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RE: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity

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  • Monroe, John W [HIST]
    Chinese art is an interesting parallel! I wonder if we ll find the equation of value similarly flipped if African collectors ever begin to move the market in
    Message 1 of 25 , Aug 4, 2013
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      Chinese art is an interesting parallel!  I wonder if we'll find the equation of value similarly flipped if African collectors ever begin to move the market in the way Chinese collectors have.  I do wonder if it's less a question of "authenticity" than one of cultural value: the new Chinese collectors simply *like* different things than Western collectors have generally liked.  A friend of mine who's a collector of Asian art, for instance, once told me that Chinese collectors really don't want pieces that have been buried in tombs -- they find the association with death unpleasant.  Tang dynasty horses, I think he said, were a particularly clear example: they used to be a lot more expensive than they are now.

      Also, as for Ebay, I think William's totally right.  It's a wonderfully transparent, if sometimes deceptive, market.  It's surprising how many times I've seen something I remember from an Ebay listing crop up at a Tribal Art Week or "real" gallery.  The key is spotting the object that can be convincingly re-branded, which takes a knack.  Of the three William listed, by the way, I've got to say I think 1 could make the jump (especially if well-mounted), possibly 2, but not 3.  

      John Monroe


      From: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com [African_Arts@yahoogroups.com] on behalf of William Klebous [klebous@...]
      Sent: Sunday, August 04, 2013 10:12 PM
      To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity

       


      I would like to support the notion that an over-emphasis on "authenticity" is exactly what has damaged
      the African Art market so badly. In almost every other "indiginous" art market, there is a sort of rough
      balance between age, beauty, authenticity, and rarity which altogether determine an object's value
      through genuine market action amongst a large base of collectors.

      A good example of these market forces in action has been the recent surge in prices for impressive
      19th century examples of Asian Art, mostly due to the influx of new money from China. 19th century
      Asian Art had been somewhat scorned by experts for reasons that will sound familiar: Too much
      Western influence. Not authentic enough. But a large base of new collectors has righted this
      market distortion, this over-emphasis on authenticity.

      Without a large new base of African Art collectors, which I do not currently see on the horizon, the
      distortions we see in the African Art market will continue. In the meantime, don't be too condemning
      of the sort of rigged game we currently see at the top end of the market. If they were having no success
      in manipulating upwards the prices of these top-end objects, the true market for African Art would
      be even lower. Perhaps much lower.

      In my opinion the largest and therefore most true market for African Art currently is Ebay. This
      particular market also, in my opinion, does a better job of balancing out age, beauty, authenticity,
      and rarity than any better-vetted venue I know of. So, as an experiment, I searched for Ebay objects
      sold at auction recently with a non-trivial amount of bids and without significant provenance. Here for
      your consideration are three of the most highly valued lots, only one of which may be sufficiently
      "authentic" for many of you. But personally, I think the Ebay market did a pretty good job in establishing
      something like true market value. (FYI, I have no connection whatsoever with any of these objects or
      sellers. And myself, currently I wouldn't have paid this much for any of the three lots, mostly because
      I've been more interested in Asian Art the last five or so years, only picking up a few absolute "steals"
      in African Art during this period.)

      Teke magical figure $1325 Ebay#400478731307
      http://i.ebayimg.com/t/A-Fine-TEKE-magical-figure-Fetiche-Kongo-Fetischfigur-brown-patina-ochre-pigment-/00/s/NTk5WDYwOA==/z/4vUAAMXQY8JRgWDN/$(KGrHqZHJEUFE2I4LZQcBRgWDNY5Qg~~60_3.JPG

      Fon fetsih figure $990 Ebay#181143448960
      http://i.ebayimg.com/t/EWE-FON-FETISH-FIGURE-/00/s/MTYwMFgxMjAw/z/3OsAAOxycERRmP05/$(KGrHqV,!qMFGBdUgLn9BRmP04v2DQ~~60_57.JPG

      Baule spirit couple $543 Ebay#370829424980
      http://i.ebayimg.com/t/Superb-African-Art-BAULE-Fertility-Spirit-Couple-Figure-Collectible-/00/s/MTYwMFgxMjAw/$(KGrHqF,!oME-9lSRgEsBP2+49i-O!~~60_57.JPG

       

    • Ed Jones
      John:   I am inclined to agree with your thoughts about Chinese preferences in opposition to authenticity.   Every place I have visited in China (10
      Message 2 of 25 , Aug 5, 2013
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        John:
         
        I am inclined to agree with your thoughts about Chinese preferences in opposition to authenticity.  
        Every place I have visited in China (10 places currently), one cannot find  the number "4" on any elevator.  During my first visit to The Peoples Republic of China in the latter 90s, I asked a person at one of the airlines I had business with, and was told the number 4 is "Si" in Chinese, and is pronounced very closely to their word for death or to die.   A bit like superstitious folks and the number "13" in western cultures. 
         
        The Chinese have an obsession with youth and "new" things, rather than old, used and death / spiritual relics or the representation thereof.  This is in stark contrast to traditional and conservative African generations that revere ancestral homage, death and spirits as manifested in; anthropomorphic and zoomorphic inventions worshipped via libations and power objects to house deities and spirits as nkisi / minkisi and so on.  
         
         
        There is a notion that all westerners are compelled and adore old, used things--- which according to most Asian-centered cultures seems to be taboo or a turn-off, as the idea that an object has been tainted in an undesirable way by another person's soul.  My wife is from a nomadic Turkic tribe, and I can tell you as an enthusiast of certain Anatolian and Central Asian artifacts, this also holds true, but there are always cultural out-casts and ones that do not think as the common demagogue in all societies.
         
         
         
        Anyway, the info and observations you expressed are true and revealing.  This will certainly have an effect on what interests their artistic fancy. 
         
        And I also agree with William Klebous about eBay.  I did not think about it that way, but it is vey much like the largest and most prolific seller of African arts.  In fact, many members of this forum are selling on the eBay forum and have good items.   When something has a positive monetary effect, it will always bring an element of opportunistic and unsavory types, and this will always be the case in life.  As you know, people are opportunistic, some more than others.  
         
        I would tend to support and agree with anyone making the assessment that greed will eventually over-shadow and diminish cultural (esoteric) knowledge... Herbert (Skip) Cole mentioned this as well as others.  This is the dilemma we find in African arts.  African cultures have evolved, and is changing.  The youth do not have the interest to live as their ancestors did 3 or 4 generations (and I do not blame them).  No culture or national group wants their youth to struggle or suffer, and this holds particularly true in developing and Third World countries.  
         
         
        Ed   
         

        From: "Monroe, John W [HIST]" <jmonroe@...>
        To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
        Sent: Sunday, August 4, 2013 10:14 PM
        Subject: RE: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity
         
        Chinese art is an interesting parallel!  I wonder if we'll find the equation of value similarly flipped if African collectors ever begin to move the market in the way Chinese collectors have.  I do wonder if it's less a question of "authenticity" than one of cultural value: the new Chinese collectors simply *like* different things than Western collectors have generally liked.  A friend of mine who's a collector of Asian art, for instance, once told me that Chinese collectors really don't want pieces that have been buried in tombs -- they find the association with death unpleasant.  Tang dynasty horses, I think he said, were a particularly clear example: they used to be a lot more expensive than they are now. Also, as for Ebay, I think William's totally right.  It's a wonderfully transparent, if sometimes deceptive, market.  It's surprising how many times I've seen something I remember from an Ebay listing crop up at a Tribal Art Week or "real" gallery.  The key is spotting the object that can be convincingly re-branded, which takes a knack.  Of the three William listed, by the way, I've got to say I think 1 could make the jump (especially if well-mounted), possibly 2, but not 3.   John Monroe
        From: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com [African_Arts@yahoogroups.com] on behalf of William Klebous [klebous@...]
        Sent: Sunday, August 04, 2013 10:12 PM
        To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity

         

        I would like to support the notion that an over-emphasis on "authenticity" is exactly what has damaged the African Art market so badly. In almost every other "indiginous" art market, there is a sort of rough balance between age, beauty, authenticity, and rarity which altogether determine an object's value through genuine market action amongst a large base of collectors. A good example of these market forces in action has been the recent surge in prices for impressive 19th century examples of Asian Art, mostly due to the influx of new money from China. 19th century Asian Art had been somewhat scorned by experts for reasons that will sound familiar: Too much Western influence. Not authentic enough. But a large base of new collectors has righted this market distortion, this over-emphasis on authenticity. Without a large new base of African Art collectors, which I do not currently see on the horizon, the distortions we see in the African Art market will continue. In the meantime, don't be too condemning of the sort of rigged game we currently see at the top end of the market. If they were having no success in manipulating upwards the prices of these top-end objects, the true market for African Art would be even lower. Perhaps much lower. In my opinion the largest and therefore most true market for African Art currently is Ebay. This particular market also, in my opinion, does a better job of balancing out age, beauty, authenticity, and rarity than any better-vetted venue I know of. So, as an experiment, I searched for Ebay objects sold at auction recently with a non-trivial amount of bids and without significant provenance. Here for your consideration are three of the most highly valued lots, only one of which may be sufficiently "authentic" for many of you. But personally, I think the Ebay market did a pretty good job in establishing something like true market value. (FYI, I have no connection whatsoever with any of these objects or sellers. And myself, currently I wouldn't have paid this much for any of the three lots, mostly because I've been more interested in Asian Art the last five or so years, only picking up a few absolute "steals" in African Art during this period.) Teke magical figure $1325 Ebay#400478731307 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/A-Fine-TEKE-magical-figure-Fetiche-Kongo-Fetischfigur-brown-patina-ochre-pigment-/00/s/NTk5WDYwOA==/z/4vUAAMXQY8JRgWDN/$(KGrHqZHJEUFE2I4LZQcBRgWDNY5Qg~~60_3.JPG Fon fetsih figure $990 Ebay#181143448960 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/EWE-FON-FETISH-FIGURE-/00/s/MTYwMFgxMjAw/z/3OsAAOxycERRmP05/$(KGrHqV,!qMFGBdUgLn9BRmP04v2DQ~~60_57.JPG Baule spirit couple $543 Ebay#370829424980 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/Superb-African-Art-BAULE-Fertility-Spirit-Couple-Figure-Collectible-/00/s/MTYwMFgxMjAw/$(KGrHqF,!oME-9lSRgEsBP2+49i-O!~~60_57.JPG  
      • Ed Jones
        - See Additional Attachments -   Please forgive my haste earlier.  I intended to also include the photo from the book Central Nigeria Unmasked: Arts of the
        Message 3 of 25 , Aug 5, 2013
        - See Additional Attachments -
         
        Please forgive my haste earlier.  I intended to also include the photo from the book Central Nigeria Unmasked: Arts of the Benue River Valley.
         
