African and oceanic art from the Schwab Collection

An exciting selection from the Swiss private collection

Auction in Wurzburg:
Saturday, 7 March 2020 - 2 pm

Preview in Wurzburg:
March 4 to Fri, March 6 — 10 am to 7 pm
March 7 — 9 am to 2 pm

Catalogue order

Walter Stanley Schwab (1934-2017)

Walter Stanley Schwab
Photos: Schwab family

Everything is possible! And if luck then plays into your hands, you just have to grab it.

Walter Stanley Schwab probably thought so too, when a Swiss food company offered him a job in South Africa in the early 1960s. Without hesitation, he packs his bags in Bern and emigrates to South Africa with his wife - indefinitely.

Everything is possible! Born into modest surroundings in 1934, he acquired his first African object when he was just 20. For him it became a symbol of his dream to experience the continent with all its colourful cultures and the closeness to nature.

Beloved, lived dream! He has been working in South Africa for almost a decade, changing companies and repeatedly taking time for longer “expeditions” - as he calls these trips - within South Africa and the neighbouring countries.

Walter Stanley Schwab is cosmopolitan and characterized by mutual respect - at a time when apartheid was prevalent in South Africa.

A thirst for adventure and a thirst for exploration lead him to areas and to people he gets close and maintains contact to. 

He loved intense bartering, which included ceremonies with chiefs, with tribal and village elders, or medicine men. At the end of these talks, he often managed to acquire an object that interested him. For this he was willing to partake in tough, hour-long negotiations. Each piece thus has its own history and origin. Numerous anecdotes about this can be found in the records. "We were hunted by villagers more than once and had to flee the village in a hurry because after many hours we couldn't agree on a barter," his wife Irmgard recalls. And she has many anecdotes to tell. “When the terrain was too dangerous, I often waited in the car for hours while Stanley disappeared into the bush. With gun signals from his revolver and rifles, he announced from a distance that he was fine.

He always shipped his “exchange objects” while on the move - not all of them reach Switzerland.

When the first son is on his way in 1968, she flew ahead while Walter Stanley Schwab returned to Switzerland overland.

He will only return to African countries two more times, but he remains deeply connected to the continent until his death. This also includes ethnological knowledge of tribal art.

He has long-standing contacts with Africa collectors in Switzerland and Germany, including Serge Brignoni, Han Coray, Toni Dähler, Georg Frederick Keller and Arnold Koller. A close friendship connects him to Arnold Bamert and Charlie Sollberger.

Across Africa, Collection Walter Stanley Schwab

Once again across Africa (1968/69). In 1970 Walter Stanley Schwab returned to Switzerland overland. With this notice he was looking for potential fellow travellers. Starting from South Africa, he crossed the entire continent to Morocco - alone, without anyone accompanying him.

He spent a long time in the Congo and Central Africa; the region that Henry Morton Stanley and David Livingstone crossed on their research trips a hundred years earlier.

Around 1980 he visited Georg Frederick Keller (1899-1988), the Swiss collector of African, Oceanic and contemporary art in Davos. Here with the sons Stanley jr. and Livingstone, named after the two Africa explorers David Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley.

D. R. Congo, Lower Congo province / Northern Angola, Bambona, Collection Schwab

D. R. Congo, Lower Congo province / Northern Angola, Bambona

Gottfried Künzi, Oberdorf / Solothurn, Switzerland
Arnold Bamert, Solothurn, Switzerland (1967 ou 1970)
Walter Stanley Schwab, Murten, Switzerland (2005)

Côte d'Ivoire, Baule, Collection Schwab

Côte d'Ivoire, Baule

René Gardi (1909-2000), Bern, Switzerland (coll. in situ in the late 1940s/early 1950s)
Serge Brignoni (1903-2002), Bern, Switzerland (mid-1950s)
Walter Stanley Schwab, Murten, Switzerland ("WS 464")  (1996)

Côte d'Ivoire, Korhogo Region, Senufo, Collection Schwab

Côte d'Ivoire, Korhogo Region, Senufo

Han Coray (1880-1974), Zurich/Agnuzzo, Switzerland ("HC 30")
Paolo Morigi, Magliaso-Lugano, Switzerland (1976)
Walter Stanley Schwab, Murten, Switzerland ("WS 166")