time. --> -->
After the War, after having been in seclusion, he spent time with artist friends Marcel Duchamp, Alexander Calder and Yves Tanguy in New York. He was influenced by his time in America, particularly by life in the City of New York, which consisted of bright lights and a kind of sensory bombardment, sometimes stressful. In 1948 he returned to Paris and had several exhibitions. Some of his works now are carefully composed and executed, and others are deliberately spontaneous and experimental. In the early 1950's he began to merge these two tendencies in his work, with a painterly background, linear black and white forms, and touches of pure color. During the 1950's he developed a brand new approach, using the painting methods of primitive man, making painted and carved forms. At this time, he had his lifelong dream of a "big studio" made a reality, and he surrounded himself with all of the objects he had collected over years in walks, such as polished stones, driftwood, seashells, horseshoes, farm implements, etc. This also reflected the Surrealist interest in special, magical objects, like talismans. Their simple forms encouraged the simple forms in his work. --> -->
From 1945 to '50, he had carved small figurs in clay, like primitive fertility goddesses, and simple vases of bird and head forms. Between 1954 and 1960 he produced his greatest ceramic output, with the aid of Josep Llorens y Artigas, who provided technical expertise for his creations. They had the use of a very large kiln for Miro to bake his increasingly large ceramic forms, which he created in individual parts to be reconnected after firing. They wanted to produce ceramic works which were not simply paintings transferred to ceramic, but in deference to the ceramic medium itself. Their big project was to convert Miro's art objects to the ceramic medium. They started with large stone blocks suggested by natural rock formations in the countryside, then did small pebble and egg forms. They made vases, dishes and bowls, and added forms to these, to produce objects of no practical use. Finally, he created entirely invented forms. They developed a highly refined glazing process, using 3 to 8 firings for each piece. Because of the unpredictability of a kiln, pieces may fall apart or bring unexpected results. The use of the raku method of pottery, baking with a wood fire, produces effects not seen with gas or electric kilns. Miro learned to control these whims of the kiln to a great degree, and there resulted 232 pieces, which he sent to Paris in 1956 for a show at the Galerie Maeght. The effect of this show in the gallery was powerful, having a strong effect on viewers - his primitive forms standing and sitting throughout, like a paleolithic forest. Miro also produced his first bronze sculpture at this time. --> -->
In 1955 he was commissioned to decorate UNESCO's new building in Paris; he made a ceramic design in keeping with the building's design. For this project, he and Artigas inspected the cave paintings of Altamira and Romanesque frescoes in the Barcelona Museum, as well as the architect Gaudi's decorations. Miro was awarded the Guggenheim Prize in 1958 for this work.
In 1959 he returned to painting again, and his work was now informed by his experiences in other mediums. In 1962 he painted Mural Painting III, an extremely spare image having a solid yellow-orange surface, with two small black dots and three irregular lines, a spare, painterly image. During the 1960's he devoted more time to the mediums of printmaking, ceramics, murals and sculpture. One reason for his interest in these other mediums was that they involved collaborating with other people, rather than the solitary activity of painting. Also, printmaking's production of many images rather than just one original appealed to him. --> -->
