The Tribal Art Collection of Peter Willborg

His private Tribal Art collection: small in number and superb in quality

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

Peter Willborg (1955-2019)

Peter Willborg
Photos: Willborg family

We miss him! For his family, and for all of those, who knew him from around the world: art enthusiasts, friends and collectors of antique oriental carpets.

Peter Willborg succumbed to cancer  last year at the age of 64. He was a highly gifted second-generation gallery owner, collector and antique dealer.

His name and his vast knowledge of antique rugs are inextricably linked. He was considered one of the world‘s leading experts in old and antique oriental rugs.

His gallery ‚JP Willborg‘ at Sibyllegatan 41, Stockholm, displayed rugs, runners and textiles made exclusively before 1940, the oldest ones were from the 16th century.

Willborg‘s second passion was the art of Africa and Oceania. „It clears my head of carpets,“ he once remarked. Tribal Art, paintings and his antique carpets made a strong impression in his exhibitions and publications, creating this highly apprecited synthesis of the arts. Until today, far beyond his untimely passing.

His father Max Willborg (1933-2001) was a tribal art dealer with galleries in Stockholm and London. With the family he lived for several years in Rhodesia what is today Zimbabwe, where Peter attended school from 1969-1973 during which time his father worked for the Victoria & Albert Museum in Harare (1969/70)

More than 100 art objects are on offer, among them this exceptional works from the Yombe and Ibibio people.



Collection Peter Willborg

Thomas Halling, Collector and friend

My first encounter with Peter took place in Stockholm in the mid 1990s.

Having recently started to collect Yoruba art, I had heard about a carpet dealer who also traded in tribal art, and whose father was Max Willborg, famous in our circles.

Stepping inside Peter´s gallery was an overall experience! Its beautiful carpets, its ethnographic objects, the art on its walls! All embedded in a scent of newly-ground coffee from the classic, oldfashioned coffee shop next door.

Peter gave me a friendly welcome. He served me coffee and handed me an invitation card to his forthcoming exhibition.

That visit changed my life!

Peter had recently bought a vast collection of Yoruba objects from the Venezuelan ambassador, Otmaro Silva, previously stationed in Lagos (Nigeria). Thanks to Peter´s generously allowing me to pay in instalments, parts of that collection became the basis of my future development as a collector.

Several exhibitions were to follow, not least the fantastic ”Chahâr Mahal va Bakhtiâri” 2002. Gradually I grew aware of what a quality person I had met in Peter, of how many people he knew and on what a high level he operated. He had customers and contacts all over the world.

Visiting the gallery became a favourite pastime, and a friendship started to grow between us. Together with our mutual friends Jon Karlsson and Folke Wickman we took it in turns to invite each other to African evenings the host providing the meal, the guests the wine! Evening turned into night, and often deals were struck far after midnight. So many intriguing conversations, such tasty meals, such good company!

At Peter´s beautiful home I got to know his family, and it was obvious how proud he felt of his daughter Donya. I feel sad realizing that these gatherings are history now that Peter has passed away.

But Peter´s family and employees do all they can in order to preserve his spirit and sense of quality and they manage very well. Last time I was in Stockholm I visited the gallery and I was touched by how strongly one still can feel Peter´s presence around the rooms.

What a comfort!

Peter, we miss you.



Collection Peter Willborg

Peter my friend,

In 1972, on one of my first trips to London to attend a Christie’s auction, I met Peters father Max Willborg, that was to become the start of a long friendship.

Max was dealing in tribal art and offered me to stay in his flat that he was sharing with another dealer Jonathan Mankowitz. He had just come back to Stockholm from Rhodesia with his family and his wife, Therese so that they could better raise their children.

We became really close, I was a young dealer, only 22 years old and Max was a great professor.  

Around 1985, he invited me to Baledehop in the Republic of Ireland that is close to the balmy west coast of the country. He had purchased several dilapidated houses that he successfully restored.

After Max passed away Peter invited me to Stockholm where he had a large gallery with hundreds of carpets that were rolled or folded into piles.

It was the beginning of a relation that was exactly like the one that I had with his father.

Carpets dominated Peter’s life, his knowledge was unbelievable. That was where I discovered the cosmos of rare carpets, from small fragments from the 16th century or earlier as well as rare full size carpets from an early period.

Peter was humble, almost ascetic, drinking tea with milk, ate light, the hospitality and the smile were the same as his fathers.

He took me around in Stockholm and introduced me to his private tribal art collection, small in number, but superb in quality that he had found in missionaries and some local auctions.

Ten years later he was diagnosed with cancer and I felt even more devastated than he did. He fought bravely for several years, feeling sure that he was going to win the fight and we all believed that this would be the case. But unfortunately this was not to be and he finally passed away at a far too young an age.

I had the chance to be close to both, Max and Peter, two great human beings, two great dealers!

I miss you both.
Pierre Loos



D. R. Congo, Bwende / Dondo, Collection Peter Willborg

D. R. Congo, Bwende / Dondo

Anders & Signe Walder, Swedish missionaries in the Lower Congo area (coll. in situ, 1902-22)
Peter Willborg, Stockholm, Sweden

Nigeria, Ibibio, Collection Willborg

Nigeria, Ibibio

Max Willborg, Stockholm, Sweden (1981)
Peter Willborg, Stockholm, Sweden (2001)

Exhibited and published in:
Bo Särnstedt et. al., Före / Before Picasso, Afrikansk konst i svensk ägo / African Art in Swedish Collections, Stockholm 1988, Cat. No.268

D. R. Congo, Bembe, Collection Peter Willborg

D. R. Congo, Bembe

Peter Willborg, Stockholm, Sweden