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Two Mysterious “Woodbridge Figures” Rediscovered in New Jersey

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In the 1980s, during the construction of the Woodbridge Center Mall in Woodbridge, New Jersey, an old shack on the site (formerly pits for mining clay) was found to contain over 100 small wooden figures. They resembled African idols.  All were armless, nude, and anatomically correct. Some possessed holes in their heads plugged by corks.

It’s been over thirty years since the discovery of the figures known as “Woodbridge figures” or Woodbridge Clay Pit Figures”. In that time, they have travelled from the clay pits to a Manhattan art gallery, the homes of private collectors, U.S. and international museums.

Now Rago is selling a newly rediscovered pair of Woodbridge figures, male and female, obtained from a private collector who lives near the clay pits by which the Woodbridge figures were found. They will be offered at Rago Auctions on Sunday, October 22, 2017 as part of Curiouser and Curiouser, an auction of exceptional and eccentric objects and art curated by dealer Marion Harris. The catalog will be available in print and online at the end of September.

To this day, no one knows exactly who made the Woodbridge figures or when. Their provenance is tangled in a web of urban legends about a shed in the clay pits used as a church in the 1930s and a clannish group of squatters feared by other locals.

After their discovery, a group of the figures found their way to Ricco/Maresca Gallery in New York City, specializing in art made by self-taught artists.  The gallery sold them to a private collector. Over time, another large grouping and a few smaller ones were brought to Ricco/Maresca, purchased and sold.

Many of the known figures were displayed in the 1995 Newark Museum exhibition "A World of Their Own" and, more recently, at The Museum of Everything's exhibition in Paris in 2012 and 2013. They are still on loan to the museum, whose director, James Brett, hopes to take them to next to Australia.

Curiouser and Curiouser features paintings and photographs; select outsider art; folk art; unusual decorative arts; display and artist mannequins; taxidermy and odd animal antiques; circus and sideshow related items; books; scientific and medical items; erotica; and more. This is an auction for those who seek the unconventional, priced from one thousand dollars to well above. The auction will take place on October 22. View the items online and bid online here.

Rago Arts & Auction Center
333 N Main St, Lambertville, NJ 08530, USA