Nkishi Power Figure from Liberia Brings Record Price at Kaminski Auctions

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Kaminski Auctions sells rare carved wooden Bassa figure from Liberia to an in-house bidder at a cost of $90,000 including buyers premium.

Kaminski Auctions’ first foray into African art and artifacts proved quite a success when several well-informed bidders unexpectedly discovered a carved wooden Bassa figure from Liberia nestled among the second session of the May 10th sale. Previously thought to be a Nkishi power figure by the undisclosed consignor, the continental bidders were excited to clarify the proper origin and creator of the item when they arrived on location the day of the sale.

The newly identified Bassa figure from Liberia is reminiscent of a similar example recently published by Galerie Schoffel-Valluet in Côte d’Ivoire – premier regards sur la sculpture, 1850-1935 (page 109). Thought to be by the same artist’s hand as the figure offered at Kaminski, the recently published piece was sold privately to the Abu Dhabi Museum in excess of one million dollars, to supplement the planned establishment’s permanent collection. The published example is currently on view in Paris through July 18, 2014 in an exhibition titled Birth of a Museum: Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Bassa figures such as the one sold by Kaminski Auctions are classified as ancestral figures, the use of which is unknown, even to scholars on the subject. To classify the recently sold piece as an unexpected find significantly downplays the rarity of the object. According to the seasoned tribal arts collector who purchased the item, the figure appears to be the second example ever seen by the general public.

This was cause for great excitement and prompted the bidding war that ensued both in-house and online. Bidding commenced at $2,500 and climbed rapidly, to the excitement of the crowd and auctioneer. Several online bidders dropped out of the hard fought battle, allowing bidders in the room to gain a strong foothold. Ultimately the pace slowed at $75,000, and the piece was awarded to the highest in-house bidder for the price of $90,000 including buyers premium. Thus secured, the current owner plans now to confirm the age and attribution of the piece using a number of methods, including Carbon-14 dating.

Passed lots are now available for after-auction purchase and can be reviewed by accessing the prices realized link on kaminskiauctions.com. Kaminski Auctions is currently seeking new consignments and welcomes the review of any African or tribal artifacts. Sale dates and additional information regarding this sale are accessible via the company website.

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Annie Parker
Kaminski Auctions
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