All the books reviews
Eyes of the Ancestors: The Arts of Island Southeast Asia at the Dallas Museum of Art - (ENGLISH)
Ce livre spectaculaire se penche sur 105 oeuvres de la célèbre collection d’art d’Asie du Sud-Est du Dallas Museum of Art. Superbement illustré par Brad Flowers, le photographe attitré du DMA, le livre est enrichi par de nombreuses reproductions de photos historiques jamais publiées, ou publiées il y a si longtemps qu’elles sont aujourd’hui largement oubliées.Tout au long des neuf chapitres, l’impressionnante équipe d’experts a recours à de véritables chefs-d’oeuvre pour illustrer des articles consacrés à l’art des Mentawai, des Nias, des Bataks de Sumatra, aux étoffes à motifs de bateau des Lampung, aux Dayaks de Bornéo, à Sulawesi, Sumba, Flores et au Timor. Chaque chapitre témoigne d’une grande expertise et livre des informations originales complètes et fournies qui apportent un vent de fraîcheur sur l’art, abordé aussi bien sous l’angle esthétique qu'en rapport avec son contexte historique. Même les notes de bas de page constituent une mine d’informations. Quant à la bibliographie, elle est soigneusement choisie et fait montre d’une grande rigueur. Eyes of the Ancestors représente l’ouvrage le plus complet et le plus attrayant sur le sujet depuis celui de J.P. Barbier, Art of the Archaic Indonesians (1981), mais il offre tellement plus d’informations et bénéficie d’une présentation impeccable – ce qui en fait immédiatement un « classique » et le rend indispensable à quiconque s’intéresse aux arts traditionnels. Ce thème fera l’objet d’un article détaillé dans le numéro hivernal de Tribal Art magazine.
Fiery Pool: The Maya and the Mythic Sea - (ENGLISH)
Fiery Pool: The Maya and the Mythic Sea was published to accompany an exhibition that will soon open at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. Research into the Mayan civilization has only recently revealed the impact that the element of water and its associated pantheon of creatures had on the cosmology and worldview of the Mayan people, and this catalog recognizes and explores its inextricable role, both physical and metaphysical, in this ancient culture. Vividly and fully illustrated, this volume details the different objects and symbols put forth in the exhibition, and what they meant to the Mayans. It also explores the mythological nature of water and its temporal effects upon Mayan daily life. Fiery Pool is both a fascinating read and an aesthetic pleasure.
Fiji: Art - (ENGLISH)
This catalog of the exhibition Fiji: Art & Life in the Pacific, which was recently presented at Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich, is remarkable for the richness and quality of its contents. Intended as a preliminary attempt at presenting a comprehensive history of Fijian art, the book opens with an introduction to life and the arts in Fiji. The second chapter provides a historical overview of the circumstances of object collection and perspectives on exchanges between indigenous peoples and Europeans, particularly in the nineteenth century. The role of art objects in local cultures is then analyzed in depth. These essays precede the “catalog” part of the book, in which each of the 276 works presented in the exhibition—sculptures, textiles, ornaments, neckrests, etc.—is highlighted by a photograph that clearly shows its formal qualities as well as detailed commentary that expresses the importance of the artwork both as a social object and as a collector’s item. The book concludes with a valuable appendix composed by Katrina Talei Igglesden listing the main institutions and personalities (local chiefs and European collectors) who either has possessed or still holds significant collections of Fiji art.
First American Art - (ENGLISH)
The Charles and Valerie Diker collection of Native American art, which was exhibited and published at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art a few years ago, reemerges here in an exhibition at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York and in this fabulous catalogue. This is unquestionably one of the world's finest collections of this type of art, which is beautifully displayed in this book. There is a certain amount of overlap between the Met's publication and the present volume, but there is also a great deal of previously unpublished material. The objects are arranged by intuitive and aesthetic groupings rather than by more typical geographic and cultural criteria, and this approach raises some stimulating comparisons.
Fleuve Congo: Correspondances et mutations des formes - (FRENCH)
The remembrance of many exhibitions is preserved and enhanced through the reading of an accompanying catalog, which sometimes itself becomes sought after by collectors, and is often rare and coveted. The present work, just completed by eminent Belgian art historian Francois Neyt, seems destined to follow this path. The finesse of his stylistic analyses, the pertinence of his discussion, and the elegance of his language are likely to seduce a large public of esthetes, one much larger in fact than that of the tribal art community alone. It is interesting to note and quite unusual that, in this instance, it was the book that gave rise to the exhibition, rather than vice versa. Hopefully, the installation at the Musee du Quai Branly will be able to capture the magic that these pages of elegant sculpture have created. Kwele and Punu masks, Fang and Kota reliquaries, Phemba maternity figures, and Kongo divination objects have rarely been presented so eloquently.
