New Guinea works of art from the Jolika Collection to be sold at Christie's in Paris
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New Guinea works of art from the Jolika Collection to be sold at Christie's in Paris
Head, probably Mi Baba. Estimate: €20,000-30,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2012.

PARIS.- On December 11, Christie’s will present les Micromégas, a superb collection of New Guinea miniature masterpieces from the Jolika Collection of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, which will be featured at the African and Oceanic Art auction in Paris. Les Micromégas – in a nod to the philosophical tale by Voltaire, reveal the bold virtuosity of New Guinea artists distilled into enchanting forms, which fit in the palm of one’s hand.

The Jolika Collection is housed since 2005 at the de Young Museum of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in a vast museum space. It represents one of the single greatest private collecting achievements in the world. The Jolika Collection, named for the first letters of John and Marcia Friede's three children (John, Lisa and Karen), represents the hundreds of clans and art-producing villages throughout the island of New Guinea. This exceptional collection, which comprises over 300 works, is acknowledged to be the most important in both quality and depth in a United States art museum. Proceeds from the sale will benefit the Fine Arts Museums acquisition fund.

“These objects from the Jolika Collection have been brilliantly cultivated over four decades by collectors John and Marcia Friede. It is a rare opportunity for works of such exceptional artistic power and distinguished provenance to come to market,” stated Susan Kloman, International director of the department.

Highlights of the selection in the December auction includes a headrest from Tami Islands in the Huon Gulf region. The two highly stylized figures, realized as mirror images through the dynamic use of negative space and line, demonstrate the love of Tami artists for visual puns, as different views reveal faces of animals and transformed anthropomorphic imagery (estimate: €100,000-150,000). This headrest was one of the earliest New Guinea works of art seen in Europe, and was collected by the Hungarian anthropologist Lajos Biró in 1898-1899. Another highlight is, Head, probably Mi Baba (estimate: €20,000-30,000), beautifully realized in three-dimensional form, whereas most Abelam sculpture tends to be in high-relief or in three-quarters without a fully formed back.

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