         
        I believe the mask appears to be an (older) example of the Igala horned mask.  As for information, I could not find anything what-so-ever in various publications, articles or on the Internet using a variety of search queries.  Thus far, this info is all I have or all there is...
         
         
        Ed

        From: Ed Jones <bucit@...>
        To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>; "scole@..." <scole@...>
        Sent: Sunday, August 4, 2013 9:44 PM
        Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Quick thought on authenticity [3 Attachments]
         
        Skip / Mr. Cole: 
         
        Depending on your views surrounding provenance, authenticity and established criterion, I suspect you would either disagree or have adulation and agreement with Femi, particularly, through the views of African intellectual perspectives and valuation for credible art within their collections.  I would recommend it, and believe the information presented is money well spent.
         
        I think I have some insights to your perspectives from your other book on Igbo arts and co-ops.
         
         
         
        - See Attachments -
         
         
        Anyway, I hope that I am not being too intrusive or this assertive request does not agitate you;
         
        I purchased a particular mask that has been quite the nemesis, yet delight to research.  It was sold to me as an Ibibio or potentially Igbo cap mask many years ago from my all-favored gallery. 
         
        I extensively researched this mask for well over a three year period in many of my publications, and finally purchased a Fowler Museum / UCLA publication titled Central Nigeria Unmasked: Arts of the Benue River Valley.  Alas!  There was an example (and the only one I have ever come across in the book!
         
         
        I believe my striking similarities that my mask is identified as an Igala horned mask from the Ibaji region near the Benue river (as similar to the example in the book).  The information about the mask is short on detail and specifics. 
         
        Anyway; I am sure you must get these sort of requests frequently.  May I ask, have you ever run across this mask?  I realize that area has a plethora of inventive creations. If so, can you add lib or reflect / research without this being too much difficulty? 
         
         
         
        As far as Internet queries, I was able to extrapolate a photo from the early 20th C. (approx. 1931) which reflected a Mmanwu different stylized mask appearance. However, the horns symbolizing maturity and male aggression seemed sort of similar, but certainly not the same.  How's this for evolution and change?
         
         
        Hence, another problem with only seeking and desiring beautiful, full-page publication pictorials (eye-candy as it might seem).  I do not believe all valid "traditional" masks as supposed were ever published or photographed, and remain elusive in private collections, away from prying eyes, like many of the African secret societies.
         
         
         
        Ed
         
         
        From: Herbert M. Cole <scole@...>
        To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
        Sent: Sunday, August 4, 2013 8:52 PM
        Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Quick thought on authenticity
         
        bucit@...

        Dear Ed:  Thanks for the kind words about Invention etc. Sorry I do not know Femi or even his book, but it sounds like one I should have a look at. I'll try to find a copy.  best wishes- - skip
        On Aug 4, 2013, at 6:17 PM, Ed Jones wrote:
         

        Warm greetings Mr. Cole:
         
        If you don't mind, I have to say that I am a fan, and adore your book INVENTION AND TRADITION, The Art of Southeastern Nigeria because it helped place Igbo, Igala, Idoma and other neighboring SE Nigerian, Cross River art in perspective and assists me greatly when researching some of the masquerades.
         
        I am wondering if you have a personal / professional acquaintance or fellowship with Femi Akinsanya?  Mr. Akinsanya's MAKING HISTORY brimming with insights, and I have an affinity for Nigerian traditional and "evolving" art from this region.
         
        Thank you.
         
         
        Ed
         
         
        From: Herbert M. Cole <scole@...>
        To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
        Sent: Sunday, August 4, 2013 3:01 PM
        Subject: Re: [African_Arts] RE: Quick thought on authenticity
         

        I’ll add a little story, a definition, and then what I know is a cynical, pessimistic opinion, to this fascinating recurrent question/discussion about authenticity and quality, spurred to write by John Monroe’s story of two Bonsu carvings, both authentic but of quite different market value.
         
        In 1966 I was able to collect some Igbo masks in communities near Nsukka in northern Igboland. I came upon and bought (for the Nigerian Museum) a well used, somewhat worn mask with a patina resulting from being stored in an area where the smoke from cooking fires added texture to the surface. A few of the holes for attaching cloth costumes were broken and others were worn. It was somewhat weathered and the surface was uneven. I was told the mask – a “classic” three-crested maiden -- was carved about 1945-1950. Clearly it had been used on several occasions. A week or two later in the same area I purchased a very similar mask, carved at the same time by the same carver; however, the second mask had been stored for many years in a reused cement bag and showed few if any signs of age or wear – and I thought to myself, this could have been carved a week or a month ago. The quality of the carving was virtually identical on both, but the value, to dealers and/or collectors, was entirely different. The first could sell today for $1000 or more, the second would find few buyers at any price. Maybe it would fetch $100 or $150 but everyone, including me had I not been part of the story, would think it was “new,” which it clearly isn’t/wasn’t.
         
        For most collectors and dealers (who, lets say for the sake of argument, can and will spend $1000 or more for an object) a mask (or figure or whatever) HAS to exhibit visible signs of use and wear, preferably with a shiny, encrusted or otherwise “convincing” patina of age, with uneven wear and an uneven surface – these because few African objects wear the same way on all of their surfaces. These and related traits define what I call “the collector’s aesthetic” because it is the prevailing criterion/definition of acceptability for nearly all “serious” collectors. I call this "apparent age" because the person who can tell you for sure that a piece is 50 or 100 years old, without verifiable field documentation, is not a credible source of information.

        Example: Two Yoruba twin figures were carved in 1920. One was kept by a devout family member who applied jewelry, cosmetic camwood or pomade oil from time to time, and washed its face once a week and handled, cared for it on a daily daily, for a year. The other twin was kept by a less devout family member who simply stored it away in a trunk for a year, untouched. The first had roughly 365 times more war and patina -- apparent age -- than the second, and therefore much greater market value.
         
        Many African carvers, traders, dealers, and some unscrupulous European and American dealers and even collectors (alas many collectors are also dealers, though many deny it) have learned how to apply both wear and patina to both newer and older objects, with the clear intention of deceiving a future buyer (or an auction house). Those practitioners are getting better and better at their work, to the point where all too many museum curators, allegedly trained to detect such chicanery, put some of these objects on display regularly in some of our best museums. This problem will only get worse, I fear, as fewer and fewer people survive who can detect the difference between a real, well used Dan (Gio) mask and one “doctored up” for sale – to use Lou’s example from a few days ago. Many feel that auction houses, which for these purposes shall be nameless, are already selling quite a few of these objects and collectors are spending tens of thousands of dollars, today, for some of them. I fear that in a generation this conversation will be history and nearly all our museums and private collections will contain “doctored” objects. I deeply regret this pessimistic situation but I do not see a way to change it.
                                                                                                                                Skip Cole

        On Aug 4, 2013, at 1:06 PM, Monroe, John W [HIST] wrote:
         

        One correction to my last post, pointed out by an alert reader of the list: "Akua's Child" is not a book, it is an *article* by Doran Ross, which appeared in Elisabeth Lynn Cameron's 1996 Fowler exhibition catalog "Isn't S/He a Doll: Play and Ritual in African Sculpture."  Sorry for the imprecision on my part! John Monroe
        From: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com [African_Arts@yahoogroups.com] on behalf of Monroe, John W [HIST] [jmonroe@...]
        Sent: Sunday, August 04, 2013 1:57 PM
        To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: [African_Arts] Quick thought on authenticity

         

