Benin Bronzes

Benin bronzes take limelight at sales of tribal art in London

Tribal art expected to do well at upcoming sales

Three sales of tribal art are to be held in London over a two-day period in mid-June. Sotheby’s sale on 17th will concentrate on examples from Africa with the highlight being a Benin bronze equestrian figure, probably from the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century. The piece is one of twelve known examples of horsemen made for the Royal Court of Benin and the only one still in private hands and is expected to fetch £350-500,000 ($600-900,000). Another African work is a Luba divination figure from Zaire carved seated holding a bowl in the form of a child (est.£20-30,000; $35-50,000), while amongst the Oceanic art is an Easter Island male figure with the typical arched emaciated form (est.£60-90,000; $100-160,000). A Maori feather-box carved with geometric designs is included with the estimate of £7-10,000 ($12-18,000). A Moai Kavakava figure from Easter Island also features in Bonhams sale on the same day and is estimated to make £30-50,000 ($50-90,000). A Marquesan war club, formerly in the Manchester Museum and the Hopper Collection, is expected to bring £25-35,000 ($45-60,000), while a Maori Treasure Box and a late eighteenth or early nineteenth-century Hei-tiki over 15cm tall, also from New Zealand, are both expected to realize £18-25,000 ($32-45,000). Christie’s foray into this field is to take place on 18th June in two sessions, at King Street in the morning and South Kensington in the afternoon. Benin work is also a feature of this sale, which is to include some three hundred lots. In this case the main attraction is a 46.5x30.5cm sixteenth-century bronze plaque depicting attendants at the Court of Benin and is estimated to make in excess of £100,000 ($175,000). Also on offer will be an “Uli” figure standing over 130cm high (est.£60-80,000; $100-140,000), a Kota reliquary figure from Gabon (est.£8-10,000; $14-18,000) and another Marquesan war club from the Hopper Collection, which is expected to fetch £18-20,000 ($32-35,000). A Chokwe seat in the form of a bush cow is expected to make £20-30,000 ($35-50,000).

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Benin bronzes take limelight at sales of tribal art in London'