2010 September Parcours Des Mondes Tribal Fair in Paris

Written by Michael Auliso and republished here with his permission.

This year the Parcours show began early.  I arrived on the 7th and I ran into collectors who were already leaving the next day which was the scheduled catalog opening on the 8th!  Also the strike that was happening created confusion.  There was no official opening and many galleries had their doors partly open, inviting in early buyers while their windows were still covered with paper.  It appeared the larger sales happened early on. There were more exhibitors this year, totaling 70 which felt like “critical mass” for this event.  The BIG surprise was that 90% of the dealers had dropped their prices by 20% on average.  This is a tidal shift compared to past years and was obviously considered a necessity in order to sell pieces.  Although prices were not low, they were “reasonable” for Paris which shows the eagerness to work with customers in this economic environment.   A handful of dealers were still asking 2006 prices (or anomalous high auction prices) but this seemed a bit  awkward and out of touch.  I asked many prices and 8 out of 10 times the prices were somewhat lower than I expected. I felt that the quality was generally consistent and high.  There were several masterpieces and I suspect many more I’m unaware of which were sold privately before the fair began (I heard that a French dealer placed an important Marquesas Island figure with a client during the fair but it was never displayed publicly).   However, as I walked from gallery to gallery I was struck by how many dealers had not displayed much fresh material.   But there is really no shame in that.  As I mentioned in my review of the San Francisco Tribal Show (February 2010) this is a function of fewer sales and less active customers in the marketplace.  Simply put, if dealers are not selling well during the year, they are not going to be buying aggressively and replenishing merchandise… Dealers are likely more perceptive than collectors at recognizing who has fresh material, but I could be wrong? Dealers who did an outstanding job at bringing fresh exciting pieces were Bruce Frank, Patrick Frohlich, Jean-Yves Coue’, Pierre Dartevelle, and Yann Ferrandin to name a few.  On the flip side, there was one gallery on rue Guenegaud that drew a lot of discussion and consternation from other dealers.  This individual had a number of high-end reproductions.  This is a rare exception for the Parcours exhibitors who go to great lengths to show the most authentic & finest pieces possible.  I’m assume they won’t be invited back without having their inventory vetted more carefully?

Attendance seemed to be very brisk as seen by this photo taken Saturday afternoon on Rue des Beaux-Arts The Parcours has a definite energetic rhythm.  Before and just after the opening there is great enthusiasm and excitement, a slowing of pace on Friday and then herds of people spilling out onto the streets Saturday and Sunday.  Most of the collectors who intended to purchase, had made up their minds on a piece by Friday.  Many dealers I visited on Sunday were gloomy.  That’s a day when they might have a collector return with a low offer but generally it is defined by answering questions from uninformed tourists and the certainty of plenty of physical work of breaking down, packing and vacating the respective rented galleries.  Incidentally, the price to rent a decent gallery for the week starts at around 9000 euros and goes up (that doesn’t include the Parcours fees). The visiting dealers who don’t have permanent galleries have it the hardest physically and psychologically. Our current market:  This topic is important yet is always hard to gauge since the market is not static and always in flux.  But I feel we “could” be seeing the first up-tick in the market since the Bruneaf fair in Brussels last June?  The combination of reasonable prices and the pent up excitement of this event made it a “modest success” for most dealers.  The feedback I received was that sales were “okay” but far from “great”.  For example, if you asked five dealers how they did, you get a broad range of answers.   Assuming they are telling the truth, one dealer said he did excellent, another said they sold their best piece but were hoping for more follow up sales.  One top dealer candidly told me he does the fair mainly to meet new clients since the old ones are hardly buying anymore.  He added that he did not meet any new clients this year.  A French dealer told me he was very disappointed, and was thinking of selling his gallery.  A visiting dealer from Brussels told me he would not return next year, noting that the fair had grown in size to where there were too many dealers competing for too few clients.  In other conversations with dealers I learned that some lowered prices going in and then on top of that got hammered down further on price by French collectors.  Although I try and share plenty of images, some dealers, even after all these years, will not permit photos and have no interest in publicity.  Generally you know who they are by omission.

Visser took two galleries this year, one on Rue Guenegaud and this smaller gallery on Rue des Beaux-Arts to display a newly acquired Asmat collection.




Ben Hunter, London.  His first time exhibiting at the Parcours.  His Derby was a big hit.

John’s gallery looked handsome but I’m sorry I couldn’t share any photos. His   exhibit posters were everywhere from cafes to drycleaners. 

