The largest auction of primitive art since the 1966 New York sale of Helena Rubenstein’s collection will be held in Paris by François de Ricqlès on June 30 and July 1. Remarkable for both its quality and diversity, the Hubert Goldet Collection contains 640 objects, from 20 rare sculptures estimated at $145,000 to $290,000 each to a Mbete carving (left), the most finely rendered of its kind ever collected, estimated at $600,000 to $800,000.
Goldet was surrounded by artwork since childhood, and he studied at the Ecole du Louvre in the 1960s. After a brief stint writing catalogues in Sotheby’s Impressionist and modern painting department in London he moved back to Paris in 1971 and founded the monthly Art Press. That, too, was a brief experience, as Goldet had been bitten by the collecting bug and he quit to indulge his passion. Goldet became an avaricious collector, scouring galleries and buying at auction primitive pieces over a 29-year period. He was fascinated by this “total art,” which conferred enormous beauty on ordinary household utensils and religious articles without confining itself to “art for art’s sake.”
While as a child he lived with traditional art, Goldet in his adulthood literally surrounded himself with every one of his beloved African pieces, from Dogon sculptures and Gabon masks to the Côte d’Ivoire group of ceremonial spoons, masks and a statuette. His apartment (above) was like a mausoleum in which the most simple ethnographic object was accorded the same importance as the rarest sculpture. “It was so dark in his apartment one needed a torch to see,” said one person who had the opportunity to visit Goldet’s residence.
New York interior designer Carey Maloney of M Group also is an avid primitive art collector. “I bought my first piece of tribal art in Johannesburg on my 21st birthday trip through Africa - a female bambara from Mali - and carried it home,” Maloney recounts. “It broke years ago - but I still have things from that trip around my apartment and the house in the country, which has a large room we refer to as the Nairobi Hilton bar.”
Maloney and his partner, the architect Hermes Mallea, like working with clients who share their interest in aboriginal art. One of them, Barbara Howard, has a dozen pieces she rotates around her Holmby Hills ranch house (below). A dealer Maloney and Howard recommend is Ernie Wolfe in Santa Monica.