        Hi Everyone –
        Ah yes, the authenticity discussion again!  I’ve now been in African Art internet discussion groups for about a decade, and it amazes me how the same issues come around again and again.  Now I understand why the old-salt collectors, back in 2003, tended to act dismissive.  These issues have been with us for quite some time – in their current form, at least since the late 60s – and we aren’t any closer to resolving them now than we were then.  Hashing through the debate yet another time can feel like being trapped on a hamster-wheel, though I’ll admit that in my opinion the sheer intractability of the problem is reason to look at it closely – why can’t we resolve this?  *That* is an interesting and I think quite revealing question to answer.  Also, the contributions this time around have been quite insightful and a pleasure to read.  
        Anyway, I’ve already wrestled with this issue a lot in this group, and I’m busy teaching a summer course at the moment, so I don’t have time to develop a detailed response to all the good posts by Richard, Lou, Peter, Lee, Ed and others, but I did want to contribute a little something to the discussion, in the form of a complicating example.
        A few months ago, I was able to find an Akuaba figure that a British botanist purchased from the sculptor Osei Bonsu, in Ghana, as a souvenir, sometime in the 1930s.  It has been given a nice uniform, shiny finish, and has obviously seen no use whatsoever.  It is also formally *very* similar to a second Akuaba figure, illustrated in Doran Ross’ book “Akua’s Child.” The illustrated example has quite clearly seen extensive use.  Here are images of the two figures:
        Looking at the two pieces in the way Western art historians look at paintings or sculpture, it’s fairly clear that they are by the same person.  One is not a “copy” of the other.  Both are original works, made with what I’d guess are very similar aesthetic concerns and intentions.  Details such as the rendering of the ears, the nostrils, eyelids, etc., are extremely similar in the two pieces.  At the same time, one was sold to a foreign visitor, and the other was used in-culture.  Does that mean the one sold to the visitor is “fake”?  It is, after all, by the same artist, a figure known by name, with a characteristic style and solid reputation among scholars of African art history.
        If we’re trying to shift away from the primitivist assumption that all traditional African sculpture is the anonymous product of a culture’s “collective mentality,” and instead want to acknowledge that these are works by individual people responding to specific circumstances, doesn’t it become counterproductive to arbitrarily exclude some portion of an artist’s work from his oeuvre simply because of who happened to buy it?  It would be like disqualifying all Monets purchased by American collectors rather than French ones, because the Americans were “outsiders.”
        It seems to me that one possible solution to this problem might be to look more closely at the objects themselves, in the same meticulous way that historians of Western art do as a matter of course with the works they study.  Since these are indeed works by individual artists, why don’t we analyze them in those terms?  Scholars who specialize in the art of various African ethnic groups or regions often learn how to recognize individual artists, simply by virtue of looking closely at many objects.  Perhaps *that* should be the lens we use to assess which works of art contribute to our historical understanding of artistic production in a given place at a given time – are “authentic” – and which do not – are “fake”? 
        John Monroe
         
         
         



      • William Klebous
        It s true that this new class of Chinese collectors seems to have something of an aversion to grave goods, but that only explains why prices have not risen on
        Message 4 of 25 , Aug 6, 2013
        • 0 Attachment
          It's true that this new class of Chinese collectors seems to have something of an aversion to grave goods,
          but that only explains why prices have not risen on these items, not why they have fallen, despite continuing
          interest from Western collectors. Prices have fallen because of a surge in supply, approved by the Chinese
          government, due to systematic excavation of ancient tombs and, except for the premier objects which go
          to Chinese museums, the marketing of "average" items to dealers and auction houses in the West in exchange
          for highly desirable dollars and euros. Its not that large tri-color Tang dynasty tomb horses are any less beautiful
          than they were twenty years ago, its just that they're a lot more common than we used to think.

          On the other hand, if you look at something like antique Buddhist bronzes, where the supply is essentially
          steady, but collector interest has soared, suddenly objects of secondary and tertiary and even lower quality
          easily find willing buyers, and really its just an all-around wonderful thing. The stranglehold of a few dealers
          and auction houses gets broken, or at least relaxed, and long-time collectors, perhaps nearing retirement
          age, get to see a decent return on their investment.

          So, getting back on topic, that's the main point I think. That only a surge of new interest in African Art can
          possibly cure the deep market ills that we have been discussing. Otherwise it is quite natural in the face of
          limited demand for any market to become highly controlled and exclusive and manipulated as its top dealers
          seek to survive lean times.

          _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
          From: Ed Jones <bucit@...>
          To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
          Sent: Monday, 5 August 2013 8:42 PM
          Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity



          John:
           
          I am inclined to agree with your thoughts about Chinese preferences in opposition to authenticity.  
          Every place I have visited in China (10 places currently), one cannot find  the number "4" on any elevator.  During my first visit to The Peoples Republic of China in the latter 90s, I asked a person at one of the airlines I had business with, and was told the number 4 is "Si" in Chinese, and is pronounced very closely to their word for death or to die.   A bit like superstitious folks and the number "13" in western cultures. 
           
          The Chinese have an obsession with youth and "new" things, rather than old, used and death / spiritual relics or the representation thereof.  This is in stark contrast to traditional and conservative African generations that revere ancestral homage, death and spirits as manifested in; anthropomorphic and zoomorphic inventions worshipped via libations and power objects to house deities and spirits as nkisi / minkisi and so on.  
           
           
          There is a notion that all westerners are compelled and adore old, used things--- which according to most Asian-centered cultures seems to be taboo or a turn-off, as the idea that an object has been tainted in an undesirable way by another person's soul.  My wife is from a nomadic Turkic tribe, and I can tell you as an enthusiast of certain Anatolian and Central Asian artifacts, this also holds true, but there are always cultural out-casts and ones that do not think as the common demagogue in all societies.
           
           
           
          Anyway, the info and observations you expressed are true and revealing.  This will certainly have an effect on what interests their artistic fancy. 
           
          And I also agree with William Klebous about eBay.  I did not think about it that way, but it is vey much like the largest and most prolific seller of African arts.  In fact, many members of this forum are selling on the eBay forum and have good items.   When something has a positive monetary effect, it will always bring an element of opportunistic and unsavory types, and this will always be the case in life.  As you know, people are opportunistic, some more than others.  
           
          I would tend to support and agree with anyone making the assessment that greed will eventually over-shadow and diminish cultural (esoteric) knowledge... Herbert (Skip) Cole mentioned this as well as others.  This is the dilemma we find in African arts.  African cultures have evolved, and is changing.  The youth do not have the interest to live as their ancestors did 3 or 4 generations (and I do not blame them).  No culture or national group wants their youth to struggle or suffer, and this holds particularly true in developing and Third World countries.  
           
           
          Ed   
           

          From: "Monroe, John W [HIST]" <jmonroe@...>
          To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
          Sent: Sunday, August 4, 2013 10:14 PM
          Subject: RE: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity
           
          Chinese art is an interesting parallel!  I wonder if we'll find the equation of value similarly flipped if African collectors ever begin to move the market in the way Chinese collectors have.  I do wonder if it's less a question of "authenticity" than one of cultural value: the new Chinese collectors simply *like* different things than Western collectors have generally liked.  A friend of mine who's a collector of Asian art, for instance, once told me that Chinese collectors really don't want pieces that have been buried in tombs -- they find the association with death unpleasant.  Tang dynasty horses, I think he said, were a particularly clear example: they used to be a lot more expensive than they are now. Also, as for Ebay, I think William's totally right.  It's a wonderfully transparent, if sometimes deceptive, market.  It's surprising how many times I've seen something I remember from an Ebay listing crop up at a Tribal Art Week or "real" gallery.  The key is spotting the object that can be convincingly re-branded, which takes a knack.  Of the three William listed, by the way, I've got to say I think 1 could make the jump (especially if well-mounted), possibly 2, but not 3.   John Monroe
          From: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com [African_Arts@yahoogroups.com] on behalf of William Klebous [klebous@...]
          Sent: Sunday, August 04, 2013 10:12 PM
          To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
          Subject: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity

           

          I would like to support the notion that an over-emphasis on "authenticity" is exactly what has damaged the African Art market so badly. In almost every other "indiginous" art market, there is a sort of rough balance between age, beauty, authenticity, and rarity which altogether determine an object's value through genuine market action amongst a large base of collectors. A good example of these market forces in action has been the recent surge in prices for impressive 19th century examples of Asian Art, mostly due to the influx of new money from China. 19th century Asian Art had been somewhat scorned by experts for reasons that will sound familiar: Too much Western influence. Not authentic enough. But a large base of new collectors has righted this market distortion, this over-emphasis on authenticity. Without a large new base of African Art collectors, which I do not currently see on the horizon, the distortions we see in the African Art market will continue. In the meantime, don't be too condemning of the sort of rigged game we currently see at the top end of the market. If they were having no success in manipulating upwards the prices of these top-end objects, the true market for African Art would be even lower. Perhaps much lower. In my opinion the largest and therefore most true market for African Art currently is Ebay. This particular market also, in my opinion, does a better job of balancing out age, beauty, authenticity, and rarity than any better-vetted venue I know of. So, as an experiment, I searched for Ebay objects sold at auction recently with a non-trivial amount of bids and without significant provenance. Here for your consideration are three of the most highly valued lots, only one of which may be sufficiently "authentic" for many of you. But personally, I think the Ebay market did a pretty good job in establishing something like true market value. (FYI, I have no connection whatsoever with any of these objects or sellers. And myself, currently I wouldn't have paid this much for any of the three lots, mostly because I've been more interested in Asian Art the last five or so years, only picking up a few absolute "steals" in African Art during this period.) Teke magical figure $1325 Ebay#400478731307 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/A-Fine-TEKE-magical-figure-Fetiche-Kongo-Fetischfigur-brown-patina-ochre-pigment-/00/s/NTk5WDYwOA==/z/4vUAAMXQY8JRgWDN/$(KGrHqZHJEUFE2I4LZQcBRgWDNY5Qg~~60_3.JPG Fon fetsih figure $990 Ebay#181143448960 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/EWE-FON-FETISH-FIGURE-/00/s/MTYwMFgxMjAw/z/3OsAAOxycERRmP05/$(KGrHqV,!qMFGBdUgLn9BRmP04v2DQ~~60_57.JPG Baule spirit couple $543 Ebay#370829424980 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/Superb-African-Art-BAULE-Fertility-Spirit-Couple-Figure-Collectible-/00/s/MTYwMFgxMjAw/$(KGrHqF,!oME-9lSRgEsBP2+49i-O!~~60_57.JPG  




        • rschust
          This discussion of the market for Asian arts leads me to add a brief postscript to my comments on the unfortunate link between use of real and authentic to
          Message 5 of 25 , Aug 6, 2013
          • 0 Attachment
            This discussion of the market for Asian arts leads me to add a brief postscript to my comments on the unfortunate link between use of "real" and "authentic" to justify the Sotheby model of exorbitant prices for African art.
             