Miro's influence on the art of the later 20th century is great; some artists who were influenced by him include Robert Motherwell, Alexander Calder, Arshile Gorky, Jackson Pollock, Roberto Matta, Mark Rothko, and expressive abstract painters. Perhaps the original color field painter was Matisse, and perhaps Miro's use of a large field of color was due to Matisse's influence. Painters who came afterward who use the color field include Helen Frankenthaler, Jules Olitski and Morris Louis. Miro's vast fields of color also introduced the idea of "empty" space being as valuable as occupied space in painting. Here is a 1958 Miro quote from Twentieth-Century Artists on Art: "The spectacle of the sky overwhelms me. I'm overwhelmed when I see, in an immense sky, the crescent of the moon, or the sun. There, in my pictures, tiny forms in huge empty spaces. Empty spaces, empty horizons, empty plains - everything which is bare has always greatly impressed me." His characteristic biomorphic form was also influential in 20th century abstraction, with Alexander Calder and others. Miro had a unique place between Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism, influencing the New York School of painters in the 1940's and '50's. --> -->
Throughout his life, Miro worked in several printmaking processes, including engraving, lithography and etching, as well as the use of stencils (called pochoir). He stated that printmaking made his paintings richer, and gave him new ideas for his work. In 1967, Miro was introduced to carborundum (silicon carbide engraving); combining this technique with other printmaking processes, he was able to produce images that rivaled the original qualities of painting. He continued to explore the carborundum aquatints the rest of his life, and in 1970 the Museum of Modern Art in New York held an exhibition specially devoted to these prints. In his later years, he spent most of his time doing etchings, doing large-scale aquatints and book illustrations. Much of his work can be found in the Guggenheim and Museum of Modern Art in New York. During the 1970's he continued to receive wide acclaim, and had major exhibitions in the Musee National d'Art Moderne, and other major art institutions in Europe and America. In 1980, King Juan Carlos of Spain awarded Miro the Gold Medal for Fine Arts. In 1983, the year of his 90th birthday (and his death), there were birthday celebrations for him in New York and Barcelona.
In 1972, the Fundacio Joan Miro, Centre d'Estudis d'Art Contemporani (Joan Miro Foundation) was legally constituted in Barcelona. The museum opened in 1976, with a collection of Miro's drawings. A large selection of Miro's paintings, sculptures, textiles and prints are exhibited there, as well as exhibitions of other modern and contemporary artists. --> -->
In the book Painters on Painting, Miro is quoted in an interview of 1947, saying that his favorite schools of painting are the cave painters - the primitives. He claimed at one point that since the age of cave painting, art has done nothing but degenerate. He also expressed a liking for Odilon Redon, Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky for their "esprit." For artists of "pure" painting, he preferred Picasso and Matisse, and felt that both of their points of view are important. He added that the direction painting ought to take was to "rediscover the sources of human feeling." He also stated that he made no distinction between painting and poetry, and that painting is "like making love - it is an exchange of blood, a total embrace - reckless and defenseless." He said his aim was to help painting advance beyond the easel, to push its limits; to ceate a response first of physical sensation, then a great impact on the psyche of the viewer. He considered pure abstraction to be an absurdity, and empty. Like Gaudi, Miro was fascinated with the Catalonian language; he demanded in his will that his funeral be held in Catalonian style with the obituary written in the Catalan language. --> -->
Miro's images, which came from his memory, the unconscious, dreams, and transformative modernist art processes, are at once childlike, innocent and sophisticated. His two poles of existence, Catalonia and Paris, reflect this combination of rural and cosmopolitan. His forms (creatures such as people, birds, insects and animals) are whimsical and expressive, as well as inventive. The ultimate meaning of all of his abstracted realities may not be known, but I think it's safe to say that they all had a meaning for him, in his childhood, in his dreams, and in his life.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

