I owe you an Apology -African Art estate
I owe you an Apology
After my email of yesterday about the “estate auction in New York” (see link below),
I received tens of emails from people “Shocked” by the “quality”
of the pieces, and probably by the “presentation” as well.
I “promoted” this estate because I know from experience, this is the kind of place where you can discover very good pieces amongst the so called “Junk”.
Below is a response of the son of the owner on the negative reactions I forwarded to him :
Wow. Very hurtful comments. I wonder what it must feel like to be a snob.
My father was an old man and did not have any money later in life.
Thirty years ago he bankrupted himself trying to save my mother from cancer.
His house got run down and dirty; sorry.
But an authentic item is the same item whether it is in my dad’s dirty,
old, run down home, or a fancy gallery with marble floors in the ritzy part
It’s just a better deal in my dad’s old home.
His collection at home was only meant to please him.
Some of his stuff might be considered “junk”, but other items are the
Many years ago he owned two well known and unusual stores in New
York on the upper east side (“Far-N-Wide” and the “Underground
Jeweler)” which carried items from around the world. Some of it was “junk”,
some of it was not.
He even went to Africa in the 50′s and 60′s to develop contacts there.
HIS REPUTATION FOR HONESTY AND INTEGRITY WAS SECOND TO NONE.
The sextant in the picture is from 1927 and is authentic.
The dolls are real and not junk. I had an uncle who
spent years trying to buy those from him but dad would not sell.
There are items he picked up in World War 2 which are quite valuable.
No one is representing this is a priceless collection.
But it is not junk. It is my father’s life.
And he has some real gems mixed in with the “junk”.
-Alan, a proud son
But this is not what the “Elite” want to hear and see. They want
dealers to keep “silent”. They want dealers to do the dirty work of
selecting among objects and or “runners” they meet.
They want it put on a new stand, and the necessary restorations
And they want them to add a provenance story before reselling it
for thousands more.
But I guess I was too enthusiastic on this, since you need a trained
eye and much patience while looking among thousands of objects
to find that one nice piece.
It is possible to find treasures among this, but sure, it is not fun
to go there with a flash light and gloves.
Garage sales and tag auctions should remain something for
experienced dealers I guess. I remember a dealer in Paris, Mr. Laprugne
from the rue Mazarine, who every week went to the flea market at 5 a.m.
and often discovered “bembe’s” and other fine pieces he got at
less than a few hundred.
The best ones he kept for himself. At the end of his life ,many of his
objects bought at the “flea market” ended up at Christies.
You can read a transcript of an interview done between Renaud Vanuxem and Jean-Pierre Laprugne ( the article was published in Art Tribal N°04, Winter 2003 ) on Rand’s site at
The fact that you can find very high quality pieces in uncommon places,
and that from time to time make the deal of your life,
is also proved by the story below from a dealer who bought a work
from Sargent Johnson for just $165.00!
Also deacquisitioned objects can be top quality and sold by
mistake, like UC Berkeley who accidentally sold a misplaced artwork valued at over
$1 million for only $165
read the story and see the object at
I myself was able to buy this morning one fine moghul XIXth silver object and one gold and silver broche from India with genuine rubies at a flea market in Antwerp for only 125 €.
Keep searching, and don’t be upset if I remind you there is often gold among the dust.
Hope you liked this edition,