            Some of you have suggested that the Sotheby/prestigious-gallery model helps the market because it creates a high ceiling that lifts up the whole market. But you then ignore the negative effect on the market for African carvings from classifying anything else as "not real" (Lou Wells to me) or "not authentic." (Again, Lou Wells to me: "One test of authenticity would be simply to ask whether Sotheby’s or Christie’s would offer the piece.")
             
            The result of this elitism  is bound to be that our purchases of more recent carvings, despite their authenticity in terms of origin and provenance (from where they originate, not what collection they came from) is a fool's paradise of buying carvings that are, in effect, "not real." We are simply wasting our money and becoming fools as well.by buying items that are judged as inauthentic and "not real" despite the sellers' claims of "old," used, etc. I believe this is  one of the main reason why the demand for African carvings is not greater. A lot of potential new collectors are wary of being fooled and duped unless they restrict their purchases to truly inexpensive, mass-produced carvings whose sole virtue is that they may be attractive. Or remind you of your African safari holiday..
             
            This is also why the field would gain - along with the value of our collections - if we could show by invoice that our carvings were purchased from dealers who have earned certification as handling only authentic carvings, whether or not these are the Sotheby or the "common collector" kind. This is why I suggested that an ad hoc committee of knowledgeable people - many of whom who participate in this forum - should be created to provide this vetting.
             
            My experience with a few dealers in the US and Europe is that such dealers exist - many selling via eBay - who genuinely endeavor to handle only authentic items. If they were officially credited with doing so, we would all be in a better place, as would the market overall.


            On Tue, Aug 6, 2013 at 11:25 AM, William Klebous <klebous@...> wrote:
             

            It's true that this new class of Chinese collectors seems to have something of an aversion to grave goods,
            but that only explains why prices have not risen on these items, not why they have fallen, despite continuing
            interest from Western collectors. Prices have fallen because of a surge in supply, approved by the Chinese
            government, due to systematic excavation of ancient tombs and, except for the premier objects which go
            to Chinese museums, the marketing of "average" items to dealers and auction houses in the West in exchange
            for highly desirable dollars and euros. Its not that large tri-color Tang dynasty tomb horses are any less beautiful
            than they were twenty years ago, its just that they're a lot more common than we used to think.

            On the other hand, if you look at something like antique Buddhist bronzes, where the supply is essentially
            steady, but collector interest has soared, suddenly objects of secondary and tertiary and even lower quality
            easily find willing buyers, and really its just an all-around wonderful thing. The stranglehold of a few dealers
            and auction houses gets broken, or at least relaxed, and long-time collectors, perhaps nearing retirement
            age, get to see a decent return on their investment.

            So, getting back on topic, that's the main point I think. That only a surge of new interest in African Art can
            possibly cure the deep market ills that we have been discussing. Otherwise it is quite natural in the face of
            limited demand for any market to become highly controlled and exclusive and manipulated as its top dealers
            seek to survive lean times.

            _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
            From: Ed Jones <bucit@...>
            To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
            Sent: Monday, 5 August 2013 8:42 PM
            Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity



            John:
             
            I am inclined to agree with your thoughts about Chinese preferences in opposition to authenticity.  
            Every place I have visited in China (10 places currently), one cannot find  the number "4" on any elevator.  During my first visit to The Peoples Republic of China in the latter 90s, I asked a person at one of the airlines I had business with, and was told the number 4 is "Si" in Chinese, and is pronounced very closely to their word for death or to die.   A bit like superstitious folks and the number "13" in western cultures. 
             
            The Chinese have an obsession with youth and "new" things, rather than old, used and death / spiritual relics or the representation thereof.  This is in stark contrast to traditional and conservative African generations that revere ancestral homage, death and spirits as manifested in; anthropomorphic and zoomorphic inventions worshipped via libations and power objects to house deities and spirits as nkisi / minkisi and so on.  
             
             
            There is a notion that all westerners are compelled and adore old, used things--- which according to most Asian-centered cultures seems to be taboo or a turn-off, as the idea that an object has been tainted in an undesirable way by another person's soul.  My wife is from a nomadic Turkic tribe, and I can tell you as an enthusiast of certain Anatolian and Central Asian artifacts, this also holds true, but there are always cultural out-casts and ones that do not think as the common demagogue in all societies.
             
             
             
            Anyway, the info and observations you expressed are true and revealing.  This will certainly have an effect on what interests their artistic fancy. 
             
            And I also agree with William Klebous about eBay.  I did not think about it that way, but it is vey much like the largest and most prolific seller of African arts.  In fact, many members of this forum are selling on the eBay forum and have good items.   When something has a positive monetary effect, it will always bring an element of opportunistic and unsavory types, and this will always be the case in life.  As you know, people are opportunistic, some more than others.  
             
            I would tend to support and agree with anyone making the assessment that greed will eventually over-shadow and diminish cultural (esoteric) knowledge... Herbert (Skip) Cole mentioned this as well as others.  This is the dilemma we find in African arts.  African cultures have evolved, and is changing.  The youth do not have the interest to live as their ancestors did 3 or 4 generations (and I do not blame them).  No culture or national group wants their youth to struggle or suffer, and this holds particularly true in developing and Third World countries.  
             
             
            Ed   
             

            From: "Monroe, John W [HIST]" <jmonroe@...>
            To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
            Sent: Sunday, August 4, 2013 10:14 PM
            Subject: RE: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity
             
            Chinese art is an interesting parallel!  I wonder if we'll find the equation of value similarly flipped if African collectors ever begin to move the market in the way Chinese collectors have.  I do wonder if it's less a question of "authenticity" than one of cultural value: the new Chinese collectors simply *like* different things than Western collectors have generally liked.  A friend of mine who's a collector of Asian art, for instance, once told me that Chinese collectors really don't want pieces that have been buried in tombs -- they find the association with death unpleasant.  Tang dynasty horses, I think he said, were a particularly clear example: they used to be a lot more expensive than they are now. Also, as for Ebay, I think William's totally right.  It's a wonderfully transparent, if sometimes deceptive, market.  It's surprising how many times I've seen something I remember from an Ebay listing crop up at a Tribal Art Week or "real" gallery.  The key is spotting the object that can be convincingly re-branded, which takes a knack.  Of the three William listed, by the way, I've got to say I think 1 could make the jump (especially if well-mounted), possibly 2, but not 3.   John Monroe
            From: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com [African_Arts@yahoogroups.com] on behalf of William Klebous [klebous@...]
            Sent: Sunday, August 04, 2013 10:12 PM
            To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
            Subject: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity

             

            I would like to support the notion that an over-emphasis on "authenticity" is exactly what has damaged the African Art market so badly. In almost every other "indiginous" art market, there is a sort of rough balance between age, beauty, authenticity, and rarity which altogether determine an object's value through genuine market action amongst a large base of collectors. A good example of these market forces in action has been the recent surge in prices for impressive 19th century examples of Asian Art, mostly due to the influx of new money from China. 19th century Asian Art had been somewhat scorned by experts for reasons that will sound familiar: Too much Western influence. Not authentic enough. But a large base of new collectors has righted this market distortion, this over-emphasis on authenticity. Without a large new base of African Art collectors, which I do not currently see on the horizon, the distortions we see in the African Art market will continue. In the meantime, don't be too condemning of the sort of rigged game we currently see at the top end of the market. If they were having no success in manipulating upwards the prices of these top-end objects, the true market for African Art would be even lower. Perhaps much lower. In my opinion the largest and therefore most true market for African Art currently is Ebay. This particular market also, in my opinion, does a better job of balancing out age, beauty, authenticity, and rarity than any better-vetted venue I know of. So, as an experiment, I searched for Ebay objects sold at auction recently with a non-trivial amount of bids and without significant provenance. Here for your consideration are three of the most highly valued lots, only one of which may be sufficiently "authentic" for many of you. But personally, I think the Ebay market did a pretty good job in establishing something like true market value. (FYI, I have no connection whatsoever with any of these objects or sellers. And myself, currently I wouldn't have paid this much for any of the three lots, mostly because I've been more interested in Asian Art the last five or so years, only picking up a few absolute "steals" in African Art during this period.) Teke magical figure $1325 Ebay#400478731307 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/A-Fine-TEKE-magical-figure-Fetiche-Kongo-Fetischfigur-brown-patina-ochre-pigment-/00/s/NTk5WDYwOA==/z/4vUAAMXQY8JRgWDN/$(KGrHqZHJEUFE2I4LZQcBRgWDNY5Qg~~60_3.JPG Fon fetsih figure $990 Ebay#181143448960 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/EWE-FON-FETISH-FIGURE-/00/s/MTYwMFgxMjAw/z/3OsAAOxycERRmP05/$(KGrHqV,!qMFGBdUgLn9BRmP04v2DQ~~60_57.JPG Baule spirit couple $543 Ebay#370829424980 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/Superb-African-Art-BAULE-Fertility-Spirit-Couple-Figure-Collectible-/00/s/MTYwMFgxMjAw/$(KGrHqF,!oME-9lSRgEsBP2+49i-O!~~60_57.JPG  







            --
            Currently  in Israel:
             
            In Israel:
            Emeritus, Dept of Psychology
            University of Haifa
            Haifa 31905
            Tel: 077-7825306
            Cell: 050-7332323
             
            In the US:
            1742 Grant Ave
            East Meadow, NY 11554
            Tel.: 516-750-5335
            Cell: 646-894-4904
             
          • rpearsonpeaol
            A nice thought, but not easily workable. 1. Who determines the people with sufficient expertise to judge a piece, probably from photos? 2. Who is the deciding
            Message 6 of 25 , Aug 6, 2013
            • 0 Attachment
              A nice thought, but not easily workable. 1. Who determines the people with sufficient expertise to judge a piece, probably from photos?  2. Who is the deciding vote when the 'experts' disagree ?
               
