Paint the Town: Out of Africa

by Editorial

Thanks to the Potomack Company, collectors can add African artifacts to their collection.
By John Arundel

Howard Sykes on African safari, circa 1930s. (Photo courtesy of the Potomack Company)

The adventure-seeking President Theodore Roosevelt helped inspire expeditions and scientific explorations to Africa in the first half of the 20th century among prominent American businessmen and wildlife enthusiasts.

Among those apparently inspired by Teddy’s call was the New York financier Howard C. Sykes Jr., an inveterate explorer and African hunter who later became president of The New York Curb Exchange, forerunner of today’s New York Stock Exchange.

What remains of Syke’s extensive collection of wild game trophies and Masai hunting weapons from the 1930’s goes to auction April 21-22 at The Potomack Company in Old Town, Alexandria, whose gallery showroom this week evokes something akin to an “Out of Africa” safari adventure.

Animals in the Howard Sykes safari collection were meticulously preserved by renowned taxidermist James L. Clark, director of arts, preparation and installation of animals for the American Museum of Natural History, and the famed Jonas Brothers Taxidermy Studio.

Such taxidermists were considered artists, skilled in preserving the animals anatomically correctly and posed in artistic and realistic forms.

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The trophies were housed at the Sykes family’s New York estate, Apple Doorn Farm, in a specially designed trophy cottage from 1937 until removal to Alexandria recently for auction this weekend.

Among the species represented are giraffe, Robert’s gazelle, rhinoceros, cobra, wildebeest, fringe-eared oryx and other African trophy game along with dall sheep and moose from the American Northwest.

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A portion of the auction sales will be forwarded to the Rotary Club of Alexandria.

The sale also includes over 100 works of art by modern artists including Sol Lewitt, James Rosenquist, Sam Gilliam and others. Paintings include Snow Lane #50 by Sam Gilliam (Am. 1933-), Pilot – Speed of Light by James Rosenquist (Am. 1933-) and Color Bands by Sol Lewitt (Am. 1928-2007).

On April 19, the auction house will feature a gallery talk at 6:30 pm at The Potomack Company by National Geographic staff writer and Alexandria resident Peter Gwin, author of “Rhino Wars: The Violent Underworld of Black Market Medicine.” Gwin will discuss his upcoming e-book. Optional donations benefit the International Anti-Poaching Foundation.

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The April auction preview is open all week at the fine art and antiques auction gallery located at 526 North Fayette Street in Old Town, Alexandria.

An East African Oryx. (Photo courtesy of the Potomack Company)

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