the strong return of the world’s largest exhibition dedicated to primitive art

The Parcours des mondes fair, dedicated to primitive art, takes place from September 5 to 10 in Paris in a sign of optimism, despite the context of restitutions weighing on a market already hard hit by the Covid-19 crisis.

A Luba bowl from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, exhibited as part of the Primitive Art Fair "The Way of the Worlds"in Paris, September 11, 2018 (FRANCOIS GUILLOT / AFP)

Wander through an ephemeral open-air museum: The 22nd edition of the Parcours des mondes, the world’s largest fair dedicated to primitive (non-European) art, opens Tuesday in Paris with a growing number of vendors from five continents.

Open for free to the public in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés district of Paris, this edition will include the sale of a Chukchi amulet from Siberia, a Fang figurine from Gabon or even a Dakini mask from Tibet.

“In the Hollow”

“African art is better received today”points out Yves-Bertrand Debie, director of the show, to AFP. “It’s much better done, we see a lot of exhibitions, and overall the public view is much more educated in the specifics of this art.”

“Today, if we strictly look at the market, we are a bit down”however, collector David Lebard, who remains convinced of this, believes “these works will come back into fashion”.

A “wheel” associated with the context of restitution? In December 2022, Berlin returned to Nigeria 22 bronzes from the former Kingdom of Benin, looted during the colonial era. In 2021, Paris returned to Benin 26 cannons from the royal treasures of Abomey, looted in 1892 by French troops.

“There is no reluctance on the part of buyers”, assures Yves-Bertrand Debie, who cites the “historical” example of Michel Périnet’s collection (1930-2020). A collection of African and Oceanic art, growing to 66 million euros in Paris 2021, in just 61 lots. World record in this specialty.

“Bounce”

This year, 58 renowned dealers (and collectors) specializing in the art of Africa, Oceania, the Americas and archeology will gather until Sunday, up from 42 last year. A number roughly equivalent to that of 2019, before the health crisis, when there were 64 gallerists.

“We have been through several crises, undoubtedly including the one associated with Covid-19, which has had a strong impact on us.”, analyzes the show’s director, who sees the “rebound” in this edition. This year, of the sixty collectors, almost half are French.

A total of eleven countries from five continents will be present, such as Australia, America and Finland, says its president, specifying that the second most represented country will be Belgium.

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