              As examples, the African hired by the Denver Art Museum was probably an expert in his African tribes 'art', but felt he had to be an expert in everything else too- and wasn't. Another major Ebay seller believed she was an expert in all African tribal art, and took serious and aggressive offense if you disagreed or challenged her opinion. And Arte Primitivo-and I assume other auction houses- have 'experts' to judge pieces, but they disagree at time with each other, and occasionally I disagree with their judgement, especially on pieces I have won and received.
              I personally know one (1) person I would call an 'expert'. He states he 'does not know everything', will tell you when he believes a piece is 'enhanced',  and will honestly admit when he does not have a justifiable opinion on a piece. Him I believe, and he is also an optimist. I am a pessimist. "Fake" until proven otherwise.
               
              In this group, when photos are sent in on pieces for opinions, many (of us) do not venture an opinion as at times it is a waste of our time (tourist art), junk (bad tourist art), we don't want to be proved wrong, or we just do not know. I have a few pieces like that, and have posted several as they are interesting. And  I confess to buying occasional pieces just because they are interesting and unknown. This makes for interesting discussions.
               
              bob
               
              In a message dated 8/6/2013 11:58:10 A.M. Mountain Daylight Time, richschust@... writes:
               

              This discussion of the market for Asian arts leads me to add a brief postscript to my comments on the unfortunate link between use of "real" and "authentic" to justify the Sotheby model of exorbitant prices for African art.
               
              Some of you have suggested that the Sotheby/prestigious-gallery model helps the market because it creates a high ceiling that lifts up the whole market. But you then ignore the negative effect on the market for African carvings from classifying anything else as "not real" (Lou Wells to me) or "not authentic." (Again, Lou Wells to me: "One test of authenticity would be simply to ask whether Sotheby’s or Christie’s would offer the piece.")
               
              The result of this elitism  is bound to be that our purchases of more recent carvings, despite their authenticity in terms of origin and provenance (from where they originate, not what collection they came from) is a fool's paradise of buying carvings that are, in effect, "not real." We are simply wasting our money and becoming fools as well.by buying items that are judged as inauthentic and "not real" despite the sellers' claims of "old," used, etc. I believe this is  one of the main reason why the demand for African carvings is not greater. A lot of potential new collectors are wary of being fooled and duped unless they restrict their purchases to truly inexpensive, mass-produced carvings whose sole virtue is that they may be attractive. Or remind you of your African safari holiday..
               
              This is also why the field would gain - along with the value of our collections - if we could show by invoice that our carvings were purchased from dealers who have earned certification as handling only authentic carvings, whether or not these are the Sotheby or the "common collector" kind. This is why I suggested that an ad hoc committee of knowledgeable people - many of whom who participate in this forum - should be created to provide this vetting.
               
              My experience with a few dealers in the US and Europe is that such dealers exist - many selling via eBay - who genuinely endeavor to handle only authentic items. If they were officially credited with doing so, we would all be in a better place, as would the market overall.


              On Tue, Aug 6, 2013 at 11:25 AM, William Klebous <klebous@...> wrote:
               

              It's true that this new class of Chinese collectors seems to have something of an aversion to grave goods,
              but that only explains why prices have not risen on these items, not why they have fallen, despite continuing
              interest from Western collectors. Prices have fallen because of a surge in supply, approved by the Chinese
              government, due to systematic excavation of ancient tombs and, except for the premier objects which go
              to Chinese museums, the marketing of "average" items to dealers and auction houses in the West in exchange
              for highly desirable dollars and euros. Its not that large tri-color Tang dynasty tomb horses are any less beautiful
              than they were twenty years ago, its just that they're a lot more common than we used to think.

              On the other hand, if you look at something like antique Buddhist bronzes, where the supply is essentially
              steady, but collector interest has soared, suddenly objects of secondary and tertiary and even lower quality
              easily find willing buyers, and really its just an all-around wonderful thing. The stranglehold of a few dealers
              and auction houses gets broken, or at least relaxed, and long-time collectors, perhaps nearing retirement
              age, get to see a decent return on their investment.

              So, getting back on topic, that's the main point I think. That only a surge of new interest in African Art can
              possibly cure the deep market ills that we have been discussing. Otherwise it is quite natural in the face of
              limited demand for any market to become highly controlled and exclusive and manipulated as its top dealers
              seek to survive lean times.

              _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
              From: Ed Jones <bucit@...>
              To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
              Sent: Monday, 5 August 2013 8:42 PM
              Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity



              John:
               
              I am inclined to agree with your thoughts about Chinese preferences in opposition to authenticity.  
              Every place I have visited in China (10 places currently), one cannot find  the number "4" on any elevator.  During my first visit to The Peoples Republic of China in the latter 90s, I asked a person at one of the airlines I had business with, and was told the number 4 is "Si" in Chinese, and is pronounced very closely to their word for death or to die.   A bit like superstitious folks and the number "13" in western cultures. 
               
              The Chinese have an obsession with youth and "new" things, rather than old, used and death / spiritual relics or the representation thereof.  This is in stark contrast to traditional and conservative African generations that revere ancestral homage, death and spirits as manifested in; anthropomorphic and zoomorphic inventions worshipped via libations and power objects to house deities and spirits as nkisi / minkisi and so on.  
               
               
              There is a notion that all westerners are compelled and adore old, used things--- which according to most Asian-centered cultures seems to be taboo or a turn-off, as the idea that an object has been tainted in an undesirable way by another person's soul.  My wife is from a nomadic Turkic tribe, and I can tell you as an enthusiast of certain Anatolian and Central Asian artifacts, this also holds true, but there are always cultural out-casts and ones that do not think as the common demagogue in all societies.
               
               
               
              Anyway, the info and observations you expressed are true and revealing.  This will certainly have an effect on what interests their artistic fancy. 
               
              And I also agree with William Klebous about eBay.  I did not think about it that way, but it is vey much like the largest and most prolific seller of African arts.  In fact, many members of this forum are selling on the eBay forum and have good items.   When something has a positive monetary effect, it will always bring an element of opportunistic and unsavory types, and this will always be the case in life.  As you know, people are opportunistic, some more than others.  
               
              I would tend to support and agree with anyone making the assessment that greed will eventually over-shadow and diminish cultural (esoteric) knowledge... Herbert (Skip) Cole mentioned this as well as others.  This is the dilemma we find in African arts.  African cultures have evolved, and is changing.  The youth do not have the interest to live as their ancestors did 3 or 4 generations (and I do not blame them).  No culture or national group wants their youth to struggle or suffer, and this holds particularly true in developing and Third World countries.  
               
               
              Ed   
               

              From: "Monroe, John W [HIST]" <jmonroe@...>
              To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
              Sent: Sunday, August 4, 2013 10:14 PM
              Subject: RE: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity
               
              Chinese art is an interesting parallel!  I wonder if we'll find the equation of value similarly flipped if African collectors ever begin to move the market in the way Chinese collectors have.  I do wonder if it's less a question of "authenticity" than one of cultural value: the new Chinese collectors simply *like* different things than Western collectors have generally liked.  A friend of mine who's a collector of Asian art, for instance, once told me that Chinese collectors really don't want pieces that have been buried in tombs -- they find the association with death unpleasant.  Tang dynasty horses, I think he said, were a particularly clear example: they used to be a lot more expensive than they are now. Also, as for Ebay, I think William's totally right.  It's a wonderfully transparent, if sometimes deceptive, market.  It's surprising how many times I've seen something I remember from an Ebay listing crop up at a Tribal Art Week or "real" gallery.  The key is spotting the object that can be convincingly re-branded, which takes a knack.  Of the three William listed, by the way, I've got to say I think 1 could make the jump (especially if well-mounted), possibly 2, but not 3.   John Monroe
              From: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com [African_Arts@yahoogroups.com] on behalf of William Klebous [klebous@...]
              Sent: Sunday, August 04, 2013 10:12 PM
              To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
              Subject: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity

               

              I would like to support the notion that an over-emphasis on "authenticity" is exactly what has damaged the African Art market so badly. In almost every other "indiginous" art market, there is a sort of rough balance between age, beauty, authenticity, and rarity which altogether determine an object's value through genuine market action amongst a large base of collectors. A good example of these market forces in action has been the recent surge in prices for impressive 19th century examples of Asian Art, mostly due to the influx of new money from China. 19th century Asian Art had been somewhat scorned by experts for reasons that will sound familiar: Too much Western influence. Not authentic enough. But a large base of new collectors has righted this market distortion, this over-emphasis on authenticity. Without a large new base of African Art collectors, which I do not currently see on the horizon, the distortions we see in the African Art market will continue. In the meantime, don't be too condemning of the sort of rigged game we currently see at the top end of the market. If they were having no success in manipulating upwards the prices of these top-end objects, the true market for African Art would be even lower. Perhaps much lower. In my opinion the largest and therefore most true market for African Art currently is Ebay. This particular market also, in my opinion, does a better job of balancing out age, beauty, authenticity, and rarity than any better-vetted venue I know of. So, as an experiment, I searched for Ebay objects sold at auction recently with a non-trivial amount of bids and without significant provenance. Here for your consideration are three of the most highly valued lots, only one of which may be sufficiently "authentic" for many of you. But personally, I think the Ebay market did a pretty good job in establishing something like true market value. (FYI, I have no connection whatsoever with any of these objects or sellers. And myself, currently I wouldn't have paid this much for any of the three lots, mostly because I've been more interested in Asian Art the last five or so years, only picking up a few absolute "steals" in African Art during this period.) Teke magical figure $1325 Ebay#400478731307 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/A-Fine-TEKE-magical-figure-Fetiche-Kongo-Fetischfigur-brown-patina-ochre-pigment-/00/s/NTk5WDYwOA==/z/4vUAAMXQY8JRgWDN/$(KGrHqZHJEUFE2I4LZQcBRgWDNY5Qg~~60_3.JPG Fon fetsih figure $990 Ebay#181143448960 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/EWE-FON-FETISH-FIGURE-/00/s/MTYwMFgxMjAw/z/3OsAAOxycERRmP05/$(KGrHqV,!qMFGBdUgLn9BRmP04v2DQ~~60_57.JPG Baule spirit couple $543 Ebay#370829424980 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/Superb-African-Art-BAULE-Fertility-Spirit-Couple-Figure-Collectible-/00/s/MTYwMFgxMjAw/$(KGrHqF,!oME-9lSRgEsBP2+49i-O!~~60_57.JPG  







