Author(s): Christine Valluet
At the beginning of the twentieth century, at a time of turmoil when art was undergoing unprecedented upheaval, the West, and especially France, began to turn its eyes towards distant cultures until then largely neglected. Artists were in the throes of questioning all canons and were seduced by the freshness they found in the art of these cultures. The outcome is what we know today as 'Primitivism'. But at the same time, through a sort of aesthetic empathy, art lovers, critics, poets, and dealers developed a passion for the intrinsic beauty of these objects, which began to arrive in Europe in large numbers, brought home by colonial administrators, missionaries, or officers on overseas postings. The extraordinary expressiveness and at the same time great harmoniousness of the best of these works enchanted them. Guillaume Apollinaire was not afraid to talk of 'the very principles of great art' when discussing African art. This book acknowledges this art's role in world art and looks at the way beauty was perceived through the 'eye' of great art lovers. Some of these are mentioned in this publication, which discusses the works they painstakingly amassed. Many of these works are now famous and indeed have come to be regarded as 'icons'. Others of the greatest artistic importance collected by these aficionados are reproduced here, highlighting the particular genius of peoples, the existence of which is testified only through their sculpture. Many of these have never, or in some cases only very seldom, been published. The art of Africa, Oceania, America, and Southeast Asia are all represented, revealing the extraordinary variety of artistic forms developed in these four regions of the world. Certain cultures were discovered and appreciated in the West in the early twentieth century, while others were brought to the attention of the international community in the 1950s. This book tells the story of how discoverers, collectors, and dealers brought tribal art to France over a period of some eighty years. This is the first time a full survey has been attempted, especially as regards the post-war period, and many of the protagonists in this enthralling adventure are virtually forgotten. One of this book's great strengths is its double focus on art collecting, explored from both an aesthetic and a historical standpoint.