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Honorary Presidency Stéphane Martin

Each year, the Parcours des Mondes highlights a major figure from the tribal art field who is implicated in the diffusion of knowledge about African, Oceanic, American and Asian Arts.

Who is Stéphane Martin?

We are honoured to unveil our new Honorary President for the 2023 edition of Parcours des mondes.

Magistrate at the Cour des Comptes, Stéphane Martin worked for four years in Senegal and held various positions at the Ministry of Culture before chairing the musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac from December 1998 to January 2020.

"Since its creation by Rick Gadella and its "reinvention" by the late Pierre Moos, I have only missed one Parcours des Mondes, that of 2020, I had just spent two years in Japan.

Some twenty beginnings of September, strolling through the magical square of the "District" where collectors of all magnitudes, curators and the simply curious meet in an intense treasure hunt. Literally walking from one door to the other, waving at a friend’s face while already looking at the content of the gallery and glimpsing the desirable work: no fair, no show, no matter how prestigious and elegantly staged, gives as much pleasure as the few days of the Parcours des Mondes.

In recent years, I have tried to look at the works collected in Paris by the best dealers in the world with the demands and constraints of a museum manager that are not quite like those of a curator or those of a collector. The Parcours des Mondes is attached to some of the great acquisitions of the musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac and, at the same time, to many emotions experienced as a collector and an amateur.

For all these reasons, I am proud and touched to be the Honorary President of this 22nd edition, and I am looking forward to the emotions, necessarily new, that it will bring me."

Photo : Jiro Yonezawa

Interview with Stéphane Martin

What made you want to be the Honorary President of the Parcours des Mondes?


I've been involved with the Parcours des Mondes for a long time, as I’m close friends with Rick Gadella, who first conceived of the show so many years ago. At the time, I was in charge of a cultural project in Monaco, and he was managing Paris Photo. He told me about the idea, and, as a collector of tribal art, it resonated with me immediately. Later, when Pierre Moos took over the Parcours des Mondes, he and I also became friends. I'm also very attached to the Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood, which I have spent a great deal of time in over the last forty years. The Parcours des Mondes is an event that I am intimately familiar with, and in which I've been a regular participant since its inception, so when I was asked to be its honorary president, I was delighted and accepted without hesitating for so much as an instant.


What do you think makes the Parcours des Mondes so special?


Paris is a major international capital for the art market, and especially for the arts of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas. Most of the galleries that specialize in these fields are currently in Paris or Brussels, and to a lesser degree in San Francisco. I'm old enough to have known a time when certain major Parisian dealers opened spaces in New York, which they all closed fairly quickly, because collectors from all over the world have consistently always wanted to come to Paris. The stroke of genius idea that the Parcours des Mondes implemented was to use galleries in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood that focused on other kinds of art to welcome foreign dealers for the duration of the show. In just a few years, the Parcours became the year’s most important event for non-European art aficionados. Unlike other fairs, it takes place in multiple venues along several small streets that are very close to one another and a pleasure to stroll through, and it stays open for several days. People come and go all week long. It's a warm, friendly ambiance, with none of that “boxed in” feeling that large closed venues often have. In short, it really has no equivalent in the world of the non-European arts.


Does that fact have a connection with the spirit that reigns in the Parisian galleries?


I find the Parisian galleries particularly open and welcoming. I remember when I was a student at Sciences Po (Paris Institute of Political Studies), I liked to wander around the neighborhood and visit them, especially Philippe Ratton's gallery, which was just a stone's throw from the school. I couldn't afford to buy from him, but he never made me feel out of place or awkward. Most of all, I think he was happy to see a young person that was interested in all these objects. It's this atmosphere that prevails in Parisian galleries that Parcours des Mondes manages to provide to all of its visitors, from the merely curious, to the inveterate enthusiasts and great collectors. They are all made to feel welcome and treated with equal respect and hospitality. In my opinion, this has been one of the key factors contributing to the great success the Parcours des Mondes has enjoyed.


What attracted you to Africa?


I've been interested in African art since I was very young. A friend of my father's was a forester in Gabon, so beginning when I was a teenager, I spent part of my summer vacations in Africa with my father, in Gabon, Congo-Brazzaville, Angola and so forth. The year I graduated from high school, we set off from Paris in a Land Rover to Abidjan, which would probably be a much more complicated undertaking nowadays. I fell in love with Africa at a time in my life when I was wide-eyed and curious, and I hope that curiosity hasn’t left me.


How did you start collecting?