              --
              Currently  in Israel:
               
              In Israel:
              Emeritus, Dept of Psychology
              University of Haifa
              Haifa 31905
              Tel: 077-7825306
              Cell: 050-7332323
               
              In the US:
              1742 Grant Ave
              East Meadow, NY 11554
              Tel.: 516-750-5335
              Cell: 646-894-4904
               

            • Ed Jones
              Richard:   You have expressed many valid points.  Many of them, I certainly agree.  I am opposed to what can be perceived as tighter regulation or
              Message 7 of 25 , Aug 6, 2013
              • 0 Attachment
                Richard:
                 
                You have expressed many valid points.  Many of them, I certainly agree. 
                I am opposed to what can be perceived as "tighter regulation" or controls, and believe (maybe) we can all do with less regulation / legislation systems.  After-all, no none can successfully regulate standards of morality, and homogenized thinking for all. 
                It simply does not work, even among the great monotheistic religious groups.
                 
                On the other hand, the "power" and testimony (of minorities) in any group that are apt to independent thinking --- not programmed as common demagogues lies in; critical knowledge, a bit credulous, personal assimilation, and practical understanding of what-ever empirical reality one may hail from.  Are we really apt to apply this reasoning?  In reality... well, I think it is really something else. 
                 
                If this were happening, would we really continue to beat the drum of "authenticity", etc.?  Would folks eventually conceded to being ripped off, cheated or fleeced by high-dollar charlatans presenting wonderful illusions of temptation?  LOL...
                Actually, one can only be tempted by their own desires, and blinded by their own lust / greed.  But it is easier to accuse and point the finger, and I am not at all inferring that is what you are doing.  I don't think that one moment, I am making a general statement.. 
                 
                Meanwhile, the word keeps spinning and turning.  The cycle of life, death, suffering, pleasure, abundance and lack, and particularly, ignorance and wisdom continues.  Through it all (somehow), we can all learn the art of query.  Nothing wrong with any it "IF" we are informed, right? And that implies a rather unrealistic / idealistic "if"...
                 
                Ed
                 
                From: rschust <richschust@...>
                To: African Arts Group <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                Sent: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 8:45 AM
                Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity
                 
                This discussion of the market for Asian arts leads me to add a brief postscript to my comments on the unfortunate link between use of "real" and "authentic" to justify the Sotheby model of exorbitant prices for African art.
                 
                Some of you have suggested that the Sotheby/prestigious-gallery model helps the market because it creates a high ceiling that lifts up the whole market. But you then ignore the negative effect on the market for African carvings from classifying anything else as "not real" (Lou Wells to me) or "not authentic." (Again, Lou Wells to me: "One test of authenticity would be simply to ask whether Sotheby’s or Christie’s would offer the piece.")
                 
                The result of this elitism  is bound to be that our purchases of more recent carvings, despite their authenticity in terms of origin and provenance (from where they originate, not what collection they came from) is a fool's paradise of buying carvings that are, in effect, "not real." We are simply wasting our money and becoming fools as well.by buying items that are judged as inauthentic and "not real" despite the sellers' claims of "old," used, etc. I believe this is  one of the main reason why the demand for African carvings is not greater. A lot of potential new collectors are wary of being fooled and duped unless they restrict their purchases to truly inexpensive, mass-produced carvings whose sole virtue is that they may be attractive. Or remind you of your African safari holiday..
                 
                This is also why the field would gain - along with the value of our collections - if we could show by invoice that our carvings were purchased from dealers who have earned certification as handling only authentic carvings, whether or not these are the Sotheby or the "common collector" kind. This is why I suggested that an ad hoc committee of knowledgeable people - many of whom who participate in this forum - should be created to provide this vetting.
                 
                My experience with a few dealers in the US and Europe is that such dealers exist - many selling via eBay - who genuinely endeavor to handle only authentic items. If they were officially credited with doing so, we would all be in a better place, as would the market overall.
                On Tue, Aug 6, 2013 at 11:25 AM, William Klebous <klebous@...> wrote:
                 
                It's true that this new class of Chinese collectors seems to have something of an aversion to grave goods, but that only explains why prices have not risen on these items, not why they have fallen, despite continuing interest from Western collectors. Prices have fallen because of a surge in supply, approved by the Chinese government, due to systematic excavation of ancient tombs and, except for the premier objects which go to Chinese museums, the marketing of "average" items to dealers and auction houses in the West in exchange for highly desirable dollars and euros. Its not that large tri-color Tang dynasty tomb horses are any less beautiful than they were twenty years ago, its just that they're a lot more common than we used to think. On the other hand, if you look at something like antique Buddhist bronzes, where the supply is essentially steady, but collector interest has soared, suddenly objects of secondary and tertiary and even lower quality easily find willing buyers, and really its just an all-around wonderful thing. The stranglehold of a few dealers and auction houses gets broken, or at least relaxed, and long-time collectors, perhaps nearing retirement age, get to see a decent return on their investment. So, getting back on topic, that's the main point I think. That only a surge of new interest in African Art can possibly cure the deep market ills that we have been discussing. Otherwise it is quite natural in the face of limited demand for any market to become highly controlled and exclusive and manipulated as its top dealers seek to survive lean times. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
                From: Ed Jones <bucit@...>
                To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                Sent: Monday, 5 August 2013 8:42 PM
                Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity
                John:
                 
                I am inclined to agree with your thoughts about Chinese preferences in opposition to authenticity.  
                Every place I have visited in China (10 places currently), one cannot find  the number "4" on any elevator.  During my first visit to The Peoples Republic of China in the latter 90s, I asked a person at one of the airlines I had business with, and was told the number 4 is "Si" in Chinese, and is pronounced very closely to their word for death or to die.   A bit like superstitious folks and the number "13" in western cultures. 
                 
                The Chinese have an obsession with youth and "new" things, rather than old, used and death / spiritual relics or the representation thereof.  This is in stark contrast to traditional and conservative African generations that revere ancestral homage, death and spirits as manifested in; anthropomorphic and zoomorphic inventions worshipped via libations and power objects to house deities and spirits as nkisi / minkisi and so on.  
                 
                 
                There is a notion that all westerners are compelled and adore old, used things--- which according to most Asian-centered cultures seems to be taboo or a turn-off, as the idea that an object has been tainted in an undesirable way by another person's soul.  My wife is from a nomadic Turkic tribe, and I can tell you as an enthusiast of certain Anatolian and Central Asian artifacts, this also holds true, but there are always cultural out-casts and ones that do not think as the common demagogue in all societies.
                 
                 
                 
                Anyway, the info and observations you expressed are true and revealing.  This will certainly have an effect on what interests their artistic fancy. 
                 
                And I also agree with William Klebous about eBay.  I did not think about it that way, but it is vey much like the largest and most prolific seller of African arts.  In fact, many members of this forum are selling on the eBay forum and have good items.   When something has a positive monetary effect, it will always bring an element of opportunistic and unsavory types, and this will always be the case in life.  As you know, people are opportunistic, some more than others.  
                 
                I would tend to support and agree with anyone making the assessment that greed will eventually over-shadow and diminish cultural (esoteric) knowledge... Herbert (Skip) Cole mentioned this as well as others.  This is the dilemma we find in African arts.  African cultures have evolved, and is changing.  The youth do not have the interest to live as their ancestors did 3 or 4 generations (and I do not blame them).  No culture or national group wants their youth to struggle or suffer, and this holds particularly true in developing and Third World countries.  
                 