Michael Hamson standing next to a completely unique pre-contact Simbai shield of a type unknown before he got his Dremel tool last Xmas.  Just having fun with you Mike 🙂  In fact the shield could be 200 years old!

Back of the Simbai shield

(Hamson) Most dealers are only focusing on the BIG sales for the Parcours, but Michael smartly doesn’t exclude any customers, by bringing some more affordable yam masks.  By the end of the fair I don’t think he had any left.

(Hamson) A lovely old Gogodala “ganabi” ancestral clan head.  It is rare to see a Gogodala piece of this vintage since most art from that region is post 1960’s

(Hamson)  Massive Yuat River mask- far right

Joaquin Pecci

(Pecci) Unusual Senufo Horse

(Pecci) Luba figure

Bernard Dulon checking for the Meter Maid

Antonio and Ana Casanovas next to a massive Dan mask.  They called it a “King Mask” and said it was the only one they knew of.  Once again their gallery was one of the best this year.  A cluster of small “gems” in the front of the gallery was a precursor to much larger impressive pieces in the vast open interior.


(Casanovas) One of the few galleries who offered food to guests opening day

(Casanovas)  A massive Naga Chief’s panel (far left)

(Casanovas)  Although I didn’t take a photo of it, note the large early Lake Sentani Bark cloth on the rear wall.  It was a stunning piece!

Pierre Dartevelle, Brussels


Jo De Buck shared this large gallery space at 41 rue de Seine with Dartevelle

Jo De Buck featured this fine Kifwebe mask in the Parcours catalog

Galerie Alain de Monbrison

Some images from Yann Ferrandin’s African Stool Exhibit “Black Seat”

I admit that when I received Yann’s announcement of the exhibition in the mail, it didn’t sound all that thrilling.  I was sure wrong!  When I saw all these wonderful stools in person which he had been buying for 20 years, it made for a “killer” presentation!

If you’ve ever wondered if Yann was an “over achiever” it is obvious now.

Dealers in Paris have a “thing” about “catalogs”.  It’s all about bigger, better,  thicker, and one-upmanship.  Well, this year Yann went “nuclear” and trumped everyone with an ENORMOUS book published that must have measured 76 cm tall!  It featured beautiful photos of all the stools in the exhibition and was selling for 300 euros (ahem, I don’t believe I got one Yann).  I couldn’t help but ask him how much the exhibit cost including the book and photography from Hughes Dubois.  I was shocked at the figure he told me.  He is clearly one of the most serious dealers in Paris.  He can probably let off the accelerator a little because there is nobody in his rearview mirror!

Jean-Edward Carlier (Voyageurs & Curieux) next to a large New Guinea Coastal Sepik Figure

Lourve Pryamid taken around 2:30 am when I couldn’t sleep because of Jetlag

Jean-Yves Coue’ had an impressive exhibition of the Jarai people’s art from Vietnam.  He and Bertrand Goy published the book “Jarai” in 2006.

This exhibit was a smashing success.  I’m sure he sold at least half of the pieces and his price lists were covered with red dots.  It was fresh material from his collection and the prices were reasonable which struck a chord with buyers.  Right up until the Parcours closed I saw his customers carrying purchases out the door… a gong, a shield, a figure; people were crazy for his material!

Jarai exhibit continued

Olivier Castellano’s new gallery on 34 rue Mazarine

Olivier Castellano

Olivier had a special exhibition on Mali.   I found this Dogon fetish mask haunting and fascinating

Castellano, fine Bamana mask

Another take from an American collector:

“I think galleries opening early is the type of thing the organizers would be well served by discouraging, so that there’s a sense of fair play, which I think has plagued the Bruneaf fair for years.  Also, 70 dealers is way too many for a fair of this quality.

I’ve been attending the Parcours since the second year.  I think in the inaugural year, there were 16 dealers, the first year I went there were about 35 dealers which has now grown to 70 dealers.  There are only so many great objects to be displayed at any fair, so the more dealers, the more energy is required by collectors to go through all the material, and the potential of negative visual overload from mediocre and bad objects.  I’d much prefer fewer dealers, but truthfully don’t greatly mind more dealers, but up to an extent.  That limit is breached when the best dealers start complaining that the fair organizers have let in too many low quality and questionable dealers whom are not up to their standards and decide to no longer participate. 

