Cameroonian Fang Mabea statue sets new world auction record at Sotheby's

A Cameroonian Fang Mabea statue has sold for $5.9m in a sale of ethnographic art at Sotheby's Paris, a new world record for a Fang statue.

The lot achieved an increase of 22.9% on its $4.8m estimate when it crossed the block on June 19.

Fang statue Sotheby's
The Fang Mabea statue stands at just over 26" tall

Fang carvings are considered the high water mark of African sculpture both in terms of the skill involved in the construction and the diversity of form.

They proved hugely influential on the development of 20th century art, inspiring some of history's greatest names - including Picasso and Matisse.

There are only 10 statues produced by the Fang Mabea (the Cameroonian arm of the tribe) known to exist, with the example that sold the only one still in private hands.

It was formerly owned by two of the most important French collectors of African art, Felix Feneon (1861-1944) and Jacques Kerchache (1942-2001).

Both were passionate advocates who fought for greater recognition for the form in Europe, as laid out in Feneon's 1920 essay: "Investigation of Art from Distant Lands - Will they Ever be Admitted to the Louvre?"

This reputation for quality and extreme rarity has led to a strong market. The current auction record for any piece of ethnographic art is held by a Fang mask, which sold for $6.3m at Verite in Paris in 2006.

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