For Hearth and Altar: African Ceramics from the Keith Achepohl Collection - (ENGLISH)
Pottery is among the oldest of African art forms and among the least studied. African potters, who tend to be women, practice centuries-old techniques that have been passed through generations. The pieces can embody an immediacy of form and a deceptive simplicity that reflect their makers’ deep understanding of material, process, and embellishment. This book presents a virtuoso group of African ceramics presently on display at the Art Institute of Chicago from the Keith Achepohl Collection. The collection focuses on aesthetics and the objects in it range in date from the third to mid-twentieth century. The book is a rare survey of African ceramics from across the continent and will serve as a useful and attractive reference for many collectors and scholars.
Fragments of the Invisible: The René and Odette Delenne Collection of Congo Sculpture - (ENGLISH)
Fragments of the Invisible est le catalogue de l’exposition éponyme présentant les trente-quatre sculptures du Congo acquises en 2010 par le Cleveland Museum of Art auprès du couple de collectionneurs belges René et Odette Delenne. Complet et bien documenté, ce volume explore le contexte dans lequel les objets ont évolué, aussi bien dans leurs cultures d’origine que dans leur vie d’objets de collection en Europe et, depuis fort récemment, dans un musée des États-Unis. L’éditeur du livre est le commissaire de l’exposition et conservateur pour les arts d’Afrique au Cleveland Museum of Art, Constantin Petridis, à l’origine de cette acquisition. L’ouvrage compte par ailleurs des contributions de plusieurs spécialistes : Cecikle Fromont, Jan-Lodewik Grooters, Frank Herreman, Dunja Hersak, John M. Jansen, Mary Nooter Roberts, Colleen Snyder, Samantha Springer et Hein Vanhee. Les belles photographies de Gary Kirchenbauer présentent cet ensemble d’objets de qualité sous leur meilleur jour, réveillant chez le lecteur la certitude qu’il serait très difficile au- jourd’hui d’en constituer un autre semblable...
From the South Seas: Oceanic Art in the Teel Collection - (ENGLISH)
Oceanic art is markedly distinct and expressive, and objects in the Teel Collection that are featured in this fine catalogue exemplify these traits. Spread over the vast area from Easter Island to New Guinea and Hawaii to New Zealand, Oceanic art has enormous stylistic variation, though common themes can also be identified. Introductory chapters by Gunn and Geary discuss the area’s history and art, as well as details relating to objects in the Teel Collection. The catalogue follows, divided into seven regions: Indonesia, Micronesia, Polynesia, and four sections on Melanesia. Much of this important collection has been generously gifted by William E. and the late Bertha L. Teel to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Gabon Tribal Art - (ENGLISH / FRENCH)
My pick for book of the month is this handsome volume, published on the occasion of the Kunst aus Gabon exhibition organized by the Ethnology Museum of Heidelberg/Portheim Foundation in Germany and exhibited from November 6, 2005– January 22, 2006. I refused to buy the book at first, but little by little, a realization came to me. A compass that points south is just as good as a conventional one, as long as one understands its nature and how it works. The selection in this book is absolutely rigorous and there are no errors. I have at times criticized publications for having allowed doubtful works to appear in their pages, and authors, as well, who chose to illustrate questionable works instead of real ones. But there are no mistakes here—every piece in the book is fake! Where Fang masks are concerned, these pages contain copies of the ngil in the Vérité Collection and of another in the Barbier- Mueller Collection. Invitations to compare the real piece with its copy are on the exhibition labels and the book’s descriptions. The authors missed some famous copies—there are several “versions” of the Fang masks in the Musée de l’Homme, the Völkerkunde Museum in Munich, and in other collections as well. The Kwele section is perhaps the highlight. There are few authentic Kwele objects known, but all are represented here by their double, each splendidly executed. We are given the opportunity to admire new versions of the gon mask from the Porte Dorée; the reliquary from the Saragossa exhibition; a mask from the Mestach Collection; another pipibudze, again from the Porte Dorée; and yet another (called the one with “enveloping horns” by Louis Perrois) from the Dapper Foundation; as well as various other clever and often very surprising contemporary inventions. In a nutshell, this book is indispensable to anyone who wishes to know about the recent production of copies of art work from Gabon. It covers its subject thoroughly, and will be as valuable a tool to professionals and experts as to collectors. I have only one regret, that being that the authors failed to include an order form at the end of the book that might enable a prospective client to acquire a piece of contemporary African handicraft at a good price.
Gauguin, Tahiti et la photographie - (FRENCH)
This book is devoted to the extraordinary and little-known photographic record of the nineteenth century in Tahiti and the Marquesas Islands. It is the fruit of unrelenting labor on the part of Jean-Yves Tréhin and the will of the government of French Polynesia to assemble a photographic record of the Polynesian patrimony. It is published on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the death of Gauguin, also celebrated by the exhibition Gauguin- Tahiti, l’Atelier des Tropiques on view at the Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais through January 19, 2004. Tribal art enthusiasts will especially appreciate shots of King Vaitehu in the Marquesas and "Two Natives by an Idol," published in the first of these books. Also certain to be of interest are the portraits of two tattooed Marquesans in the book on Gauguin, taken by Charles Georges Spitz, a young Alsatian military man who started a photography studio in Tahiti in the 1880s. Both books are essential to a revisiting of the paradise of Pacific islands now lost.