By Candice Russell
It is a great time to begin collecting Haitian art. Without ever having to leave your house, you can begin buying substantial pieces of Haitian art via legitimate web sites like my own, www.haitianna.com, and several others. Another way to dip into the market is to get the twice-yearly free, full-color catalogs from Slotin Folk Art Auction in Buford, Georgia, near Atlanta. There is usually a small, select group of Haitian pieces in every auction. The auctions occur every spring and every fall and you can pre-bid, bid online or by telephone during the event, or attend the auction in person to bid in the room.
I admit to buying some wonderful works of Haitian art this way. In fact, I couldn’t resist last weekend’s auction. I had my eye on several wonderful paintings by the under-sung artist Montas Antoine. Only a couple were in outstanding condition, however, so I saved my bids for them. But, as all old auction hands will advise, once the bids went over my budget, I opted out of the process and let others compete for the paintings.
There were two very interesting sculptures from recycled metal oil drums by Murat rierre and Gabriel Bien-aime. True to my old tendencies, I wound up as the successful bidder on number 964, a Vodou flag called “Heart Face with Matching Snakes” by an unknown artist. My winning bid was $150, but with a buyer’s premium and shipping costs, the total is $222. The estimate in the catalog was $300 to $500 so I feel lucky I wasn’t outbid. The previous flag in thet auction, “Pink Heart with Snakes,” with water stain and some loss of embellishment, went for $350. Before that, “Queen of Hearts,” another Vodou flag, brought $400.
Other notable bids — $700 for an unsigned Pierrot Barra doll constructiono called “Cabbage Patch Cross.” I really wanted the 12 molded clay face busts by Louisiane Saint Fleurant, which you never see for sale anywhere — and certainly not in such a large grouping. But with bidding that began at $650 and skyrocketed to $1,800, I was shortly out of the runniing. Congratulations to the dealer or collector who got a real treasure and a bargain. I’d say they are worth, conservatively more than $3,600.
The Saint Soleil-ish “Four Sisters,” a 28-inch by 28-inch painting by Roland St. Hubert, brought a winning bid of a modest $350. Two nice works by Wilson Bigaud were in the first day’s auction.
Personally, I loved Gabriel Leveque’s pretty-pretty painting “Angels in the Flowers” from the 1960s that went for a very low $400.
Peruse the auction results online, read Haitian art books, look at web sites and get in on the action at the next auction in April. Set your price and try to stick to it. And if you go a little over, you will have piece you truly love and admire, along with a story about how it wound up in your possession.
Haitian art is addictive. You may start out only with paintings, then move slowly into the tactile favors of Vodou flags and the magnificence of sculptures in wood, papier-mache and various mixed media. Haitian art is an adventure, so jump in.