My father's friend used to blaze trails through the forests of Gabon, and often ventured into very remote areas. He sometimes brought back small utilitarian objects and gave me a few gifts. Next to me in my office, I still have one of those little stools I was given when I was fourteen. When the urge to collect takes hold of you, it never leaves you. I've been collecting all my life and, in a way, that has shaped my professional career.


How so?


After Sciences Po, I was so absorbed by my discovery of Africa that I dreamed of working there. I went to the ENA (National School of Administration) with this idea in mind, but then things turned out differently. I began working at the Cour des Comptes (the French national Court of Accounts, or financial auditing institution). As luck would have it, I was soon offered a position in Senegal, where I stayed for four years. I continued to collect a few objects. In the meanwhile, I had also done my military service in Polynesia in 1979, where I discovered Oceanic art.


How did you come to work for cultural institutions?


On my return from Senegal, I wanted to continue working in Africa, or go to work for a financial institution like the World Bank, for example, but no positions opened up. A friend of mine at the Cour des Comptes, aware of my interest in the cultural sector, informed me that the Centre Pompidou was looking for a General Delegate. That's how my career in culture began. Subsequently, I was Director of Music - another subject I'm passionate about - and then Chief of Staff to the Minister of Culture, Philippe Douste-Blazy, who had been appointed by Jacques Chirac. At that time, Jacques Kerchache, whom I already knew, was advocating for the creation of a tribal art department at the Louvre. Surprised to find me at the Ministry, and aware of my predilection for the non-European arts, he introduced me to President Chirac. And that is how, through a combination of circumstances and encounters, I found myself at the center of the future Musée du quai Branly project.


Today, my father is 98 years old. Like all very old people, he likes to talk about the past. We often reminisce about our trips to Africa, and I said to him just recently: "Here's how a customer at your restaurant contributed very indirectly to shaping most of my professional life, and a large part of my cultural and intellectual life."


Did you actively pursue the development of your collection?


When I returned to France, I bought a few modest objects. I had a particularly  strong connection with Jean-Michel Huguenin, a great dealer who always remained very discreet and from whom I bought several pieces. Like many collectors, I like to browse. I'm also interested in antiquarian books, but as my means are not equal to what I deserve, as Sacha Guitry used to say, I've never built up an important collection. I have actually always needed to have objects around me, but it's more like a way of life than a real collection. I've been interested in the Philippines, basketry, African bronzes and lots of other things. In fact, I've always really loved the contact with collectors and dealers.


How have the habits of collectors evolved in recent years?


The way tribal art is collected has changed a great deal over the last ten or fifteen years. I remember two types of collector who have all but disappeared today. On the one hand, there were the smaller collectors, who occasionally bought objects for between €500 and €2000, and whose collections were often sold off at the Hôtel Drouot auctions in Paris after they died. On the other hand, there were the major and most often very secretive collectors, who bought very little at auction and attached great importance to an object's freshness on the market.


The market itself has changed a great deal as well…


For a long time, the great collections were assembled in the secrecy of gallery transactions. Before 2000, major tribal art sales were rare. They began to proliferate around the time of the opening of the Musée du quai Branly, although I don’t really believe that a cause and effect relationship can be read into that fact. The Musée du quai Branly and its curators have always maintained cordial relations with both collectors and dealers. A kind of fraternity sprung up in the tribal art world. We began to see more and more objects on the market. Previously, dealers didn't show them off so much - one or two pieces in a display case, seldom more. Now, one of the great attributes of the Parcours des Mondes is indeed that it has made so many more objects and cultures visible and available to all audiences, instead of just to a few collectors with deep pockets.


Have museum collections and presentation styles influenced the way in which galleries display their works to the public?


The Musée du quai Branly opened with the collections of the Musée de l’Homme and the Musée des Arts Africains et Océaniens. The objects were thus already well-known to specialists, but the new museum substantially changed the ways in which the pieces were displayed and presented. These collections were subsequently greatly enhanced with many new acquisitions. A new desire to see and experience the arts of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas sprang up and the museum created a new way of looking at them. In this sense, the Musée du quai Branly has undoubtedly had a significant influence.

