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  • Out of Africa: Skinner Offers The Gordon Lankton Collection of African Art

Out of Africa: Skinner Offers The Gordon Lankton Collection of African Art

Yoruba-style Woven and Shell Egungun Costume (Lot 2016, Estimate $1,500-2,500)

The African art offered in the online auction which runs from June 15 to June 23 is from the collection of Gordon Lankton of Clinton, Massachusetts. An engineer by profession, long-time CEO of a major plastic injection molding company and founder of the Museum of Russian Icons, Lankton is also a life-long collector.

His extensive holdings of African art are the culmination of a wide-ranging collecting career that has included coins (American pennies with an example for every year back to 1794); World War II posters; cast-iron toy cars; and the largest private collection of Russian icons in the country. These are housed in their own museum in Clinton.

“There is always something new out of Africa.” The Roman scholar Pliny the Elder made that comment in the first century A.D. and it remains true today. African art has been a source of fascination and inspiration for centuries, never more than during the 20th century, when modernist artists such as Picasso, Matisse, Gauguin and Modigliani took inspiration from African masks, sculpture and pottery.

Two Bamana-style Carved Chi Wara Headdresses (Lot 2026, Estimate $150-250)

Lankton began collecting African art fairly recently. The core of his collection was 200 items purchased from a fellow collector of both icons and African material. Over the years the Lankton collection of African objects has grown to over 600 pieces.

His interest in ethnic art goes back to a long and long-ago journey. In 1956, recently discharged Army Lieutenant Lankton decided to take the long way home from his last posting in Germany. His nine-month motorcycle trip from Frankfurt to Tokyo covered nearly 20,000 miles and took him through twenty-three countries.

The Middle East, India, and Indochina were not yet frequent tourist destinations for Americans. That journey through a post-World War II world gave the 25-year-old from Peoria, Illinois an abiding appreciation of ancient cultures with very different values and assumptions from those with which he was most familiar. The experience awakened in the young man a life-long fascination with the many ways in which non-European peoples experienced and interpreted the world around them.

Lankton likes to assemble groups of objects that offer a complex and layered picture. He enjoys observing the subtle differences between objects that have a similar function, as seen for example in a number of West African divination urns, each serving the same ritual purpose but each possessing the individuality of its maker.

Congo-style Carved Water Buffalo Drum (Lot 2037, Estimate $100-200)

The Gordon Lankton Collection of African Art offers many pieces representing traditional skills of Africa that continue to this day. The collection had been displayed in Clinton for several years in an interactive gallery. Visitors were invited to enter into Lankton’s interest in workmanship and craft, his respect for other societies’ core values and spiritual practices, and his abiding curiosity about the human stories that objects can tell.

The stories told in this collection have abiding interest as expressions of vibrant traditions, whether the mask, wood carving, tool, musical instrument or piece of pottery was made recently or many years ago.

With their timeless decorative appeal, intriguing symbolism, and ingenious craftsmanship, the objects from the Lankton collection offer bidders the opportunity to acquire examples of craft and art that are timeless and universal.

Previews, Catalogs, and Bidding

The online-only auction opens for bidding at 10AM on Thursday, June 15 to Friday, June 23 at 2PM. Auction previews are free and open to the public. They will take place at Skinner’s Marlborough Gallery on Tuesday, June 20 from 12PM to 5PM, Wednesday, June 21 from 10AM to 7PM, and Thursday, June 22 from 10AM to 5PM.

About Skinner

Skinner auctions draw international interest from buyers and consignors alike, with material regularly achieving record prices. The company’s auction and appraisal services focus on fine art, jewelry, furniture, and decorative arts from around the globe, as well as wine, fine musical instruments, rare books, Asian art, clocks, Judaica, and more. Monthly Skinner Discovery auctions feature a breadth of estate material. Widely regarded as one of the most trusted names in the business, Skinner appraisers have appeared on the PBS-TV series, Antiques Roadshow, since the show’s inception. Skinner has galleries in Boston and Marlborough, Massachusetts, as well as in New York City and Miami, Florida, with bidders participating in person, by phone, and online. Join auctions live with SkinnerLive! and Bidsquare. For more information, visit www.skinnerinc.com, find us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and Instagram.


4 thoughts on “Out of Africa: Skinner Offers The Gordon Lankton Collection of African Art

  1. I was surprised to see that you had auctioned Lankton’s collection of African art, somehow I missed it. It was an impressive assemblage that I saw in Clinton some time ago. I am thinking about auctioning my collection of African art, started in the 1970’s, containing some very fine material. I am in Boston, location is convenient. I would think it would be a single-owner sale, with several hundred items, with concentrations on Ogoni, Ibibio, Guere, Bete, Yaka, Bassa, but also examples from other cultures. I love living with it but, frankly, my son will inherit it before all that long and it would be a burden to him. I have not photographed the collection methodically, but I do have some pictures. Some pieces have provenances, many don’t. Mostly purchased from specialist dealers in Belgium, France, Germany and America, some directly from Africa or local estates. Can you advise me how to proceed? And, does Skinner do well with type of material?

    • Hello Michael, Thanks for the comment on the Gordon Lankton Collection! To find out what your collection may be worth at auction, I realize that it may be a challenge to submit each and every piece you have, but please submit what photos you do have and an auction evaluation form with a description of the collection on our website: secure.skinnerinc.com/appraisals/form.asp. The Appraisals Department can then determine how best to proceed for us to have the opportunity to view all of your pieces. They can coordinate with the appropriate Specialists as well as the Consignment Department for you. We will look forward to hearing from you!

  2. I was surprised to see that you had auctioned Lankton’s collection of African art, somehow I missed it.

    • Hello Dylan, we’re so sorry that you missed the auction of Lankton’s African Art! We hope that we’ll able to help you find what you’re looking for again in the future.

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