Georges Frédéric Keller (1899-1981) Georges Frédéric Keller (1899-1981) Philippe Bourgoin Born in Paris in 1899 to a father of Swiss and Brazilian descent and a mother from the Swiss canton of Thurgau, Keller began his career as a modern art dealer in the 1920s. From 1929 to 1933, he directed the famous Georges Petit Gallery. In 1936, Keller joined forces with dealer Etienne Bignou and ran the gallery’s New York branch until 1953. When it closed, he joined forces with Roland Balaÿ to open the Carstairs Gallery, which he ran from 1949 to 1963. In Philadelphia, he was the advisor to famous and secretive collector Albert C. Barnes and to the Mellon family. Concurrently with his activities as a dealer, Keller built up his own collection, which he put into the Museum of Fine Arts in Bern in 1951. The loan became a bequest upon his death in 1981. Today, this legacy includes one hundred and twenty-one works, including paintings and sculptures by Henri Matisse, Soutine, Renoir, Dali, Rouault, Derain, Utrillo, Soutine, Bonnard, Dufy, Léger, Picasso, etc., as well as eight works of African art. G. F. Keller (1899-1981) in his home, Davos, 1980. © The African Heritage Collection Documentation & Research (Paolo Morigi Archives) Keller’s passion for African art dated to his youth and he bought his first sculpture in 1920 from antiques dealer Ernst Ascher in Paris. Recognized by his peers in this field, he was the co-author, with Charles Ratton and Louis Carré, of the catalog produced for the sale of the André Breton and Paul Éluard collection (auctioneer Alphonse Bellier, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, July 2nd and 3rd, 1931). Over the course of several decades, Keller assembled an ensemble of African and Oceanic sculptures of great importance, which he acquired from well-known collectors like Han Coray, Josef Mueller, Charles Ratton, Louis Carré, André Lefèvre, Ernst Ascher, Helmut Gernsheim, Ralf Nash, René Rasmussen and Emil Storrer. Although Keller’s objects from Oceania were limited in number, they were nonetheless highly representative of the region’s art forms and included pieces from the Marquesas Islands, New Hebrides, New Zealand, masks from the Sepik region, a Mundugumor figure, an Asmat canoe prow, a Kerewa votive board, a Maprik figure, and moai tangata and moai kavakava statuettes from Easter Island. In 1980, Keller anonymously gave a large selection from his collection to the Museum of Fine Arts in Bern, entrusting his friend Paolo Morigi with the task of writing a catalog for it, which is titled Raccolta di un amatore d'arte primitive (A Primitive Art Lover’s Collection). In 1989, Morigi acquired part of this prestigious collection, which was then sold at Sotheby's in Paris in 2005. The G. F. Keller collection, Davos, 1980. In front of the window you can see African and Oceanic pieces from Sepik, Easter Island, New Zealand, Marquesas Islands. © Document from Kuthy Sandor, « De Matisse à Dali : Le Legs de G. F. Keller au Musée des Beaux-Art de Berne », Berne 1998, p. 50 (Paolo Morigi Archives). The G. F. Keller collection, Davos. Detail showing the large New Guinea figure. © Document from Kuthy Sandor, « De Matisse à Dali : Le Legs de G. F. Keller au Musée des Beaux-Art de Berne », Berne 1998, p. 200 (Paolo Morigi Archives).