Written by Michael Auliso and republished here with his permission.
I couldn’t attend Bruneaf this year but I decided to do a brief write up after hearing such a broad range of differing opinions. I’ll try and summarize them here. Attendance was down, some saying by as much as half. I’m told that very few American’s came. The weather was poor, the World Cup had just started, the EU financial crisis was looming and on top of it there were concurrent Tribal auctions. BUT the serious collectors came and were not deterred.
Several dealers told me that the sales at the fair started off strong but quickly fizzled which they found psychologically difficult. In general I heard that dealers selling Oceanic Art, or a mix there of, did much better than dealers exhibiting only African. Some dealers consistently do well but it was clear many were complaining of poor results this year. One dealer said that it was the worst Bruneaf in terms of his sales in 20 years. Dutch collectors told me that they felt the overall quality had improved over the last 3 years. This may have due in part to the special 20th anniversary of Bruneaf and the organization demanding that quality be elevated. This year the catalog was hardbound and I understand that Pierre Loos was aggressively vetting and rejecting many of the dealer submitted photos. Indeed the catalog was handsomely presented. Two exhibiting dealers told me that overall quality was good but not stellar. So you have a yin and yang of opinions and the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.
There was a strong consensus that Patrick Mestdagh’s museum-like exhibit was incredible in every respect! This looks like a tough act to follow. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. Congratulations Patrick and Ondine!
Mestdagh’s stunning exhibit “15 years- 15 Treasures”
A gorgeous elegant presentation with impact
Patrick Mestdagh with clients
Ana Casanovas looking at a Hawaiian Necklace (lei niho palaoa)
Clive Loveless photographing a Lobi ivory pendant
Mestdagh with clients
A Maori Whalebone hoeroa
Ondine Mestdagh with Pierre Moos
Patrick & Ondine Mestdagh with Colette Ghysels and Jean-Pierre
Admiring the hoeroa
This economy is obviously presenting fantastic art buying opportunities. Many great pieces are coming to market. I would encourage any tribal art enthusiast to try an attend at least one major tribal fair like Bruneaf each year. If you develop deeper relationships with dealers, inquire about their inventory and establish mutual trust you’ll be amazed at what objects come your way! When that auction catalog comes in the mail it is easy to get “tunnel vision” and pay inflated prices (remember that most of those pieces were originally sold by dealers).
Network more with your local dealers for rewarding life-long relationships.
Interior Gallery Joris Visser
Bruneaf President Pierre Loos before the event began
David Serra, Bacelona
Alan Guisson and friend Laura
San Francisco residents (left to right) Lin Willis, Jim Willis, and friend
French Dealer Agnes Woliner
Clive Loveless hanging out before the opening
Note: This brief review barely scratches the surface of this major event which included over 70 participating dealers.
Photos courtesy of Clive Loveless and Patrick Mestdagh