                 
                Ed   
                 

                From: "Monroe, John W [HIST]" <jmonroe@...>
                To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                Sent: Sunday, August 4, 2013 10:14 PM
                Subject: RE: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity
                 
                Chinese art is an interesting parallel!  I wonder if we'll find the equation of value similarly flipped if African collectors ever begin to move the market in the way Chinese collectors have.  I do wonder if it's less a question of "authenticity" than one of cultural value: the new Chinese collectors simply *like* different things than Western collectors have generally liked.  A friend of mine who's a collector of Asian art, for instance, once told me that Chinese collectors really don't want pieces that have been buried in tombs -- they find the association with death unpleasant.  Tang dynasty horses, I think he said, were a particularly clear example: they used to be a lot more expensive than they are now. Also, as for Ebay, I think William's totally right.  It's a wonderfully transparent, if sometimes deceptive, market.  It's surprising how many times I've seen something I remember from an Ebay listing crop up at a Tribal Art Week or "real" gallery.  The key is spotting the object that can be convincingly re-branded, which takes a knack.  Of the three William listed, by the way, I've got to say I think 1 could make the jump (especially if well-mounted), possibly 2, but not 3.   John Monroe
                From: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com [African_Arts@yahoogroups.com] on behalf of William Klebous [klebous@...]
                Sent: Sunday, August 04, 2013 10:12 PM
                To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
                Subject: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity

                 

                I would like to support the notion that an over-emphasis on "authenticity" is exactly what has damaged the African Art market so badly. In almost every other "indiginous" art market, there is a sort of rough balance between age, beauty, authenticity, and rarity which altogether determine an object's value through genuine market action amongst a large base of collectors. A good example of these market forces in action has been the recent surge in prices for impressive 19th century examples of Asian Art, mostly due to the influx of new money from China. 19th century Asian Art had been somewhat scorned by experts for reasons that will sound familiar: Too much Western influence. Not authentic enough. But a large base of new collectors has righted this market distortion, this over-emphasis on authenticity. Without a large new base of African Art collectors, which I do not currently see on the horizon, the distortions we see in the African Art market will continue. In the meantime, don't be too condemning of the sort of rigged game we currently see at the top end of the market. If they were having no success in manipulating upwards the prices of these top-end objects, the true market for African Art would be even lower. Perhaps much lower. In my opinion the largest and therefore most true market for African Art currently is Ebay. This particular market also, in my opinion, does a better job of balancing out age, beauty, authenticity, and rarity than any better-vetted venue I know of. So, as an experiment, I searched for Ebay objects sold at auction recently with a non-trivial amount of bids and without significant provenance. Here for your consideration are three of the most highly valued lots, only one of which may be sufficiently "authentic" for many of you. But personally, I think the Ebay market did a pretty good job in establishing something like true market value. (FYI, I have no connection whatsoever with any of these objects or sellers. And myself, currently I wouldn't have paid this much for any of the three lots, mostly because I've been more interested in Asian Art the last five or so years, only picking up a few absolute "steals" in African Art during this period.) Teke magical figure $1325 Ebay#400478731307 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/A-Fine-TEKE-magical-figure-Fetiche-Kongo-Fetischfigur-brown-patina-ochre-pigment-/00/s/NTk5WDYwOA==/z/4vUAAMXQY8JRgWDN/$(KGrHqZHJEUFE2I4LZQcBRgWDNY5Qg~~60_3.JPG Fon fetsih figure $990 Ebay#181143448960 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/EWE-FON-FETISH-FIGURE-/00/s/MTYwMFgxMjAw/z/3OsAAOxycERRmP05/$(KGrHqV,!qMFGBdUgLn9BRmP04v2DQ~~60_57.JPG Baule spirit couple $543 Ebay#370829424980 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/Superb-African-Art-BAULE-Fertility-Spirit-Couple-Figure-Collectible-/00/s/MTYwMFgxMjAw/$(KGrHqF,!oME-9lSRgEsBP2+49i-O!~~60_57.JPG  
                --
                Currently  in Israel:
                 
                In Israel:
                Emeritus, Dept of Psychology
                University of Haifa
                Haifa 31905
                Tel: 077-7825306
                Cell: 050-7332323
                 
                In the US:
                1742 Grant Ave
                East Meadow, NY 11554
                Tel.: 516-750-5335
                Cell: 646-894-4904
                 
              • William Klebous
                Respectfully, Rich, it seems to me that your argument is essentially it is bad that only 10 dealers control the market for authentic African art, but it
                Message 8 of 25 , Aug 6, 2013
                • 0 Attachment
                  Respectfully, Rich, it seems to me that your argument is essentially "it is bad that only 10 dealers control the market
                  for 'authentic' African art, but it would be good if 20 dealers did".

                  The Asian art market is swimming in fakes, but it is a healthy market nonetheless, because of DEMAND. Competition
                  amongst expert collectors has driven prices way up for even non-provenanced non-expertly-vetted pieces.

                  Here is the true problem:  When an OBVIOUSLY authentic piece of antique or semi-antique African art comes up for bid on
                  Ebay, without reserve or provenance, often it goes for just a song. I can assure you that when an OBVIOUSLY authentic
                  piece of antique Asian art appears on Ebay, without reserve or provenance, it does not go for just a song. It goes for
                  good money.

                  We don't suffer from a lack of experts. We suffer from a lack of enthusiasts, with fat wallets.



                  From: rschust <richschust@...>
                  To: African Arts Group <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                  Sent: Wednesday, 7 August 2013 1:45 AM
                  Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity



                  This discussion of the market for Asian arts leads me to add a brief postscript to my comments on the unfortunate link between use of "real" and "authentic" to justify the Sotheby model of exorbitant prices for African art.
                   
                  Some of you have suggested that the Sotheby/prestigious-gallery model helps the market because it creates a high ceiling that lifts up the whole market. But you then ignore the negative effect on the market for African carvings from classifying anything else as "not real" (Lou Wells to me) or "not authentic." (Again, Lou Wells to me: "One test of authenticity would be simply to ask whether Sotheby’s or Christie’s would offer the piece.")
                   
                  The result of this elitism  is bound to be that our purchases of more recent carvings, despite their authenticity in terms of origin and provenance (from where they originate, not what collection they came from) is a fool's paradise of buying carvings that are, in effect, "not real." We are simply wasting our money and becoming fools as well.by buying items that are judged as inauthentic and "not real" despite the sellers' claims of "old," used, etc. I believe this is  one of the main reason why the demand for African carvings is not greater. A lot of potential new collectors are wary of being fooled and duped unless they restrict their purchases to truly inexpensive, mass-produced carvings whose sole virtue is that they may be attractive. Or remind you of your African safari holiday..
                   
                  This is also why the field would gain - along with the value of our collections - if we could show by invoice that our carvings were purchased from dealers who have earned certification as handling only authentic carvings, whether or not these are the Sotheby or the "common collector" kind. This is why I suggested that an ad hoc committee of knowledgeable people - many of whom who participate in this forum - should be created to provide this vetting.
                   
                  My experience with a few dealers in the US and Europe is that such dealers exist - many selling via eBay - who genuinely endeavor to handle only authentic items. If they were officially credited with doing so, we would all be in a better place, as would the market overall.


                  On Tue, Aug 6, 2013 at 11:25 AM, William Klebous <klebous@...> wrote:
                   
                  It's true that this new class of Chinese collectors seems to have something of an aversion to grave goods,
                  but that only explains why prices have not risen on these items, not why they have fallen, despite continuing
                  interest from Western collectors. Prices have fallen because of a surge in supply, approved by the Chinese
                  government, due to systematic excavation of ancient tombs and, except for the premier objects which go
                  to Chinese museums, the marketing of "average" items to dealers and auction houses in the West in exchange
                  for highly desirable dollars and euros. Its not that large tri-color Tang dynasty tomb horses are any less beautiful
                  than they were twenty years ago, its just that they're a lot more common than we used to think.

                  On the other hand, if you look at something like antique Buddhist bronzes, where the supply is essentially
                  steady, but collector interest has soared, suddenly objects of secondary and tertiary and even lower quality
                  easily find willing buyers, and really its just an all-around wonderful thing. The stranglehold of a few dealers
                  and auction houses gets broken, or at least relaxed, and long-time collectors, perhaps nearing retirement
                  age, get to see a decent return on their investment.

                  So, getting back on topic, that's the main point I think. That only a surge of new interest in African Art can
                  possibly cure the deep market ills that we have been discussing. Otherwise it is quite natural in the face of
                  limited demand for any market to become highly controlled and exclusive and manipulated as its top dealers
                  seek to survive lean times.

                  _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
                  From: Ed Jones <bucit@...>
                  To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                  Sent: Monday, 5 August 2013 8:42 PM
                  Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity



                  John:
                   
                  I am inclined to agree with your thoughts about Chinese preferences in opposition to authenticity.  
                  Every place I have visited in China (10 places currently), one cannot find  the number "4" on any elevator.  During my first visit to The Peoples Republic of China in the latter 90s, I asked a person at one of the airlines I had business with, and was told the number 4 is "Si" in Chinese, and is pronounced very closely to their word for death or to die.   A bit like superstitious folks and the number "13" in western cultures. 
                   
                  The Chinese have an obsession with youth and "new" things, rather than old, used and death / spiritual relics or the representation thereof.  This is in stark contrast to traditional and conservative African generations that revere ancestral homage, death and spirits as manifested in; anthropomorphic and zoomorphic inventions worshipped via libations and power objects to house deities and spirits as nkisi / minkisi and so on.  
                   
                   
                  There is a notion that all westerners are compelled and adore old, used things--- which according to most Asian-centered cultures seems to be taboo or a turn-off, as the idea that an object has been tainted in an undesirable way by another person's soul.  My wife is from a nomadic Turkic tribe, and I can tell you as an enthusiast of certain Anatolian and Central Asian artifacts, this also holds true, but there are always cultural out-casts and ones that do not think as the common demagogue in all societies.
                   
                   
                   
                  Anyway, the info and observations you expressed are true and revealing.  This will certainly have an effect on what interests their artistic fancy. 
                   
                  And I also agree with William Klebous about eBay.  I did not think about it that way, but it is vey much like the largest and most prolific seller of African arts.  In fact, many members of this forum are selling on the eBay forum and have good items.   When something has a positive monetary effect, it will always bring an element of opportunistic and unsavory types, and this will always be the case in life.  As you know, people are opportunistic, some more than others.  
                   
                  I would tend to support and agree with anyone making the assessment that greed will eventually over-shadow and diminish cultural (esoteric) knowledge... Herbert (Skip) Cole mentioned this as well as others.  This is the dilemma we find in African arts.  African cultures have evolved, and is changing.  The youth do not have the interest to live as their ancestors did 3 or 4 generations (and I do not blame them).  No culture or national group wants their youth to struggle or suffer, and this holds particularly true in developing and Third World countries.  
                   
