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In Paris – Another provenance-challenged pre-Columbian art auction – UPDATED with sale results

April 9, 2013
Lot 28. Head of a dignitary. Maya Culture, GuatemalaA.D. 600 - 900 White stucco with brick-red and turquoise paint H. 12.8 in - W. 11.8 in - D. 8.7 in Estimate: €100,000-120,000

Lot 28 (detail). Head of a dignitary. Maya Culture, Guatemala
A.D. 600 – 900
White stucco with brick-red and turquoise paint
H. 12.8 in – W. 11.8 in – D. 8.7 in
Estimate: €100,000-120,000. This lot sold for €100,000.
No provenance provided

UPDATE: Assuming the results listed online are correct, this was a disaster of a sale – two-thirds or 60 of the 90 lots failed to sell – and the first half of the sale was  particularly bad.  By the mid-point – lot 45 – only seven lots had sold, which must have had auction house officials squirming.  The second half of the sale saw considerably more activity (indeed, almost any activity would have been “considerably more”), but not enough to keep this from being an embarrassment for Binoche et Giquello.  The cause or causes: Overly aggressive estimates? Lack of provenance? Works that were shopped out? Works that might not “be right”?

ORIGINAL POST: The controversial Barbier-Muller collection sale is barely over and another provenance-challenged pre-Columbian art auction is scheduled for April 24, 2013 at Paris-based Binoche et Giquello.  The online catalogue for the sale features 90 lots, most from a handful of private collections – only one lot has a pre-1970 provenance, an additional 16 lots list a previous collection (but no date), and the remaining 73 lots have no provenance at all.  Again, my standard disclaimer: All of these works may have been legally exported from their respective source countries; and, if that’s the case, why not list that information?  Will Mexico, Guatemala and Peru attempt to halt this sale as they unsuccessfully did with the Barbier-Mueller sale?

Below are four more works from the sale – as can be seen from the estimates, these are not inexpensive pieces. One item, lot 46, has an undated provenance, the remainder, like a majority of the sale, have no provenance at all. No way of knowing if they were legally exported or looted. No indication of when or where they were found and any history of ownership they might have had.

Rien.

Lot 27. ANTHROPOMORPHIC CENSERMaya Culture, Mexico A.D. 600 - 900 Reddish-brown polychrome ceramic H. 31.7 in - W. 13 in Estimate: €200,000-250,000

Lot 27. ANTHROPOMORPHIC CENSER
Maya Culture, Mexico
A.D. 600 – 900
Reddish-brown polychrome ceramic
H. 31.7 in – W. 13 in
Estimate: €200,000-250,000. This lot failed to sell.
No provenance provided

Lot 46. FUNERARY MASKChimu-Lambayeque Culture, Peru A.D. 1100 - 1400 Silver, copper, gold, cinnabar H. 17.3 in - W. 9.5 in Provenance : Ancienne collection Ian Mitchell Estimate: €150,000-180,000

Lot 46. FUNERARY MASK
Chimu-Lambayeque Culture, Peru
A.D. 1100 – 1400
Silver, copper, gold, cinnabar
H. 17.3 in – W. 9.5 in
Estimate: €150,000-180,000. This lot failed to sell.
Provenance: Ancienne collection Ian Mitchell

Lot 52. SEATED MALE FIGUREJalisco Culture, Western Mexico 100 B.C. - A.D. 250 Red, brown and beige ceramic H. 23 in - W. 16.9 in - D. 16.5 in Estimate: €350,000-380,000

Lot 52. SEATED MALE FIGURE
Jalisco Culture, Western Mexico
100 B.C. – A.D. 250
Red, brown and beige ceramic
H. 23 in – W. 16.9 in – D. 16.5 in
Estimate: €350,000-380,000. This lot sold for €320,000.
No provenance provided

Lot 53. STANDING DIGNITARYTeotihuacan Culture, Western Mexico A.D. 450 - 650 Polished serpentine, iron oxide H. 13.3 in - W. 7.2 in - D. 4.5 in Estimate: €250,000-280,000

Lot 53. STANDING DIGNITARY
Teotihuacan Culture, Western Mexico
A.D. 450 – 650
Polished serpentine, iron oxide
H. 13.3 in – W. 7.2 in – D. 4.5 in
Estimate: €250,000-280,000. This lot sold for €320,000.
No provenance provided

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 25, 2013 10:33 PM

    What utterly exquisite pieces of art they are! They must have been hugely tempting to connoisseurs and amateurs (dans le sens francais). What a shame they are of spurious provenance so that they can neither be sold into collections where they will be secure, nor returned to their rightful country of origin.

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