November 8, 2007
A major Haitian art event is taking place on Saturday, November 10that Historic Buford Hall in Buford, Georgia, just outside Atlanta. The Slotin Folk Art Auction for that particular day is heavily laden with items in American folk art and Haitian masterpieces from the personal collection of filmmaker and Haitian human rights defender Jonathan Demme. On the cover of the full-color catalog is a stellar painting featured in the show co-curated by myself and Axelle Liautaud in 2006at the Bass Museum of Art in Miami Beach, Florida — “Judgement Day”(1983) by Pauleus Vital. This incredible work features zombies bursting out of multi-colored coffins in a cemetery and making their way up twin staircases with very different ends, as one group appears to march toward heaven and the others to hell It is estimated to bring in between $8,000 to $12,000.
But as with all items at Slotin Folk Art Auctions, there is no reserve. So if a bidder gets lucky, he or she may walk away with a highly valued artwork for less than the estimate. Also featured in the auction are two lovely Wilson Bigaud paintings including “Lady in the Rose Garden” (1981), estimated at between $1,000 and $2,000 and”Marriage at Cana” (c. 1981), with an estimate of $2,000 to $4,000.Both prices seem low.
A very unusual “Papa Zaka” painting by the underrated Bourmond Byron, a painting called “Twa Zonbi” by Abel Michel inspired by the original painting by Hector Hyppolite of zombies being led from a cemetery, a charming Alexandre Gregoire “In the Garden” and “Nativity” by Gerard make this auction one to watch, if only to gauge the strength of the market in Haitian art. Of course, it all depends on how many Haitian art lovers know about the auction and decide to participate as bidders, either in person or by telephone.
Demme put up some rarities on the auction block, too, including”Monument” (c. 1963) by Florence Martinez and the exceptionally beautiful “Dambala Wedo” in the old-school palette by Andre Pierre.Under-priced works in iron and metal by the pioneer who started this genre of sculptures, Georges Liautaud, and his successor Serge Jolimeau are also up for bid. From crosses both embellished and plain,figurative pieces like mermaids and a creature dubbed “Metamorphosis,”and paintings by Etienne Chavannes, one of Demme’s favorite artists,this auction is worth checking out, even after the fact to see what prices actually materialized once the hammer came down.
Other notable paintings by Jerome Polycarpe, Gerard Paul, Roi David Annissey, Ulrick Jean, G. Leveque, and Fernand Pierre are included inthe offerings. Lesser known artists are included in Demme’s collectionas well. He has a remarkable eye that applies to Vodou flags, with tasty representations of “Mermaid,” “Kok Lavalas,” and “Tambou Verite.” Mixed media sculptures by Pierrot Barra using doll heads are part of this eclectic mix. The auction should be fun and the results worth careful contemplation.
— Candice Russell