African Art Exhibitions.

Bernard J Shapero Rare Books
and Bryan of Tribal Gatherings London
invite to the preview of
Vintage and Contemporary Photographs from the African Continent
Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher will be signing copies of their latest limited edition book Karo and Suma

NOUVELLES ACQUISITIONS du 27 nov. au 20 déc. 2008 Lisa et Philippe Laeremans 27 Rue des MinimesB-1000 Bruxelles mobile +32 475 262118 email : philippelaeremans@yahoo.frLég.: Poteau funéraire Bahnar, Vietnam

Auctions of art, design, antiques and home luxury -

Friday, November 14, 2008

Frieda and Milton Rosenthal Collection.

News from David Norden

Today at Sotheby's New York, in a packed sales room with spirited bidding from clients both in the room and participating over the phone, the auction of African and Oceanic Art from the Collection of Frieda and Milton Rosenthal surpassed pre-sale estimates, bringing $10,859,944 (est. $6,849,500/ 10,808,000). This offering represents the most important collection of African and Oceanic Art to be offered in forty years in New York and is the highest total for a single-owner sale of African and Oceanic Art in New York.The centerpiece of today's auction was lot 63, a Magnificent and Highly Important Senufo Pair of Male and Female Ancestor Figures, Ivory Coast, also known as the "Rosenthal Primordial Couple." The male and female ancestor figures were sought after by at least three bidders, two of which were in the room, before selling for $4,002,500 to a client on the room. This price is a record for a Senufo sculpture at auction and within its $3/5 million estimate, the highest estimate ever placed on a work of African art at auction.Three works sold for over $1 million today: the Senufo Primordial Couple, bringing $4 million; An East Sepik River, Sawos, Ancestral Malu board, a very big one which achieved $1,314,500; and a very old Sébé Kota reliquary guardian figure, which realized $1,058,500. The sale was 86.7% sold by lot with 70% of the sold lots achieving hammer prices at or above their estimates.A rare Boyo statue sold for 530,500$

Sale Results New York Sale N08510 Rosenthal 14 NOV 08Grand Total (Including Buyer's Premium):$10,859,944 (Sold by Lot: 86.7% Lots Offered: 135Sold by Value: 97.3% Lots Sold/Unsold: 117 / 18


measurements noteheights 45 5/8 in. 116 cm (male) and 38 1/8 in. 96.7 cm (female)

déblé, the pair masterfully rendered in similar geometric form, rising from thick cylindrical bases, the bent legs with great tension leading to the tight hips, the swayed lenticular torso framed by the square shoulders, carved armbands above the elbow leading to the faceted forearms with hands resting to the sides, the male holding a flywhisk and the female a rattle in each respective's right hand, the tapering necks supporting the heads with strongly projecting chins and scooped facial plane, straight noses bisecting the downturned eyes and C-shaped ears, the female wearing a headdress with janus-headed quadruped, the male with a headdress surmounted by a disc with openwork reptile at the center; exceptionally fine deep brown patina with red, ochre, and white pigment.

John J. Klejman, New YorkNelson A. Rockefeller, New York, acquired from the above in 1961The Museum of Primitive Art, New York (accession nos. '61.24' and '61.25')Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, May 4, 1967, lot 25Acquired at the above auction

The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, Traditional Art of the African Nations in the Museum of Primitive Art, May 17 - September 10, 1961Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, The Traditional Sculpture of Africa, October 12 - November 12, 1961 (cats. 52 and 53)Colby College, Waterville, Maine, New Discoveries in West African Art, March 4 - March 30, 1962The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, Senufo Sculpture from West Africa, February 20 - May 5, 1963 (cats. 55a and 55b)Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, Senufo Sculpture from West Africa, July 12 - August 11, 1963 (cats. 55a and 55b)Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, Maryland, Senufo Sculpture from West Africa, September 17 - October 27, 1963 (cats. 55a and 55b)The Rockefeller Institute, New York, West African Art, October - December, 1964Arnot Art Gallery, Elmira, New York, The Art of Black Africa: Past and Present, January 19 - February 4, 1965First World Festival of Negro Arts, Dakar, Senegal, Traditional African Art, April 1 - April 24, 1966 (cat. 372)Grand Palais, Paris,Traditional African Art, June 1 - August 20, 1966Mary Washington College, University of Virginia, Fredericksburg, Virginia, The Sculpture of Primitive Peoples, October 23 - December 11, 1966 (cat. 14, female figure)The Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, New York, African Art in Westchester from Private Collections, April 24 – June 6, 1971 (cats. 47 and 48)C. W. Post Art Gallery, Greenvale, New York, African Sculpture: The Shape of Surprise, February 17 – March 30, 1980 (cat. 19)National Museum of African Art - Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., African Art in the Cycle of Life (inaugural exhibition), September 15, 1987 - March 20, 1988 (cat. 2)Guggenheim Museum of Art, New York, Africa: The Art of a Continent, June 7 - September 29, 1996Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York, A Family Album: Brooklyn Collects, March 2 - July 1, 2001The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Genesis: Ideas of Origin in African Sculpture, November 19, 2002 - April 13, 2003 (cat. 4)


