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Beyond borders: Skinner’s May 5 American Indian & Ethnographic Art Auction

Presents art and artifacts from Africa to the Great Plains, the tundra to the tropics


Songye Power Figure, Mankishi, (Lot 78, Estimate $60,000-80,000)

Songye Power Figure, Mankishi, (Lot 78, Estimate $60,000-80,000)

The allure of non-Western art and artifacts for early modernist artists such as Picasso and Matisse is well known. Ethnic creations continue to have the same appeal for collectors around the world.

This auction features significant African art, painstakingly acquired over many years by connoisseurs with deep scholarly insight. Many other cultures are represented as well. Previews will be held in Skinner’s Boston gallery on May 3, 12PM-5PM, May 4, 12PM-7PM; May 5, 8AM-9:30AM.

Top lots include:

  • Songye Power Figure, Mankishi, central east Congo (Lot 78, estimate $60,000 – $80,000). The carved wood figure standing on a mound incorporates cowrie shell, metal elements, and beads, and stands 32 ¾-inches high.
  • Dogon Shrine Figure, Bandiagara, Mali, classical period, 14th to 19th century (Lot 132, estimate $40,000 – $50,000). This sculptured tree root exhibits the artistry of Dogon sculptors, who communicated with the spirits of the bush and the ancestral world on behalf of the tribal group. Through creations like this, they revealed the guardian spirits in material form.
  • Northwest Coast Chilkat Blanket, c. 1900 (Lot 328, estimate $35,000 – $45,000). Woven of mountain goat wool and cedar bark in pale yellow and blue against a black background, this classic form represents a bear under water, wd. 59 in.

There are numerous other highly desirable lots of African art from the collections of:
• Arnold Crane, a wide-ranging connoisseur with a special interest in African sculpture and metalwork
• Mauricio Lasansky, noted printmaker whose collection of African art includes a significant group of Ivory Coast figures and masks
• Richard Newman, collector of Akan goldweights, miniature representations in brass of many aspects of west African culture

Quinault Whalebone “D” Adze Handle, last quarter 19th century (Lot 333, Estimate: $6,000-8,000)

The auction also features American Indian art from weavings, pottery, and baskets to beadwork and jewelry from the Plains and Eastern Woodlands, as well as Northwest Coast and Eskimo artifacts. Highlights include:

  • Fine Plains Catlinite Stem and Bowl, mid-19th century (Lot 291, estimate $15,000 – $20,000). Object has intricate lead inlay including birds, small animals, arrows and abstract designs An old paper label reads: “Indian pipe, Made by a Sioux Chief “White Dog”, who was hung at Mankato Minnesota in 1862 – It was presented as a peace offering to Lieut King by the chief while a prisoner in his…,”
  • Quinault Whalebone “D” Adze Handle, last quarter 19th century (Lot 333, estimate $6,000 – $8,000). The carving depicts a bear and a squirrel.

Other important pieces in this wide ranging-auction are:

  • Carved board, kwoi, Papuan Gulf (Lot 32, estimate $8,000-12,000). Kwoi boards, embellished with unique clan emblems and containing powerful spirits, were displayed in shrines inside the longhouses of the Purari people.
  • Large Veracruz Terracotta Figure, Late Classic (Lot 8, estimate $8,000-12,000). The figure, painted in black bitumen with natural clay feet, loincloth and headdress, depicts a cacao merchant.

This is truly a world-class sale of worldwide works that range over the globe, through time, and across many media. It is the inaugural auction for Michael Evans, Skinner’s new Director of Ethnographic Arts. He brings global experience to one of the most international of Skinner’s specialty departments.

Evans was born and raised in New Zealand, where he completed his studies with a concentration in art history. Subsequently, he has lived and worked in Europe and the United States. As a private dealer in fine art, Evans has worked extensively with clients, dealers, and curators across the United States, Europe, and Australasia.

Previews, Catalogs & Events

Previews will be held in Skinner’s Boston gallery on May 3, 12PM-5PM, May 4, 12PM-7PM; May 5, 8AM-9:30AM. Free and open to the public, specialists will be on hand to answer questions. Auction catalogs may be purchased on the Skinner website. Find out more about the Gallery Walk and Reception held on May 4th. 

About Skinner

Skinner attracts top consignments and commands record-breaking prices in the international auction marketplace. With renowned expertise and extraordinary service, Skinner is the place for buyers, sellers and the passionately curious. Skinner appraisers are familiar faces on PBS’s 15-time Emmy Award-nominated ANTIQUES ROADSHOW. Visit us in Boston, Marlborough, New York or Miami, or online at https://www.skinnerinc.com.

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