Hair Salon Magnate’s African Art Collection Could Break Auction Records

Baule Portrait Mask of Moya Yanso, from the collection of Myron Kunin. Photo: courtesy Sotheby's.

Sotheby’s will host the sale of what is expected to be the most expensive collection of African art ever to come up at auction later this year. The works, reports Bloomberg, carry a pre-sale estimate of $20–30 million and were collected by Myron Kunin, the beauty salon magnate behind the Regis Corporation, who died last year at 85.

The highly anticipated sale is part of a recent price surge in African and Oceanic art that has been fueled in part by the acquisitions department of the still-under-construction Louvre Abu Dhabi. Sales in the category increased 14 percent at Sotheby’s last year for a total of $41.7 million in sales, with a 71 percent increase in the number of buyers from 2012 to 2013. To date in 2014, the auction house estimates that half of its bidders for African and Oceanic art are participating for the first time.

“It’s the only field aside from contemporary art where you have a great number of masterpieces still in private hands,” the company’s head of African and Oceanic art, Heinrich Schweizer, told Bloomberg. “You can buy a great piece for about $1 million and a very, very good piece for $100,000.”

In addition to his interest in tribal artwork, which he began acquiring in the 1980s, Kunin also collected American art, European Old Masters, Russian art, and 19th century work. He kept much of his holdings at Regis Corp.’s Minneapolis headquarters. The company was started by his parents, and since Kunin took over in 1958, it has grown to include some 10,000 salons, including Supercuts and Vidal Sassoon.

Highlights of the upcoming auction will include a statue that once belonged to Pablo Picasso, who was heavily influenced by African sculpture, and Senufo Female Statue (Deble)an Ivory Coast figurine that, as the sale’s most expensive lot, is estimated at over $5 million and may even approach the $7.6 million African art auction record, which was set back in 2006 at Drouot. The sculpture appeared in 1984’s “Primitivism in 20th Century Art: Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern” exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

The collection can be previewed in Paris through September 22nd, with a November 11th sale in New York.

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