The whole quality of the fair can quickly cascade down to a sorry state of affairs (I’m thinking of the NY Tribal show), taking the energy completely out of the event.  Satellite fairs/dealer consortium private events start popping up, and the whole cycle starts again.  At least for the Parcours, which I think of as the premier tribal art fair in the world, they would be well advised to maintain a high level of quality by limiting the number of dealers.” 

Michael Auliso and former French President Jacques Chirac in front of Galerie Christian Deydier on rue de Seine.  Mr. Chirac wanted to know who my tailor & hairdresser was.

Not sure how they knew I was an unassuming American tourist?

 Mr. Chirac is an art connoisseur who frequents the district.  The  Muse’e du quay Branly would not have been a reality without his support.

Mercedes-Benz Gullwing SLS AMG (563 hp, 6.3 liter V-8, 0-60 in 3.7 sec., price $200k-$250k)

Kirby Lewis (Seattle) next to a Vanuatu skull effigy “rambaramp”.  You can appreciate how tedious and expensive this must have been to ship

(Lewis) New Guinea Nogwi figure and a rare Yuat River mask

Lewis (cont.)

(Lewis) Ramu mask

Bruce Frank (New York) negotiated prices by holding customers captive in a trunk until they acquiesced.  Bruce had his own gallery this year on rue Mazarine.  In past years he had shared with Wayne Heathcote.  Simply put he brought out the heavy artillery!  No other dealer has access to the kind of quality New Guinea pieces he displayed.  Bruce’s persona is pleasant, honest, laidback and appears utterly detached if he sells anything.  He just lets the art speak for itself.  And it spoke (((LOUDLY)))!

(Frank) This master-carved Sepik figure was sold immediately opening day.

 (photo courtesy Bruce Frank)

(Frank) fine Sepik betel nut mortar

This picture is out of focus, but notice how the phallus is rendered as a projecting mask

(Frank) A superb pre-contact atlas-like Sepik betel nut mortar.  Bruce brought small expensive pieces (wise for an international show) and sold well over half of them.  He said packing after the show was short and simple.

(Galerie Meyer)  I had never seen these before.  These 8-9ft Palm bark sculptures were from the Asmat people of Irian Jaya.  They were apparently carved for a special ceremony prior to the carving of the giant bisj poles.

(Galerie Meyer) A rare segmented Tongan War Club dating to the 18th century

(Galerie Meyer)

(Charles Wesley Hourde’)  This was the last year in his gallery on rue des-beaux arts since he has taken a position at Christies Paris!

(Hourde’) with an anthropomorphic Nupe Spoon from Nigeria

(Adrian Schlag, Brussels) fine Senufo “Kpeliyee” mask

(Adrian Schlag) A beautiful Madagascar Sakalava figure and a New Britain Mengen war shield in the background

Interior of Gallery Bernard de Grunne.  Bernard who does not permit photos may have “waterboarded” me for snapping this image.   Oh, the risks I take…. Two important New Guinea pieces (left) a Blackwater Lakes hook figure and a fine three dimensional Iatmul hook figure. 

The African “runners” are always a common sight during The Parcours

Patrik Frohlich (Zurich) was one of my favorite galleries.  He is uncompromising on quality and his selection was broad and sensational! 

(Patrik Frohlich)  Fine Fang Figure Gabon

(Patrik Frohlich)  An expressive Mambila figure, Cameroon

(Patrik Frohlich) Korwar masks from the Cenderwasih Bay region of W. Irian Jaya are very rare.  This one was from a Dutch collection and collected in the early 20th century

(Pascassio Manfredi), fine Javanese ivory Kris handle

(Pascassio Manfredi)  19th c. Nias ancestor figure Indonesia

Rudolf Kratochwill (Austria) next to a Philippine Ifugao Bulu figure, Exhibiting at Galerie Cedric Le Dauphin

(Kratochwill)  A standing early 20th c. Philippine Bulul figure by known artist “Tagiling”.

(Pierre Dartevelle, Brussels) Congo nail fetish

(Pierre Dartevelle) a superb Dan mask

This obscene golden gnome was saluting pedestrians from a store window on rue Jacob

(Chris Boylan, Sydney) next to a New Guinea upper Sepik Nogwi figure

(Chris Boylan)  An impressive New Guinea Highlands War shield in scale and bold design

Sadly there was a rash of thefts this year.   Kevin Conru, Alain Monbrison, and several other dealers were targeted.  This Kongo figure was STOLEN from Kevin Conru’s Gallery. 

 stolen Kongo figure (property of Kevin Conru: kevinconru@yahoo.com)

 stolen Kongo figure (property of Kevin Conru: kevinconru@yahoo.com)

(Kevin Conru) took precautions for the remainder of the show, keeping a Cook Island (Atiu) Pole-Club, one of my favorite pieces, within arm’s reach. 

