african masksBrill collection
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A fine Eastern Pende Panya-Gombe African mask. Coll.: David Norden

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SOTHEBY’S TO OFFER THE WILLIAM W. BRILL COLLECTION OF AFRICAN ART

New York, New York – On November 17th, 2006, Sotheby’s will offer a single-owner sale of 
The William W. Brill Collection of African Art

Brill and his collectionby  Matthew Weigman, Kristin Gelder Tel. 212 606 7176 ON NOVEMBER 17, 2006

William W. Brill and his collection. 
Photograph courtesy of the Estate of William W. Brill 

The historic collection, which is comprised of approximately 180 pieces of 
African art, was built in the 1960s and includes rare objects of superb aesthetic quality from Marcia and 
William W. Brill’s 1830 Federal period home in Greenwich Village in New York City. Brill traveled 
extensively to personally acquire objects through the greatest dealers of his time, including legendary 
Charles Ratton and Rene Rasmussen in Paris, Merton D. Simpson in New York, Ralph Nash in London and Morton Lipkin/Robert Stolper in Amsterdam. One of the great early American collectors, Brill played a pioneering role in defining the field of African art and was tremendously supportive of institutions. The objects included in the sale have been off the market for over forty years, and the collection is expected to bring $1.8/2.3 million. 

A various-owners sale of African, Oceanic & Pre-Columbian Art, including an Important European Private Collection, will also be held on November 17th. 

Heinrich Schweizer, Head of Sotheby’s African and Oceanic Art department in New York, said: 

Brill collection “William Brill Collection of African Art”, organized by the Milwaukee Public Museum, May 5, 1969 – February 22, 1970. 

W. Brill was one of the most ardent collectors of his time and one of the greatest pioneers in promoting African art in the United States. Advised by the preeminent dealers and curators in Europe and America, and driven by a furious passion, he formed 
a landmark collection of African art throughout the 1960s that for the next three decades was exhibited throughout the US and published extensively. Brill sought out objects of outstanding quality and rarity, many of which today are venerated as icons of African art.” 

Traveling exhibition “Selections from the William W. Photograph courtesy of the Estate of William W. Brill 

William W. Brill 

Well-known collector, donor and pioneer in the field of African art, William W. Brill was born in 1918 in Brooklyn, New York. A Yale graduate from the class of 1939, he was 21 years old when he started his entrepreneurial career in real estate, focusing on 
building construction and mortgage. In the 1940s he moved to Greenwich Village and displayed an early interest in community-building. During his lifetime in the neighborhood he helped to prevent the closing of Washington Square Park, contributed to neighborhood beautification efforts and served on many block associations and boards. He was the president and director of the Mutual Real Estate Investment Trust and director of the Citizens Housing and Planning Council of New York. 

Brill home Dining Room of the Brill’s family home, New York, with African art and a painting by Fernand Leger. 
Photograph courtesy of the 
Estate of William W. Brill 

William W. Brill had his epiphany as a collector during a business trip to West Africa in 1960, when confronted with the sculptural power of a pristine Akan terra cotta funerary – his first acquisition. 
Realizing that the best material available at the time was located in Europe, especially in those countries with colonial history, Brill undertook acquisition trips to Europe at least twice a year and bought from the most prominent European dealers and private collectors of the time, including Charles Ratton in Paris and Ralph Nash in London, as well as at auctions, including the famed Helena Rubinstein sale in 1966 held at Parke-Bernet. 

Together with individuals like Nelson D. Rockefeller and Jay Leff, William Brill was a passionate collector who shaped the taste of an entire generation in African art. He was actively involved in the field and dedicated to educating his generation through lectures and events, and countless loans and donations. In 1969, Brill’s collection went on a traveling exhibition to Milwaukee, St. Paul and Duluth. Since then, it has been widely published and exhibited extensively. Brill was one of the strongest supporters of The Museum of Primitive Art, which later became the Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Many of his prized pieces went on loan, to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, and the Detroit Institute of Art, among others. An avid philanthropist, Mr. Brill also donated works of art to many institutions such as the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, the Detroit Institute of Arts, and the Minnesota Museum of Art. Education played a preeminent role in his life, and for this reason, he generously donated important sculptures from his collection to the art galleries of educational institutions such as Yale University, Brown University, Cornell University, and Dartmouth College. 

