What in the world is that?
A globe that fits inside a walking cane and Bakongo fetishes are among the fantastical objects to grace Parisian galleries this September
IF Anthony Meyer describes an Inuit artefact as ‘an enigmatic object of anthropomorphic form’, then its meaning must indeed be obscure. Is it human, animal, fish, bird or insect? Mr Meyer, of the eponymous gallery in the rue des Beaux-arts on the Parisian Left Bank has dealt in Oceanic tribal arts since the 1980s, but he also collected early Eskimo art—as he terms it—and he is internationally respected for his expertise.
In 2010, he launched a specialist department to deal in it and the 71 ∕2in walrus-tusk carving is his poster object for this year’s Parcours des Mondes from September 6 to 11 (www.parcours-desmondes.com). It is about 1,000 years old, give or take a couple of centuries, and comes from the Alaskan Punuk culture on the Bering Sea.
Mr Meyer has a busy autumn ahead of him, with the Biennale des Antiquaires at the Grand Palais overlapping with the Parcours, from September 10 to 18 (www. biennale-paris.com), and then Frieze Masters in London from October 6 to 9 (www.frieze.com/ fairs/frieze-masters). For this reason, unlike some of the neighbouring shows, his special Parcours exhibition will close on September 11. It will be on the theme of ‘Series & Collections’: groups of sametype objects, objects of similar form and/or function, and a collection of objects of diverse provenance and typology all representing the same image.
Now in its 15th year, the Parcours is widely regarded as the foremost primal-arts fair, although, recently, it has expanded beyond its traditional ‘tribal’ base to include a wide range of Asian arts and also some antiquities. The 78 participants include 16 galleries from Belgium, 11 from the USA and others from Britain, Australia, Italy, Morocco, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland.
With the exhibitions concentrated in an easily walked and most agreeable area around Saint-germain-després, the Parcours is always stimulating and it has educated and enthused me in fields about which I had previously known little. Alas, I shall have to miss this one.
Specialised, or focused, shows include African subjects and Bwiti reliquaries at the Galerie Bernard Dulon; Bakongo fetishes at the Galerie Alba et Alain Lecomte; the oneiric (dreamlike) universe of Monsieur X at the Galerie SL (Fig 3); ‘Savage Island —The Art of Niue’ with Michael Evans (Fig 1); and netsuke with Max Rutherston (Fig 2). Bwiti is a syncretic belief system in Gabon and Cameroon that combines elements of animism, ancestor worship and Christianity. It involves much use of the psychedelic root bark of the Tabernanthe iboga plant. Niue, north-east of New Zealand, is one of the world’s smallest states and is known for bark-cloth paintings and elegant clubs and spears. Another remarkable exhibition will be Yann Ferrandin’s ‘Hair’, which has taken some years to assemble and includes combs and ornaments from Africa, Oceania, Asia and North America. Visitors will need to be very disciplined if they are not to be distracted by two other collaborative events taking place in much the same area at the same time. To mark la rentrže, when France returns from holiday, nearly 30 art, antique and design galleries in the Carré Rive Gauche streets will be offering hospitality and treasures on the evening of September 6. In addition, the Parcours de la Céramique et des Arts du Feu, with a further 22 French,
Fig 1: Niue 1860s hand-painted bark cloth. With Michael Evans
Wooden Congo statue. With Galerie SL
Fig 2: Lacquer panel. With Max Rutherston