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Le marché des arts d’Afrique se développ... see more Le marché des arts d’Afrique se développe auprès d’un petit nombre de clients chinois, attirés par ses formes épurées. Parmi eux, des artistes, des hommes d’affaires ou des intellectuels, dont quelques femmes. Ils plébiscitent les pièces aux formes épurées dont l’esthétique a un potentiel universel, boudant au contraire les objets magiques et rituels à la forte connotation spirituelle. Point commun de cette clientèle : elle est extrêmement discrète et ne lève guère le voile sur sa collection. Il est pourtant une figure emblématique de ces nouveaux collectionneurs : l’exubérant Leinuo Zhang, installé à Milan et à la tête de plusieurs sociétés dans le domaine de la mode, qui ne manque pas d’exhiber fièrement ses acquisitions sur les réseaux sociaux. Aujourd’hui, outre les ventes publiques, il se fournit à Saint-Germain-des- Prés, chez le Bruxellois Didier Claes ou chez le Milanais Dalton Somaré. see less

Eléonore Théry

Le plus grand salon international des arts... see more Le plus grand salon international des arts premiers, asiatiques et d'archéologie se tient à ciel ouvert à partir d'aujourd'hui dans le quartier des Beaux-Arts et de Saint-Germain-des-Prés, à Paris. Jusqu'au 15 septembre, 64 marchands internationaux sont réunis pour cette 18e édition, qui témoigne d'une place croissant accordée à l'archéologie, avec la présence de huit galeries dont Arteas Ltd (Londres), Cahn Contemporary (Bâle) et la Galerie Eberwien (Paris). La collectionneuse grecque Kyveli Alexiou est présidente d'honneur de cette édition. Parmi les exposants, on retrouve les galeries Bacquart (Paris), Joe Loux (San Francisco) et Martin Doustar (Bruxelles), Bernard Dulon (Paris) pour les arts premiers, Max Rutherston Ltd. (Londres) pour les arts asiatiques ou encore J. Bagot Arqueología S.L. (Barcelone) pour la section archéologie. see less

The Art Newspaper Daily

Depuis dix-huit ans, grâce au Parcours de... see more Depuis dix-huit ans, grâce au Parcours des mondes, Saint-Germain-des-Prés devient, l’espace d’une semaine, le rendez-vous privilégié des amateurs et collectionneurs d’arts primitifs. Mais pas seulement, car depuis quatre ans, l’événement s’est ouvert à d’autres disciplines. En 2015, il accueillait les arts d’Asie ; cette année, c’est au tour de l’archéologie d’être intégrée, avec des œuvres grecques, romaines ou orientales. « L’adjonction de cette spécialité était une évidence, car c’est de cette époque que tout est parti », explique Pierre Moos, « Lorsqu’on s’appelle Parcours des mondes, on se doit de proposer un véritable tour du monde de l’art non pas en quatre-vingts jours mais en quatre-vingts minutes. D’autant que, contrairement à ce que l’on pense, le collectionneur n’est pas toujours monomaniaque et fait la traversée esthétique d’un continent à l’autre ou d’un pays à l’autre » Soixante-quatre exposants (dont une moitié venant de l’étranger) participent à cette 18e édition. Et parce que le Parcours des mondes rassemble la plus grande concentration au monde d’amateurs et de collectionneurs d’arts extra-européens, les exposants leur réservent leurs plus belles découvertes de l’année et rivalisent dans des expositions thématiques – une vingtaine – prévues parfois depuis plusieurs années. Parmi les expositions notables, on relève celle de Bernard Dulon (Paris) qui organise un face-à-face entre les œuvres du sculpteur belge Jan Calmeyn et les objets africains de sa collection, dont une figurine en zigzag Lega (Congo) et une statuette assise Dogon (Mali). Abla & Alain Lecomte (Paris) centrent leur présentation sur le thème du masque de l’Afrique de l’Ouest avec un étonnant masque cimier Ijebu, Yoruba. « Une vingtaine d’entre eux proviennent d’une collection privée encore jamais montrée », souligne Alain Lecomte (affichés entre 3 500 € et 35 000 €). Julien Flak (Paris) a réuni une vingtaine d’objets sous le titre explicite de « Poésie féroce, arts anciens de Nouvelle- Irlande », parmi lesquels un masque Malagan Matua ou Vanis (au-delà de 70 000 €). « Organiser une exposition consacrée aux arts anciens de cette île mystérieuse des mers du Sud est un rêve que je poursuis depuis plus de dix ans », souligne le marchand. see less

Marie Potard - Le Journal des Arts

Parcours des mondes in Paris - widely rega... see more Parcours des mondes in Paris - widely regarded as the world’s most important tribal art event – is good at looking to the past while engaging with the present. While most of the exhibitors at this annual international event staged in and around the galleries of Saint-Germain-des-Prés (11–16 September) focus on tribal art – the lion’s share from Africa – space is also found for contemporary expressions of traditional practice. This may be recent Aboriginal art or, as last year’s honorary president, Javier Peres, demonstrated in the loan exhibition he staged in the Espace Tribal, the work of artists from across the globe who reconnect to their cultural roots through the prism of modern and contemporary art. Both loan exhibition and honorary president this year connect the tribal with the contemporary. see less

Susan Moore - Apollo

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