- John et al One of the earlier articles I read on Kifewbe masks stated that early European collectors liked bigger and with a higher crescent ridge , so theMessage 1 of 8 , Jan 15, 2013View SourceJohn et alOne of the earlier articles I read on Kifewbe masks stated that early European collectors liked 'bigger and with a higher crescent ridge', so the Africans started carving what the trade wanted. I have some nice 'small'' Kifewbe masks, and one 'large' with a large crest-and value them all.As for 'old masterpieces' vs 'new tourist', look at old photos to see the 'old masterpieces' , many pieces of which are both crude and ugly, so viva the tourist influence. "Art" is not just "Old".bobIn a message dated 1/15/2013 11:49:49 A.M. Mountain Standard Time, jmonroe@... writes:Dear Group --
These are very interesting messages. As a historian of material culture, I've got to say that it's too bad the collection Jeff describes got disbursed -- it would be a valuable (and rare) document of the state of the African market at the time, though still probably not worth much money. Tourist art has an art history of its own, but is basically "invisible," because it has always been considered unworthy of documentation. While this situation can appear to have a self-evident aesthetic justification, I still think it's a shame, given how important the production of these objects has been and continues to be in many places in Africa. Sometimes, also, there are examples of "tourist work" that nevertheless attain what we, as Western connoisseurs, would consider to be museum-worthy aesthetic distinction: for instance, the work of Thomas Ona, Osei Bonsu or Mutisya Munge.
Interestingly, objects from the Congo were really the first African sculptures to show up on the US market -- unlike the French situation, where the first objects were from Gabon, Cote d'Ivoire, Mali, etc. Yaelle Biro, the curator of the show at the Met, has some interesting things to say about that in the special issue of Tribal Art magazine published to accompany the show: http://www.tribalartmagazine.com/en/musees/metropolitan_museum_of_art.html
When I spoke with her about the exhibit, by the way, she noted that her decision to include the various "inauthentic" objects was a conscious choice to go against common art museum practice. Normally, the inconvenient "missteps" of early connoisseurs are edited out, and the focus gets shifted to canonical objects that are still considered "masterworks" -- reinforcing a sense that those early dealers had uniquely good "eyes." In fact, the reality was much more complicated, and the quality much more variable -- an impression this show seeks to convey. Even Paul Guillaume bought and sold some "duds."
At that point, people hadn't really seen much Africanart in the first place, and what struck them as appealing is not necessarily what connoisseurs today have taught themselves to appreciate. Think, for instance, of the black Baule mask in Man Ray's famous picture "Noire et Blanche." It's *obviously* "fake," and yet it struck Man Ray as worthy material for incorporation into his iconic image. Since then, by the way, the mask has gotten lost, probably because on its own, judged according to current norms of connoisseurship, it's "nothing special."
Steve, though, isn't quite correct when he suggests that "Presumably these pieces are now absolutely established as pieces of art rather than as old pieces 'for the trade.'" Actually, they are still worth *much less* than the objects deemed "authentic," and are considered to have value only as historical documents, rather than as valid works of art in themselves. In general, they are objects that the art historical world has lost track of over the years, and that Biro has turned up thanks to some pretty astounding detective work.
John MonroeFrom: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com [African_Arts@yahoogroups.com] on behalf of Jeff Spurr [jbspurr@...]
Sent: Sunday, January 13, 2013 4:29 PM
Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Metropolitan Museum exhibit -- and two unidentified masksDear Steve et al,I have not had an opportunity to see the Met exhibit, although I hope to. Your comment prompts a couple thoughts. Ninety years ago many local artistic traditions were still fully viable. Thus an object not only made traditionally but intended for traditional purposes could still be collected before it had developed any or much patina of use. How are we to know? Not very likely that we can. Of course colon figures were already being produced by then, and yet they are collected. Centuries before the Afro-Portuguese ivories were being produced for sale, but are considered masterpieces of African art, not objects of dubious status. Time and quality work wonders.On the other hand, back in the late 1980s, a friend of mine who was an antiques dealer told me that the municipal library of Manchester New Hampshire had been given a collection of African art from a local estate with the notion that they could derive some income from its sale. He invited me along to assess the prospects of his making any money were he to acquire it (it being offered only as a whole). What made this attractive: everything had been acquired during one trip to West and Central African in 1917. Needless to say, visions of sugar plums were dancing in my head as we raced northwards from Boston. What we found was more like a pile of coals. I was surprised and chagrined to discover that a whole host of tourist tchotchkes were already available to the unwary tourist way back then. Nothing at all like traditional sculpture made for sale, mind you, but novelties clearly aimed at this new market. There was also a large stack of elephant tusks, not subjected to any sort of cultural intervention. The only things of genuine interest and clearly made for traditional use were some wonderful textiles from Sierra Leone and Liberia, plus a fine carved Kuba horn. There were a few Kuba textiles, but none of aesthetic interest. The whole was not worth the amount demanded, so, disappointed, we went our way. Still, it provided some insights into the scene before the development of "airport" art as we know it.Best,JeffDate: Sun, 13 Jan 2013 17:21:55 -0000
Subject: [African_Arts] Metropolitan Museum exhibit -- and two unidentifiedmasks
Some of you may already have seen the NY Metropolitan Museum's exhibit on "African Art, New York and the Avant-Garde." It's a small but very interesting exhibit, essentially on the arrival of African Art in New York in the early part of the 20th century. One thing that struck me, in light of the recent discussions here about authenticity, is that the exhibit commentaries say that certain pieces that arrived here 90 years ago or so and were treated as collectible art may have been made for export -- as indicated by their lack of signs of use and (if I remember correctly) their sometimes being a fusion of styles. Presumably these pieces are now absolutely established as pieces of art rather than as old pieces "for the trade."
Meanwhile, I've just posted in "Unidentified mask(s)" a third photo, called "pair of masks." As you'll see, it shows two masks, quite brightly colored, each about 8 inches high. I would guess they were made for sale though I don't know that; anyway, I'm interested to know what style(s), if any, they are made in. The folder's URL is:http://groups.yahoo.com/group/African_Arts/photos/album/1897775608/pic/654677077/view