The Parcours des mondes, showcase of the primary arts of Africa

The return to the Parisian district of Saint-Germain-des-Prés is marked by the primitive arts

The Parcours des mondes, showcase of the primary arts of Africa

The return to the Parisian district of Saint-Germain-des-Prés is marked by the primitive arts. From September 5 to 10, this open-air fair highlighted ancient, African, Asian, Oceanian, Aboriginal objects... Over time, since 2002, this event, nicely called Parcours des mondes, has become the biggest event -you to the world dedicated to the primitive arts of Africa, Oceania, Asia and the Americas. Collectors, art dealers, enlightened amateurs, but also onlookers, meet and exchange, and also buy. “Classical Africa remains our DNA,” explains Yves-Bertrand Debie, director of the show. Around this central axis gravitate the arts of other regions of the world, from Oceania, to Polynesia, to Australia, from North America to Asia and many others, thus offering a beautiful journey in time and space.

For this 22nd edition, 58 galleries participated, compared to 42 last year. We are getting closer to the figures for 2019, before the health crisis. Yves-Bertrand Debie sees this as a rebound in the market after a period of troughs. German, American, English, Australian, Belgian, Spanish, Italian and Swiss galleries are taking over the Parisian district alongside their Parisian counterparts but also from the rest of France.

Among the thematic exhibitions on African art, “Masques” are in the spotlight at the Abla gallery

“Paris is a strong place for the art market on an international level, particularly for the arts of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas. A large part of the galleries are today located in Paris or Brussels, and to a lesser extent in San Francisco for certain specialties", underlines Stéphane Marchand, honorary president of Parcours des mondes, who was at the head for 20 years from Quai Branly. “The brilliant idea of ​​Parcours des mondes is to use the other galleries in this district to welcome foreign dealers during the show. In just a few years, the Course has become an essential meeting place. Unlike other fairs, it takes place under the open sky, in the middle of the street,” he rejoices.

The weather will probably work in favor of the crowds. People come and go, strolling the streets of the fine arts district, entering the galleries whose doors are open. “It’s a friendly, warm moment, less supervised than in a closed place. In short, it is without equivalent in the world of non-European arts. We never see so many items for sale,” enthuses Stéphane Marchand.

Among the new galleries present this year, Claes Contemporary and Modern offers a very beautiful exhibition entitled “Shared Passion”, which presents African art objects from the collection of Michel Vandenkerckhove and his wife. The staging and selection of pieces immerse the visitor in a fascinating world. Masks, statues, fetishes, objects bear witness to the diversity and artistic richness of the African continent. To accompany this exhibition, Didier Claes is publishing with Bruno Claessens a book illustrated with photographs by Hughes Dubois, and accompanied by an in-depth analysis of the pieces presented.

Marguerite de Sabran, a great specialist, who spent a large part of her career at Sotheby's, is opening her space to the public for the first time, an interior courtyard with objects chosen around the theme of the double, including a very beautiful Janus crest mask. This two-headed mask comes from a Cameroonian chiefdom in the grassland (Bangwa, Troh society). This mask translates the idea of ​​a power, that of seeing everything, the visible and the invisible. Too imposing in size, it was not worn on the face but on the shoulder. Placed above a door, it was soaked in soot which gave the object a patina. The idea is also to talk with merchants to learn the history of these objects that have traveled and to better understand their uses.

Another exhibition not to be missed is that of Jacques Billen, known for his expertise in Egyptology. The latter reveals another facet of his passions as a collector: his taste for African weapons. It presents Unû, a term in the Teke language (Central Africa) referring to both prestige weapons and adornments. So for this exhibition, Jacques Billen selected around a hundred African weapons from Angola, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Central African Republic, but also from the Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and Zimbabwe. Knives, swords, axes bear witness to the virtuosity of African sculptors and blacksmiths.

For several years, the Parcours des mondes has been building bridges between the past and the present, weaving links between classical and contemporary art. “There is a wonderful continuity between ancient creations and the production of current contemporary artists. More and more gallery owners want to open this dialogue between the practices of yesterday and today,” notes Yves-Bernard Debie. The Vallois 35 gallery presents two young Beninese artists, Youss Atacora, self-taught painter and Achille Adonon, winner of the Sculpture prize at the last Dakar Biennale in 2022, both exhibited for the first time in Paris. Right next door, at 41 rue de Seine, the Vallois gallery offers the latest creations of ceramist King Houndekpinkou as well as the works of Franck Zanfanhouédé, a tattoo artist who transcribes his body art practice into female sculptures crossed with nails, as in his paintings on wood whose characters are drawn using nails. For its part, the Claes Contemporary gallery

This show “is a moment of sharing between dealers, collectors, curators, students from all over the world,” enthuses Marguerite de Sabran. Often presented as a free visit to an open-air museum, it offers “a dialogue of cultures,” says Yves-Bertrand Debie. In any case, the primitive art market remains concentrated between European and American galleries and auction houses. When will there be African galleries on this specialty?