Collecting African Art: Part One - Authenticity
PRIMITIVE - - Friday, October 03, 2014
Source: Be Primitive
|Epa festival mask used by the Yoruba people in Nigeria;
PRIMITIVE ID# A0602-626
By Misaki Imagawa
Collecting art is an art form by itself. Whether you are collecting for fun, professionally, or for investment purposes, there is no set formula on how to properly collect art. Collectors of western art may weigh the values of a piece based on the artist, provenance, rarity, and aesthetic impression as well as current trends in the art world. Yet, in the case of African art, some of these considerations can be difficult to ascertain. For example, in most cases the artist of a piece remains unknown and details about its age and purpose can be somewhat misleading. A serious collection of African art is not merely an accumulation of things made or bought in Africa. In fact, many collectors of African art find it unnecessary to even set foot in Africa. What, then, is African art and what makes it so collectible?
|Nkondi Figure collected in 1962 in what was then the Belgian Congo; PRIMITIVE ID# A0900-060
For most collectors the most important consideration in collecting African art is authenticity. Among many African art collections this means individual pieces have to be used. It is not enough to say that a traditional African artist created a piece. For example, if a master woodcarver created a ceremonial mask that was sold before it was used, the artwork may not be considered authentic by this standard. Worn surfaces and signs of repeated use help establish this aspect of authenticity; however, it should be noted, even signs of use can be faked. Generally speaking, objects used and treasured by each respective and culturally rich African tribe can be considered authentic and collectible.
|Above: An extremely rare and collectible Bansonyi, or 'Serpent Headdress,' danced by the Baga people (with detail); PRIMITIVE ID# A0211-671|
|Example of a traditional Bundu mask, used by the Mende people, with a very modern crowning element; PRIMITIVE ID# A1400-100