The Museum of Primitive Art (ed.), Traditional Art of the African Nations in the Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1961, nos. 42 and 43Robert Goldwater, Senufo Sculpture from West Africa, New York, 1964, ill. 93 and 93a The First World Festival of Negro Arts (ed.), Traditional African Art, Dakar, Senegal, 1966, cat. 372 (male figure)The Hudson River Museum (ed.), African Art in Westchester from Private Collections, Yonkers, 1971, cats. 47 (illustrated) and 48 (unillustrated)Susan M. Vogel, African Sculpture: The Shape of Surprise, New York, 1980, p. 43, cat. 19 (unillustrated)Roy Sieber and Roslyn A. Walker, African Art in the Cycle of Life, Washington, D.C., 1987, p. 33, cat. 2Alisa LaGamma, Genesis: Ideas of Origin in African Sculpture, 2002, p. 31, cat. 4


The Rosenthal Primordial Couple, a masterpiece in two parts created by an unknown Senufo artist from Ivory Coast in the late 19th or early 20th century, was among the most iconic works in the collection of The Museum of Primitive Art in New York in the mid 20th century. The museum was a private initiative of Senator, later Vice President, Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller, established in 1954 and financed primarily by the senator himself. The museum was closed in 1976 and the collection subsequently transferred to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where it forms the core of the Department for the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas, housed in the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing.

Whilst in Rockefeller's collection in the 1960s the Rosenthal Couple was featured in 11 museum exhibitions. On May 4, 1967 Parke-Bernet Galleries conducted a sale to raise money for The Museum of Primitive Art, with the Couple the star lot. Frieda and Milton Rosenthal acquired the Couple at that auction. Over the next 40 years, the figures were widely published and exhibited, and today count among the most widely recognized works of African art in the world.

Cultural Origin

In her discussion of the Rosenthal Primordial Couple at the occasion of the exhibition Genesis: Ideas of Origin in African Sculpture at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, LaGamma (2002: 30 et seq.) notes: "According to the Senufo account of genesis, Kolotyolo, the creator, gave life to the first man and woman, who became the first human couple. The woman conceived and gave birth to twins, a girl and a boy. In Senufo society twins are thus thought to have supernatural power that they may exert to positive or negative effect. In order for them to fulfill their potential to be a force for the good, twins must be male and female, the ideal gender balance of the creation myth. Senufo large-scale sculptural pairs commemorate the primordial couple of the myth and celebrate their enduring beauty and idealized complementariness.

"The ideal of human male-female duality represented in [The Rosenthal Primordial Couple] also informs Senufo conceptions of the divine, especially the bipartite deity that is central to Senufo religious belief. Kolotyolo, the male aspect of divinity responsible for creation and 'bringing us forth,' is a benevolent but relatively remote presence who is balanced by a more accessible female dimension known as Katyeleeo, or Ancient Mother. She is a divine protectress responsive to the needs of the community. Within Senufo society, an optimal relationship with this divinity and the ancestors is assured through Poro, an initiation-based organization whose teachings also prepare members for responsible and enlightened leadership. Participation in Poro is universal among Senufo males, who safeguard their community's social and political welfare by making frequent sacrifices to the ancestors - conceived as past children of Ancient Mother - so that they may intercede on behalf of her current, living children.