(Conru)  Solomon Island seated male figure

Galerie Albert Loeb.  Made this impressive exhibition of ritual Horses recently field collected in Mali

Galerie Albert Loeb

Friendly Faces: Jim and Lin Willis, San Francisco

(Entwistle Gallery) Bete mask, Ivory Coast

Dalton Somare’, Milan

(Dalton Somare’) Wow!  A 16th century Bhairava Mask, Nepal

(Dalton Somare’) Bronze Buddha 16th-17th c. India

(Dalton Somare’)  A Bambara figure and Mossi figure

(Dalton Somare’)  Lwalwa copper covered mask

(Dalton Somare’) A Dan “Zakpai” mask

Alain de Monbrison (beige jacket) holding court with Bernard Dulon (far right) at La Palette

Didier Claes (Brussels) and his brother (right)

Patrick Mestdagh (Brussels) proudly showing a customer a photo of his published James Hooper club in “Art and Artifacts of the Pacific”

Patrick Mestdagh

Patrick Mestdagh with a group of Congo and Shona ivory handled knives

David Serra, Barcelona Spain

(Serra) Songye figure and a Benalulu figure (right)

Renaud’s entire window is covered with an adhesive panel of a Nepalese mask!  This gallery window art is common during the Parcours and very effective advertising.  It struck me that in the USA you would be hard-pressed to find a company with this kind of specialization who could produce this kind of quality.  The HUGE shamanic mask seems to “curse” the heartless city workers who dug an open trench in front of the gallery…

Renaud Vanuxem and his exhibit of Himalayan masks: “Facing the Shaman”.  Renaud, keep the beard its working for you man!



(Vanuxem)  As I recall, Renaud told me this was one of the oldest masks in the exhibit.  Just look at the surface.

(Nasser and Co., New York)  A Maori phallic-like flute “koauau” and a figurehead from a Maori War Canoe.  Ron Nasser told me he sold most of his important pieces and was pleased with the results of his first Parcours.

(Nasser)  Massim lime spatula I believe executed by the “master of prominent eyes”?

(Galerie Flak)  This turn of the century hand-painted canvas was a fantastic background for their Eskimo and Northwest Coast pieces.

(Alain de Monbrison)  A haunting looking Congo Fetish (Songye/ Kusu?) laden with fetish bundles

(Jacques Germain, Montreal)  A sensitive Songye fetish

(Francois Coppens, Brussels)

(Coppens)  Collection of Dayak trophy skulls from Borneo

(Coppens) Batak stone ancestor figure from Sumatra

This master-carved lid from the N. Philippines depicts a figure as if he is raising up out of a tomb.  I think I saw this in either Galerie Oliver Larroque or Galeria Raquel y Guilhem Montagut but I’m sorry I don’t recall.

(Frederic Moisan)  Exposition “Trajectoires III”  Photographs by Angela Fisher

The Parcours had a VIP Salon located upstairs in the Alcazar restaurant.  Great flower arrangement.

(Jean-Baptiste Bacquart)  Kota Reliquary figure

(Bacquart)  A great Maori “Wahaika” hand club (a poor photo in low light  taken though glass).  Rumor has it that Bacquart is buying a gallery on rue de Seine and relocating from London

(Wayne Heathcote)  another poor photo taken though glass.  It is a shame since this was one of the rarest oceanic pieces in the fair!  It is a wind charm with janus figures from the Caroline Islands (Micronesia).  Note the four Stingray barb projections on the bottom.  I wanted this one bad.

(Wayne Heathcote) Early 19th C. Maori standing figure on a post

(Frank Van Craen, Brussels)

(Van Craen)  photos from his impressive exposition: “Dogon-Tellem”

(Joris Visser, Brussels)  A New Guinea pre-contact Sepik head from the Friede collection

(Philippe Laeremans, Brussels)  An African Guro mask and a Bamana Ciwara (right)

(Laeremans)  Vanuatu skull effigy “rambaramp”, de Grunne collection

This review brought to you by a wannabe Rock-n-Roll Cowboy

The Streets of Paris

(((The End)))