Saturday 12 November 2011

Pierre Bergé & Associés and the Auction of African Dug-ups

Auction house Pierre Bergé & Associés has offices in Paris, Geneva, Liege and Brussels. It in the latter that 27th November some terracotta statues (Nok and Djeme and related cultures from Ghana, Nigeria and Mali) will be going on auction (total value of lower estimates 61000 euros). They were spotted by one Michel van Rijn, who sent them a nice letter about them (published on MSN):
Dear Sir, Mdme,
Hope this message receives you well. In your forthcoming sale: Pierre Bergé & associés Dimanche 27 novembre à 15h00 Bruxelles COLLECTION 1860-1960 you have several un-provenanced smuggled and looted African Djenne and Nok terracotta's, lot 153, 154, [...] 156, 165, 166, 167
As it is strictly forbidden to deal, sell or auction this material I am wondering what your answer is to this malpractice and crime.
sincerely yours, michel van rijn
Irrespective of how one should describe these items and the legal issues, I would certainly go along with the use of the term 'malpractice' to put something of this nature on offer without ANY mention in the sales spiel and description of the object of anything which (despite appearances) would suggest legal origins. If the seller has offered information the auction house is doing them a great disservice not revealing it to buyers as this will keep the price down. If the seller has not offered such information, a truly respectable auction house would not touch the stuff.

The letter originally referred to lot 155, but this is a Komaland figure not covered by the same legislation as Nok figures, but this one too seems recently surfaced and therefore of questionable status and origin. They too are on the ICOM Red List.

Vignette: Help us ! (photomontage)

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