"A Senufo village is composed of a series of residential settlements known as katiolo. In a large village, each has its own Poro society, set of initiates, and sacred sanctuary, or sinzanga, situated in a dense grove of trees beside the village. [...] Although Poro is essentially a male institution, the most important ancestor invoked is the woman who was the head of the sinzanga's founding matrilineage. Anita Glaze suggests that this emphasis on female ancestral origins is reflected in Poro-sculptural couples, the majority of which interpret the female as the dominant of the two figures. Such 'ancestral couples' are the primary sculptural form used by Poro and are displayed on the occasion of a distinguished member's funeral. Both figures in this example hold attributes of Poro in their right hands: the male grasps a flywhisk, the female raises a rattle. "A preoccupation with ancestral origins is articulated visually in [The Rosenthal Primordial Couple] through the treatment of the navels. The male figure has a protruding, herniated navel that evokes the remnant of the umbilical cord. Glaze notes that this feature serves as a reminder of the matrilineage that reaches back to Ancient Mother. A variation on this idea is expressed through the highly abstract motif that accents the female figure's navel. It consists of four sets of three or four parallel lines that radiate horizontally and vertically out from the navel at its center. Known as kunoodyaadye, which translates as 'navel of mother' or 'mother of twins,' this design is used to ornament the body of Senufo women at puberty. Kunoodyaadye synthesizes references to the Senufo creation myth and to the role of women as the matrices of life and the guarantors of social continuity."The Art Historical Importance of the Rosenthal CoupleAlthough Senufo ancestor figures were always created as male and female pairs, only a few have survived with both the male and female still intact - and only a handful of these remain in the same collection. See a male and female figure previously in The Rockefeller Collection, today in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (accession nos. '60.163' and '60.164', published in Goldwater 1964: ill. 113 and 114); a couple, from the same workshop as the aforementioned, collected in 1954 by Emil Storrer and subsequently in the collection of Peter and Veena Schnell (Sotheby's, Paris, June 15, 2004, lot 35); a male figure in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (accession no. '1978.412.315') and a female figure in the Museum Rietberg, Zurich (accession no. 'RAF 301'), both published in Goldwater (1964: ill. 94 and 95; for the female figure see also Phillips 1995: 459, fig. 5.126); a female figure published in Kerchache (1988: 374, fig. 318) and a male figure previously in the collection of René Rasmussen, Paris (Sotheby's, Paris, June 8, 2008, lot 111); and a couple previously in the collection of Mr. R. Durand, published in Goldwater (1964: ill. 91 and 91a).

Stylistically, the Rosenthal Primordial Couple most closely relates to a torso of a male figure in the Collection of Drs. Marian and Daniel Malcolm, New Jersey (previously in the Carlo Monzino Collection, published in Vogel 1986: 18-19, cat. 12). With its alteration of swelling and constricted forms, smooth and rough textures, convex and concave shapes, and play of mass against negative space, the Rosenthal Primordial Couple embodies the essence of the Senufo style, one of the most iconic expressions of African art.

In its superb quality, its completeness as a couple, its excellent state of preservation, and its influential history, the Couple counts among the most important African creations to be offered at auction in recent memory.

Surrealist Jewellery by Christian Astuguevieille in Brussels


Christian Astuguevieille

Christian Astuguevieille's work revolves around an Imaginary Civilization. He traces and articulates the traditions and rituals of this fantastical realm through his work, providing us insight and the ability to go on a journey into our own imagination. The inhabitants are eternal warriors, hunters and creatures who celebrate the cycle of nature. The motifs in Astuguevieille's work have been cultivated through a long history of travels to far away places, taken from his observation of different cultures and traditions. These observations are translated into jewelry, glass-work, sculpture, paintings, furniture or wordless books, as relics of this imaginary world, a symbolic tribe, and have become his trademark. Astuguevieille's work is the result of years as a research collaborator for museums. In the early 1970s, he was involved in the founding of the Pompidou Center in Paris and remained a strong contributor there after.
His art has been exhibited in various museums around the globe, resulting in many significant commissions.Christian Astuguevieille is an artist as opposed to a designer - his work reflects a philosophical view that perceptions should be challenged. His pieces are not about functionality or utility, they are about interaction. Utilizing tactile materials, he redefines conventional objects so that we look at them in a new way. Astuguevieille has created various objects; from jewels to tables, high-backed chairs and lamps. His creations are playful yet sophisticated at the same time. The list of materials he uses is extensive: shells, synthetic hair, wire meshes, artificial flowers, paper bows, polished cotton-wool, gold thread, organza or resin.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Maurizo Galante


