Out of Africa: From Sculptures and Masks to Textiles and Clothing, African Traditional Arts Are a Hot Sell
La Rocco, Claudia, Art Business News
Whether it's wooden gazelle statues laid out on a street vendor's mat or a Bangwa figure going for $3.3 million on the auction block, African art sells. Brought to Western attention through missionaries and explorers and prized as "primitive art" by such canonical artists as Braque, Modigliani and Picasso, African art has moved from the ethnographer's domain to the art world. Systematic collecting began in the 1950s and has grown (along with prices) ever since. Today, galleries, museums and dealers showcase an array of African objects by different African ethnic groups for people looking to explore the dizzying variety of traditional African arts.
Form and Function
In Western society, art often exists in its own world, separated from people's routine, everyday lives. This distinction is not drawn in many African cultures, both past and present, where numerous utilitarian objects are made with an astounding attention to aesthetics. Designed for specific, often ritualistic uses in a traditional culture, these objects are prized as fine works of art by Western collectors, galleries and museums. From delicate silver Ethiopian crosses to massive, powerful ceremonial drums from the Yoruba, there is something for almost every eye.
Frank Herreman is director of exhibitions for the New York City-based Museum for African Art, which is currently showing "Bamana: The Art of Existence in Mali," a collection of approximately 120 objects and photographs offering a window into Bamanan social and religious life. The pieces range from ornately detailed wooden Ci-Wara crest masks representing antelope to colorful, beautifully grotesque Maani puppets representing people or spirits in human …
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Publication information: Article title: Out of Africa: From Sculptures and Masks to Textiles and Clothing, African Traditional Arts Are a Hot Sell. Contributors: La Rocco, Claudia - Author. Magazine title: Art Business News. Volume: 29. Issue: 1 Publication date: January 2002. Page number: 48+. © 2009 Summit Business Media. COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group.