Richard et al I agree with you 101%, see your comments now in bold . A lot of provenance , both gallery and auction house, should begin with Once upon aMessage 1 of 3 , Aug 4View SourceRichard et alI agree with you 101%, see your comments now in 'bold'. A lot of 'provenance', both gallery and auction house, should begin with "Once upon a time". Provenance generated to sell an object at a premium. Including someone deciding his/ her piece is by the 'Master of Blarney' to try and make it more desirable to the deep pocket but innocent buyer.I have collected extensively from Runners for many years, rarely paying more than a few hundred dollars for well made, age-enhanced, potentially used and authentic pieces. Then I read S-by's sold a piece for $2 million, which looks worse than my $200 piece. So is S-bys selling a piece of art or a piece of provenance and their name ?There needs to be two levels of collecting: The deep pocket rich (or using tax dollars) to acquire a fairy tale piece-- and the 99.99% of us using our personal funds to collect great pieces with 'Provenance of a Runner' for a realistic price. As I am hitting the big 7-0 and do not expect to live to 100, I will be selling my collection to fellow collectors (not the deep pocket dreamers). This venue of readers- with a few exceptions- appears to be a good place for us to establish contact and buy/sell/trade.BTW put the tourist made for the trade pieces on Ebay, or donate it to Goodwill for a tax writeoff.bobThe commentary by Lou, like those of Lee and others, brings up the economic issue when discussing the status and value of carvings with mixed parentage and/or made for the tourist trade. What are they worth? Should we lower the status of carvings that were indeed ritually used even though they do not represent a "pure" expression of a culture's historical art? And what about carvings never used ritually, whether "pure" or of mixed parentage? (I am not talking about "soulless" carvings made in places like the Far East but by African carvers who can pieces whose value arises from the quality of the carving and their aesthetic appeal.)Unfortunately, I think there is not a small degree of hypocrisy in these laments about the over-commercialization of the African Arts trade. The focus is always on the contamination of the trade from the proliferation of genuine and talented carvers who seek to gain a living for themselves and their groups by offering their output selling to tourists. Even when such carvings represent quality, they are dismissed pejoratively as not "authentic" because they mix cultural styles and/or were not used ritually.OK they should not be offered as "authentic" or "vintage". That is misleading at best and even outright fraud.But where in all of this discussion is criticism of the distorted commerce in "authentic" carvings? Prestigious dealers gain enormous profits by searching the internet and outlying antique shops for hidden treasures offered by uninformed sellers. They pay a minimal price and then offer them for thousands as "important," "rare" and "authentic."And the elephant in the room is the commercialization expressed by prestigious galleries and auction houses that guarantee tremendous financial benefits for themselves and cater to the wealthy by continuing to stress the importance of the "pure" expressions of a culture's art, combined with age and provenance. Serious and wealthy collectors are literally coerced into paying thousands of dollars for the bragging rights from waving certificates of authenticity and provenance. Ironically, this happens even when a "modern" carving is the artistic and esthetic equal of a Sotheby's-level $100,000 carving and often looks even better because it is not marred by extensive decay and insect damage.Also missing in these commentaries is the dilemma of individuals like me who are not wealthy and yet are bitten by the bug of the African aesthetic. I was a lecturer/researcher on animal behavior in Africa, now retired and living on pension. Why should I feel "less-than" by being forced to satisfy my urge to own beautiful African carvings that are products of African carvers but made maybe 10 or 30 years ago? And in some instances, even used ritually.In sum, I think the commentators might try to be a little more balanced when lamenting the damage caused by over-commercialization in the African art trade.Richard Schuster
On Sat, Aug 3, 2013 at 10:50 PM, africaindooceanic lwells@...> wrote:
The discussion about whether it matters that a piece is not old, or not made for local use, is an unending one. African Arts had a whole issue on the subject of authenticity years ago.
Anyone can collect anything they like, of course. Whoever is collecting whatever, however, should know what it is they are buying. Most serious collectors in any field prefer things for which the supply elasticity is low, whether they recognize the term from economics or not. This, especially if they are paying significant sums of money for the object and hope to get at least a reasonable percentage back when it comes time to dispose of the object.
Thus, a fake 1804 U.S. silver dollar may look exactly like a real one, but serious coin collectors will pay a lot for an original and little for the copy. Same with paintings: there are very attractive "Picasso" paintings done by forgers, but they have much less value to the serious collector than an original.
Supply elasticity explains at least part of the phenomenon. Collectors generally want something rare. If the supply increases when prices go up, copies, forgeries, and general tourist pieces increase in quantity; the number of old "authentic" pieces remains limited. There is no real rarity for the new objects. Try to sell airport art and you'll find that there's little market, or at least little market at prices above the "wholesale" to the runners who bring it around. The serious collector wants great carvings that are old and made-for-use; and s/he will pay for it, and recognize that there's a reasonable chance s/he can recover the cost at some later date if s/he has to sell the object.
Of course, there are other reasons for preferring the old, made-for-use piece. The best objects seem, to collectors, to have a "soul" that's missing in objects made for the tourist market. To be sure, there are many very poor carvings that are old and made-for-use. And maybe the "soul" is purely an artificial creation of the collector's (and dealer's) mind.
With respect to pieces that mix styles: There is no question that carvers crossed ethnic borders and carried styles with them. I recently interviewed Mano elders in Nimba County, Liberia, about the masks that Monni Adam's identified as Mano or Dan. Their responses were quite mixed as to origin of individual masks. My suspicion is that what Monni called "Mano" mask is not limited to the Mano ethnic group. Similar or identical masks were used by their neighbors, the Dan (Gio); and the other way around, as well. The "Mano style" might better be identified as a style created largely by the Mano and Southwestern Dan. Yet, one would be remiss, I think, in seeing the style as amalgams of a bunch of different styles. It's just that style origins don't exactly match our definitions of ethnic (tribal) boundaries.
The "Africa Direct" piece referred to is unlikely to be the result of a carver working along border area. More likely, it is the product of a fertile imagination of someone who looked at a bunch of photographs in books and created something he thought might appeal to a foreign purchaser.
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