From a young age, Maurizio Galante was exposed to the colors, textures and sights of his hometown in the Latium region of central Italy, which would later influence and distinguish him as one of the most original and talented designers of modern haute couture.Having studied design at the Costume Institute in Rome, Galante began creating his own designs, leading to his debut show in 1988. Since then, he has been garnering unadulterated praise for his clothes. Maurizio Galante's creations are infused with ancient dress patterns and techniques, mainly from the Orient. With each collection, he presents an exquisite mix of layered accordion pleats and sensual silhouettes, embroidered with 18th century lace, silk tulle, or swan feathers. To form these voluminous and rhythmic creations involves complex technique. Each individual piece takes up to 300 hours make. This methodology and love of his craft is presented in the seamless collection he has created exclusively for CoutureLab. The geometric silk shapes, detailed embroidery and intricate beadwork that form his dramatic pieces are all skillfully made by hand.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A New Museum-like gallery for Sperone Westwater

New York: A New Museum-like gallery for Sperone Westwater

Following fellow dealers Rachel Lehmann and David Maupin, art scene veterans Gian Enzo Sperone and Angela Westwater are moving to New York's Lower East Side. In doing so Sperone and Westwater are putting their business through a new and fantastic adventure, since they will leave the space in Chelsea in order to establish a new enormous space at 257 Bowery, due to open in December 2009.

The new gallery, designed by Forster + Partners, will be a nine-story space (one block north of the New Museum) with double the exhibition area of the current space on West 13th Street, and will have a moving exhibition space — a 12 x 20-foot moving hall that connects the five floors where works of art will be on view. The exhibition space on any floor can be extended by parking the moving hall as required.

This “moving exhibit” will set a new standard for galleries and pioneer a novel approach to vertical movement within a gallery building. Featuring elements of a museum-like space, the design incorporates a mezzanine floor, a double-height display area at street level, a sculpture terrace towards the park and a private viewing gallery at the top of the public floors. Works of art will be stored primarily in the basement, while an extensive library is located at the top of the building.

With this new space, the gallery, founded in 1975 by Italian art dealer Gian Enzo Sperone, Angela Westwater, and German art dealer Konrad Fischer, confirms its historical relevance (they showed Kounellis, Boetti, Merz and Beuys when they had little or no recognition in the United States), as well as the increasingly blurred line between commercial spaces and institutions.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

TATE MODERN - November 2008

Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster


Tate Modern: Until 13 April 2009 -Free entry -Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster is the latest artist to create a commission for The Unilever Series in Tate Modern's Turbine Hall. For this new commission, the French artist presents a vision of a post-apocalyptic world 50 years into the future. Filling the vast space with recreations of sculptures by artists including Louise Bourgeois and Claes Oldenburg, massive LED screens playing edited extracts from science-fiction and experimental films and 200 bunk-beds scattered with books, Gonzalez-Foerster imagines a world where the inhabitants of London take shelter in the Turbine Hall from a never-ending rain.


Tate Britain/ Until 18 January 2009/ This year, the four artists who have been shortlisted for the Turner Prize are: Runa Islam, known for her carefully choreographed films that are both analytical and emotionally charged. Mark Leckey, who uses sculpture, film, sound and performance to communicate his fascination with contemporary culture. Goshka Macuga, whose form of 'cultural archaeology' uses work by artists past and present in new dramatic environments. Cathy Wilkes, who uses arrangements of commonplace objects and materials in her sculptures to explore issues of femininity.


Tate Modern/Until 11 January 2009/Cildo Meireles is one of the leaders of the international development of conceptual art. This Brazilian artist has made some of the most politically telling, aesthetically seductive and philosophically intriguing works in recent art. His objects and atmospheric installations from the late 1960s onwards never fail to surprise, ranging in scale from tiny works to vast installations covering 225m square. This major retrospective presents a powerful and intriguing tour of his most memorable works.