The Brill Collection

Brill Kanyok african coupleHighlights from the sale include a rare and important Kanyok male and female pair, from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The couple is depicted in a forceful squatting posture with hands drawn to the torso, downcast eyes and forward-tilted heads, rendering the pair uniquely 
expressive and highly emotive. Both display a coiffure composed of two spherical knots above the nape of the neck and cross-hatching in bold relief patterns. It is exceptionally rare to find that both figures have survived as a pair; Brill acquired the pair in 1969 from London-based 
collector-dealer Ralph Nash. The figures were exhibited the same year at the Milwaukee Public Museum, along with all the other sculptures discussed below, with the exception of 
the Kuyu head that at the time of the exhibition was on loan to the Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York. The Kanyok pair was in 1979 by Gillon (Gillon 1979: 131, figure 164). The pair is estimated to bring $100/150,000 (pictured here) it sold for $264,400 to a private American collector, the highest price ever paid for that tribe. 

Brill KuyuAlso featured prominently in the sale is a magnificent Kuyu ceremonial head, one of the finest known examples of Kuyu sculpture. This outstanding carving comes from the Republic of Congo (ROC) and depicts a human head with tapered coiffure and elaborate scarification. Drooping melancholic eyes stand in contrast to a gaping mouth with sharp, ferocious teeth and give the work a determined, assertive and almost hypnotic expression. The head, acquired from Morton Lipkin/Stolper Galleries, Amsterdam, in 1967, was on loan to the Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York, from 1968 to 1976 and published in 1979 (Gillon 1979: 98, figure 120); it is estimated at $70/100,000 (pictured here). The Kuyu head sold $464,000

Yombe BrillA superb Yombe Power Figure from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) combines finest artistry with a pristine patina. With aristocratic facial features, full-bodied lips, half-shut eyes and delicately curved nose and ears, the figure’s highly refined physiognomy stands in harsh contrast to its abstracted physique, creating a tension heightening the sculptural power of the artwork (pictured here, lot 103 est.$70/100,000). The figure was purchased from Paris dealer Maurice Ratton in 1966 and published several times, most prominently in Lehuard (1989, Volume II: 525, figure J 12-1-3). Sold for 120,000$


Songye BrillA superb Songye male power figure from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), formerly in the collection of George Braque, Cubist and friend of Picasso, and acquired by Brill in 1968 from Henri L. Schouten, Amsterdam, conveys a supernatural presence, serenity and strength. The voluminous body and stark contours are highly compact, with wide, squared shoulders, a swollen abdomen, hemispherical feet and pronounced ankles. The figure has a superb patina and is estimated to bring $40/60,000 (pictured here). 

A rare and important Toma mask from Liberia, acquired from Morton Lipkin/Stolper Galleries, Amsterdam in 1966, is of voluminous and dramatic form with an exceptionally fine, heavily encrusted patina. Abstractly anthropomorphic, displaying a massive gaping mouth, prominent protruding teeth and robust jutting horns, the mask is one of only three known examples 
of comparable style, quality and age. Cowry shells line the rounded rim of the mouth, framing the jaw and forming the teeth. The mask, widely published and exhibited, lastly in 1985 at Sets, Series and Ensembles in African Art at the Center for African Art, New York is estimated at $40/60,000. 

Baule "moon" mask Brill auctionLot 44, superb Baule "moon" mask, 7 3/4 inches high

Lot 44 the superb Baule "moon" mask that is 7 3/4 inches high. It had an estimate of $60,000 to $90,000. It sold for $120,000.



*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium 

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Bareiss
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Collins Diboll
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Lester Saffier
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Horstmann Collection
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The Tribal Arts of Africa

The Tribal Arts of Africa
Author: Jean-Baptiste Bacquart

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read also : Start ] Frederick-Scott-Boston ] Charles Benenson ] Arman African Art ] Baselitz ] Barnes foundation ] Gary Schulze ] Paolo Morigi ] Bareiss ] Owen Mort ] Tomkins collection ] lavuun ] Goldet auction ] Tishman ] Metha-Montgomey ] William Rubin ] Bregger ] Guido Poppe African Weapons ] Picasso back to Africa ] Private collection ] Felix Feneon ] Jean-Pierre Hallet ] Leo Frobenius ] Olbrechts ] Frank Willett ] Kerchache ] [ Brill collection ] Vicente Huidobro ] Hans Witte ] Collins Diboll ] Richard Faletti ] Lester Saffier ] Genevieve McMillan ] Stanoff ] Marc Ginzberg ] Horstmann Collection ] Warren Robbins ]

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