FROM TRIBAL TO CONTEMPORARY

By AMA with Artkhade

Paris, 9 September 2018

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A homage to a mythical exhibition from the 1930s, an extensive dialogue with contemporary creation, and a unique assembly of works from outside Europe... This is what you can expect from the 17th edition of Parcours des Mondes, one of the world’s biggest and most prestigious primitive-arts fairs.

Its reputation is now a given. After notching up sixteen editions, the Parcours des Mondes has become an unmissable event for dealers, collectors, museum directors, and also tribal-art lovers. But what else would you expect when the organisers of the Parisian fair, steered by Pierre Moos, have never skimped on quality, but consistently invited the top dealers in their respective specialities?

Whether these dealers come from Paris, other French towns, or further afield, there are 64 of them present at Saint-Germain-des-Près for this year’s vintage. From Rue des Beaux-Arts to Rue Mazarine, passing through Rue Guénégaud, they are showing masterpieces patiently picked up from Africa and Oceania – often these dealers are taking a breather after preparing their stands for months, even a number of years –, or else pre-Colombian and Asian works. This 17th edition, open from 11 to 16 September, is also notable for extending its range to contemporary art, as well as its homage to a mythical exhibition organised in 1930 at La Galerie du Théâtre Pigalle. As is the case every year, the fair also rocks to the rhythm of exhibitions, debates and signings – in other words, a feast of spectacle for art lovers as well as visitors coming out of curiosity, of whom greater and greater numbers pass through the gallery doors every year.

From the past to the future

A major event of this new edition is the tribute to the 1930 exhibition at La Galerie du Théâtre Pigalle, boasting everything it takes to pull in the crowds. “We’re delighted to be able to gather, at the Espace Tribal, around twenty mythical pieces that featured at this historical exhibition (editorial note: it originally showed a little over 400 objects),” enthuses organiser Pierre Moos, who also reminds us that “it was the first exhibition of the type in France, in terms of African and Oceanic primitive arts.” He adds: “At the time, it gathered pieces that were primarily selected on the basis of artistic and aesthetic criteria, and went on to play a very important role in the development of tastes in tribal art.” This homage, designed by two young market protagonists, Nicolas Rolland and Charles-Wesley Hourdé, in collaboration with the Tribal Art Magazine team, was made possible thanks to loans from private Parisian collectors. To mark the occasion, a book, produced in collaboration with academics, as well as archive documents and exhibition photographs which – it has to be said – created shockwaves at the time by clashing with the morals of upstanding Parisians – are also being made available to the public. The homage-event is both historiographical and immersive. It also features in the programme for the traditional morning sessions at the Café Tribal as well as the evening debates that make the Espace Tribal a place for meditation on the sector’s foremost issues – namely the issue of restitutions.

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Another highlight of this 17th edition is the emergence of youth, incarnated by the participation of Adam Lindemann, author of the bestsellers Collecting Contemporary Art (2006) and Collecting Design (2010), and chosen as “patron” of the fair. Indeed, the Parcours des Mondes, supportive of “bridges” between contemporary art and the primitive arts, has always sought out the young American’s presence. This year (one year after the invitation of Berlin gallerist Javier Peres who organised the “Lion and the Jewel” exhibition at the Espace Tribal, showing classical African art pieces alongside works by artists Melike Kara, Beth Letain and Donna Huanca), Lindemann said yes. This director of the New York gallery Venus Over Manhattan which handles big names on the contemporary- art market (Abel Abdessemed, Raymond Pettibon, Maurizio Cattelan...), is coming to Paris to act as the fair’s honorary president. In this capacity, he will also be launching the event via a dialogue with Bernard de Grunne, on Tuesday 11 September at the Espace Tribal.

This is an opportunity for the public to get better acquainted with the seasoned American collector for whom “the primitive arts were an entrance gate to art collection in a wider sense”. The invitation of Lindemann is a savvy move on the part of Pierre Moos, whose “job isn’t just to reassure people about the quality of works. I also have to think about the future of Parcours des Mondes. Yet a great majority of collectors are over 60 years old, so it’s very important to attract the new generation.”

Adam Lindemann, recently sharing his views on tribal arts from Africa and Oceania, made the following observation: “They had a major impact on many Western artists during the first half of the 20th century (Picasso, Alexander Calder, André Breton, etc.).” In his opinion, this influence of tribal objects on art history means that they cannot be simply reduced to mere exotic curiosities or “vestiges of the colonial era”. Holding great respect for the conservation work and care that collectors have devoted to these objects for decades, Adam Lindemann is among those who believe that the showing of primitive arts in contemporary contexts generates rare emotional intensity, as experienced by himself on several occasions. He recalls in particular that in 2016, while organising the exhibition “Fétiche” in his New York gallery, which presented contemporary works alongside tribal-art objects, the former took on a “spectacular dimension” in the presence of the latter.

The past within reach

The other big draw of Parcours des Mondes, obviously, is its wealth of exhibitors, half of whom hail from overseas (including Belgium, Italy, Morocco, Australia and United States). This year, few of the big names are missing, except possibly Didier Claes (Brussels), a participant in former editions, who is currently changing his strategy – for example by deciding to leave Brussels’ mythical Sablons district and setting up base instead in the Ixelles neighbourhood.

Amongst the most highly anticipated exhibitions, let’s note “L’Asie des masques”, revealing classical Japanese, Himalayan and Chinese Nuo theatre masks at the Galerie Alain Bovis (9 rue des Beaux-Arts). Not far off, representations of humans and femininity are being explored at the Galerie Dandrieu-Giovagnoni (8 rue des Beaux-Arts), through a range of ancient African statues, including a pure-lined Ambete statue covered with white pigment and bearing a reliquary on its back.

From more or less the same universe, but on rue Guénégaud, it’s worth seeing a selection of Himalayan masks in the Indian Heritage collection, especially as they dialogue with photographic prints by Sylvia Bataille, taken with a pinhole camera. On the menu at the Galerie Abla & Alain Lecomte (4rue des Beaux-Arts): traditional African objects relating to medicine and magic. Meanwhile, Dogon statues are in the spotlight at the Galeria Guilhem Montagut (6 rue Jacques-Callot),

Elsewhere, at the Galerie Martin Doustar (4 rue des Beaux-Arts), visitors are invited to travel to the east of Russia through “Siberia & beyond”: a remarkable set of marine-ivory and bronze objects crafted by indigenous peoples in Western Siberia and Bering Sea coastal regions. Also take a look at Olivier Larroque’s pop-up gallery (2 rue de l’Échaudé) where a hundred sculptures have been patiently gathered to construct something akin to an anthology of African art “in its most refined and intimately expressive forms”.

Meanwhile, the Galerie Dodier (35-37 rue de Seine) is unveiling “Paroles tribales”, an exhibition taking the public to the Americas via a Viru masterpiece, to Oceania with a New Ireland lintel boasting a remarkable provenance, and finally Africa, with a Gurunsi mask collected in situ by the Kamer/Tishman expedition.

These few examples are a firm indication that Parcours des Mondes remains a high-class event where rigour and exoticism meet. A rendezvous that is clearly a must as a new season begins in Paris; an event that will appeal not only to art lovers in general, but also to all those thirsting for a taste of other places.

Jérémy André

Parcours des mondes From Tuesday 11 to Sunday 16 September. Opening on Tuesday 11 September at 3pm. Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Paris. France. www.parcours-des-mondes.com

Tags: Aboriginal Art, Native American Art, Pre-Columbian Art, Asian Art, Oceanic Art, African Art, Fairs & Shows