Tate Liverpool/Until 30 November/ Tate Liverpool is taking part in the UK’s largest festival of contemporary art. This year, leading international artists have made new work responding to the theme of ‘made up’. The Liverpool Biennial is one of the highlights of the city’s year as European Capital of Culture, and it involves galleries across Liverpool as well as many new commissions in surprising places.


Tate St Ives/Until 11 January 2009/ Tate St Ives presents the first UK exhibition by Austrian artist Heimo Zobernig. One of the most significant artists working in Europe today, the display includes important works from the last 25 years, as well as new works which intervene with both the architecture of the galleries at Tate St Ives and the Tate Collection. Alongside his own works, the exhibition brings together art from the Tate Collection as selected by the artist, including works by Pablo Picasso, Carl Andre, Henry Moore, Oskar Kokoschka, Marcel Duchamp and Kurt Schwitters.

Time Lines: Commonality and Difference in Contemporary South African Art

Institute of African American Affairs New York University 41 East 11th Street, 7th floor (between University Place & Broadway)

Penny Siopis, Associate Professor of Fine Arts at the University of Witwatersrand, is one of South Africa's most renowned visual artists. Siopis will discuss recent art practices in South Africa that mix local cultural content with wider concerns of contemporary artistic expression.

Time Lines: New Perspectives on African Art

Time Lines presents fresh perspectives on the arts of Africa by some of the foremost scholars and artists working today. In these five programs the audience will discover antiquities from Nigeria, contemporary video art from South Africa, photography from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Malian masquerade, and sculpture by Nigerian-born artist Nnenna Okore.
Time Lines is supported by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts. Image: Pinky Pinky Blue Eyes by Penny Siopis.

Conversations with a Continent: Kenya
November 5, 2008

Location: 92nd Street Y at 1395 Lexington Avenue, Warburg Hall
Now in its second year at the 92nd Street Y, Conversations with a Continent addresses contemporary life in Africa. Each program focuses on a different country and brings leaders from academia, politics, the arts and business into a conversation in a casual setting. Audience participation inspires enlightened commentary and lively debate among experts and moderators.

The Republic of Kenya, though known for animals and tourism, is a varied land, the most economically developed of East Africa. Kenya's political problems have been in the news as a result of the disputed election. More than 40 ethnic groups reside in Kenya with the largest group being the Kikuyu people and the next most important the Luo. Join us this week with unique views of Kenya through the eyes of John Kiarie Wa'Njogu, Lector of Kiswahili at Yale University, Jacqueline M. Klopp, Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, and Serah Shani, Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology and Education at Columbia University.

Series Subscription: $200
Each Session: $25/$20 for Museum for African Art members
Please visit the 92nd Street Y's website ( to purchase tickets. Members, please call 212-415-5500 to order.
Conversations with a Continent is co-sponsored by the Museum for African Art and the 92nd Street Y. Conversations with a Continent is supported by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. Image: Flag of Kenya.

Mitsui Family Day: Introduction to West African Drumming and Dancing: Part I
November 1, 200812:00pm - 2:00pm
PMT Dance Studio, 69 West 14th Street

A two session course (Part II Dec. 6) taught by dance instructor Maia McKinney and accompanist Michael Wimberly. Appropriate for dancers of all ages and experience levels!
All Family Days are FREE to the public, thanks to the generosity of Mitsui USA. Image: MfAA dancing workshop.
Email to pre-register today!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Contemporary artists with a flair for jewelry design

Turner prize winning artist, Anish Kapoor, has successfully condensed his engaging signature sculpture into jewelry design. Alluding to Kapoor's large mirror sculptures, this 22 karat yellow gold ring features a distorting concave reflective centerpiece, which appears as a pool of water at certain angles.

Anish Kapoor's reflective sky mirror in New York was the inspiration for his water rings collection.

Contemporary artists with a flair for jewelry design. Discover wearable art by emerging talent. Find a unique investment piece .