From the Han Coray Collection, 1916 -1928



The Coray Collection of the Völkerkundemuseum der Universität Zürich (Museum of Ethnology, Zurich University), is one of the earliest and most significant collections of African art. Assembled by Han Coray – a teacher, gallery owner and publisher in Zurich – the majority of the works were originally acquired during the 1920’s from the renowned Paris art dealer, Paul Guillaume.

Coray’s interest in African art began by 1916 – the first Dada exhibition was in his Zurich gallery in January 1917 and included a number of art premier works from his own collection, as well as a Baule figure on loan from Guillaume. Coray’s galleries were the meeting place for the Dada and avant-garde artists of the period, and among his friends were Hans Arp, Marcel Janco, Wilhelm Lehmbruck, Tristan Tzara, Hans Richter, and the two founders of the Cabaret Voltaire, Hugo Ball and Emmy Hennings. At this same time, Guillaume was selecting African art works for the collection of A.C. Barnes, the important American collector. The establishment of this core group of African sculptures in Merion, Pennsylvania, was a significant motivation of Coray’s zeal as an African art collector.