Fang African head from Gabon, estimate around €4m at Sotheby’s.

Image: Sotheby’s/ArtDigital Studio

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One of the very few women in the field of African art from the 1950s, Leloup made her first trip to Africa in 1952 visiting Dakar as a student employed by a press agency. Four years later she opened her first gallery in Paris, going on to launch a second in New York in the 1959 and a third in Palm Beach in 1967.

Leloup was one of the first collectors to pair African art with Contemporary art, and, when opening her gallery in New York, she fully immersed herself in the art scene of the 1960s. She acquired works by some of the greatest masters in Modern and Contemporary art: Jean- Michel Basquiat, Louise Bourgeois, Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst, Francis Bacon, Pierre Soulages and Gerhard Richter.


Hélène Leloup in Dogon country, c.1980.

Image: Archives Leloup

During the course of her long career she has facilitated numerous major acquisitions of African art by museums worldwide including the Musée du Quai Branly Jacques Chirac in Paris; the Barbier-Mueller Museum in Geneva and the Metropolitan in New York.

Leloup’s collection will be offered by Sotheby’s over two sales: in Paris on June 21 and in New York in early 2024. Alongside her African and Oceanic art, the sales will feature works by major Modern and Contemporary artists.

African highlights of this first sale are a Fang reliquary head from Gabon and a group of Dogon statuary from Mali.

The Fang head formerly belonged to Helena Rubenstein who, as well as being a famous name in cosmetics, was an early enthusiast for African art. The head was one of Rubenstein’s first purchases in 1937 and can be seen in several photographs of the period in her Paris apartment. It will have an estimate of around €4m.

Dogon art from Mali is one of the key elements of Leloup’s collection as testified by her reference work Statuaire Dogon, published in 1994 and the exhibition she organised at the Quai Branly Jacques Chirac Museum in 2011.

The pieces offered in the auction illustrate both the diversity of forms and materials and the antiquity of this art.

They include a Djennenké statue, a mask and the 3ft 1in (94.5cm) double Komakan statue shown here which is guided at €200,000-300,000.


Dogon double Komakan statue, estimate €200,000-300,000.

Image: Sotheby’s/ArtDigital Studio

The other works will include a painting by Francis Bacon, Head of Woman, from 1960 which has an estimate of €6m-8m.