                   
                  Ed   
                   

                  From: "Monroe, John W [HIST]" <jmonroe@...>
                  To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                  Sent: Sunday, August 4, 2013 10:14 PM
                  Subject: RE: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity
                   
                  Chinese art is an interesting parallel!  I wonder if we'll find the equation of value similarly flipped if African collectors ever begin to move the market in the way Chinese collectors have.  I do wonder if it's less a question of "authenticity" than one of cultural value: the new Chinese collectors simply *like* different things than Western collectors have generally liked.  A friend of mine who's a collector of Asian art, for instance, once told me that Chinese collectors really don't want pieces that have been buried in tombs -- they find the association with death unpleasant.  Tang dynasty horses, I think he said, were a particularly clear example: they used to be a lot more expensive than they are now. Also, as for Ebay, I think William's totally right.  It's a wonderfully transparent, if sometimes deceptive, market.  It's surprising how many times I've seen something I remember from an Ebay listing crop up at a Tribal Art Week or "real" gallery.  The key is spotting the object that can be convincingly re-branded, which takes a knack.  Of the three William listed, by the way, I've got to say I think 1 could make the jump (especially if well-mounted), possibly 2, but not 3.   John Monroe
                  From: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com [African_Arts@yahoogroups.com] on behalf of William Klebous [klebous@...]
                  Sent: Sunday, August 04, 2013 10:12 PM
                  To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
                  Subject: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity

                   

                  I would like to support the notion that an over-emphasis on "authenticity" is exactly what has damaged the African Art market so badly. In almost every other "indiginous" art market, there is a sort of rough balance between age, beauty, authenticity, and rarity which altogether determine an object's value through genuine market action amongst a large base of collectors. A good example of these market forces in action has been the recent surge in prices for impressive 19th century examples of Asian Art, mostly due to the influx of new money from China. 19th century Asian Art had been somewhat scorned by experts for reasons that will sound familiar: Too much Western influence. Not authentic enough. But a large base of new collectors has righted this market distortion, this over-emphasis on authenticity. Without a large new base of African Art collectors, which I do not currently see on the horizon, the distortions we see in the African Art market will continue. In the meantime, don't be too condemning of the sort of rigged game we currently see at the top end of the market. If they were having no success in manipulating upwards the prices of these top-end objects, the true market for African Art would be even lower. Perhaps much lower. In my opinion the largest and therefore most true market for African Art currently is Ebay. This particular market also, in my opinion, does a better job of balancing out age, beauty, authenticity, and rarity than any better-vetted venue I know of. So, as an experiment, I searched for Ebay objects sold at auction recently with a non-trivial amount of bids and without significant provenance. Here for your consideration are three of the most highly valued lots, only one of which may be sufficiently "authentic" for many of you. But personally, I think the Ebay market did a pretty good job in establishing something like true market value. (FYI, I have no connection whatsoever with any of these objects or sellers. And myself, currently I wouldn't have paid this much for any of the three lots, mostly because I've been more interested in Asian Art the last five or so years, only picking up a few absolute "steals" in African Art during this period.) Teke magical figure $1325 Ebay#400478731307 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/A-Fine-TEKE-magical-figure-Fetiche-Kongo-Fetischfigur-brown-patina-ochre-pigment-/00/s/NTk5WDYwOA==/z/4vUAAMXQY8JRgWDN/$(KGrHqZHJEUFE2I4LZQcBRgWDNY5Qg~~60_3.JPG Fon fetsih figure $990 Ebay#181143448960 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/EWE-FON-FETISH-FIGURE-/00/s/MTYwMFgxMjAw/z/3OsAAOxycERRmP05/$(KGrHqV,!qMFGBdUgLn9BRmP04v2DQ~~60_57.JPG Baule spirit couple $543 Ebay#370829424980 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/Superb-African-Art-BAULE-Fertility-Spirit-Couple-Figure-Collectible-/00/s/MTYwMFgxMjAw/$(KGrHqF,!oME-9lSRgEsBP2+49i-O!~~60_57.JPG  







                  --
                  Currently  in Israel:
                   
                  In Israel:
                  Emeritus, Dept of Psychology
                  University of Haifa
                  Haifa 31905
                  Tel: 077-7825306
                  Cell: 050-7332323
                   
                  In the US:
                  1742 Grant Ave
                  East Meadow, NY 11554
                  Tel.: 516-750-5335
                  Cell: 646-894-4904
                   




                • Ed Jones
                   William: Could it be [self] trust or confidence more than not having a fat wallet?  Perhaps, when one asserts the question and answer game for discernment,
                  Message 9 of 25 , Aug 6, 2013
                  • 0 Attachment

                     William:
                     
                    Could it be [self] trust or confidence more than not having a fat wallet? 
                     
                    Perhaps, when one asserts the question and answer game for discernment, it is not too difficult to perceive that folks really do not know, and do not want to get taken.
                     
                    For me, mistakes only expose you for the moment, and it is not near as painful as carrying the burden of on the long-term.  In that manner, I am a bit brazen (or foolish to some).  It doesn't matter.  Last count, this forum has well over 900 members, but we certainly do not hear from even 10% on a regular basis... Hmmn.  And, I do not believe that Facebook provides art enthusiasts anything more soluble except "a safer, feel good zone".  My parents used to tell my siblings and I that there is no gain or development with some pain and discomfort. 
                     
                    Even among this forum, there is a "fear" of exposing oneself, and mistakes. particularly with a bad object choice, so "less" is more (safe).  When people feel "safe", they will open up their purse strings.  
                     
                    The money is still out there.
                     
                    Ed
                     
                     
                     
                    From: William Klebous <klebous@...>
                    To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                    Sent: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 2:47 PM
                    Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity
                     
                    Respectfully, Rich, it seems to me that your argument is essentially "it is bad that only 10 dealers control the market for 'authentic' African art, but it would be good if 20 dealers did". The Asian art market is swimming in fakes, but it is a healthy market nonetheless, because of DEMAND. Competition amongst expert collectors has driven prices way up for even non-provenanced non-expertly-vetted pieces. Here is the true problem:  When an OBVIOUSLY authentic piece of antique or semi-antique African art comes up for bid on Ebay, without reserve or provenance, often it goes for just a song. I can assure you that when an OBVIOUSLY authentic piece of antique Asian art appears on Ebay, without reserve or provenance, it does not go for just a song. It goes for good money. We don't suffer from a lack of experts. We suffer from a lack of enthusiasts, with fat wallets.


                    From: rschust <richschust@...>
                    To: African Arts Group <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                    Sent: Wednesday, 7 August 2013 1:45 AM
                    Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity

                    This discussion of the market for Asian arts leads me to add a brief postscript to my comments on the unfortunate link between use of "real" and "authentic" to justify the Sotheby model of exorbitant prices for African art.
                     
                    Some of you have suggested that the Sotheby/prestigious-gallery model helps the market because it creates a high ceiling that lifts up the whole market. But you then ignore the negative effect on the market for African carvings from classifying anything else as "not real" (Lou Wells to me) or "not authentic." (Again, Lou Wells to me: "One test of authenticity would be simply to ask whether Sotheby’s or Christie’s would offer the piece.")
                     
                    The result of this elitism  is bound to be that our purchases of more recent carvings, despite their authenticity in terms of origin and provenance (from where they originate, not what collection they came from) is a fool's paradise of buying carvings that are, in effect, "not real." We are simply wasting our money and becoming fools as well.by buying items that are judged as inauthentic and "not real" despite the sellers' claims of "old," used, etc. I believe this is  one of the main reason why the demand for African carvings is not greater. A lot of potential new collectors are wary of being fooled and duped unless they restrict their purchases to truly inexpensive, mass-produced carvings whose sole virtue is that they may be attractive. Or remind you of your African safari holiday..
                     
                    This is also why the field would gain - along with the value of our collections - if we could show by invoice that our carvings were purchased from dealers who have earned certification as handling only authentic carvings, whether or not these are the Sotheby or the "common collector" kind. This is why I suggested that an ad hoc committee of knowledgeable people - many of whom who participate in this forum - should be created to provide this vetting.
                     
                    My experience with a few dealers in the US and Europe is that such dealers exist - many selling via eBay - who genuinely endeavor to handle only authentic items. If they were officially credited with doing so, we would all be in a better place, as would the market overall.
                    On Tue, Aug 6, 2013 at 11:25 AM, William Klebous <klebous@...> wrote:
                     
                    It's true that this new class of Chinese collectors seems to have something of an aversion to grave goods, but that only explains why prices have not risen on these items, not why they have fallen, despite continuing interest from Western collectors. Prices have fallen because of a surge in supply, approved by the Chinese government, due to systematic excavation of ancient tombs and, except for the premier objects which go to Chinese museums, the marketing of "average" items to dealers and auction houses in the West in exchange for highly desirable dollars and euros. Its not that large tri-color Tang dynasty tomb horses are any less beautiful than they were twenty years ago, its just that they're a lot more common than we used to think. On the other hand, if you look at something like antique Buddhist bronzes, where the supply is essentially steady, but collector interest has soared, suddenly objects of secondary and tertiary and even lower quality easily find willing buyers, and really its just an all-around wonderful thing. The stranglehold of a few dealers and auction houses gets broken, or at least relaxed, and long-time collectors, perhaps nearing retirement age, get to see a decent return on their investment. So, getting back on topic, that's the main point I think. That only a surge of new interest in African Art can possibly cure the deep market ills that we have been discussing. Otherwise it is quite natural in the face of limited demand for any market to become highly controlled and exclusive and manipulated as its top dealers seek to survive lean times. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
                    From: Ed Jones <bucit@...>
                    To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                    Sent: Monday, 5 August 2013 8:42 PM
                    Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity
                    John:
                     
                    I am inclined to agree with your thoughts about Chinese preferences in opposition to authenticity.  
                    Every place I have visited in China (10 places currently), one cannot find  the number "4" on any elevator.  During my first visit to The Peoples Republic of China in the latter 90s, I asked a person at one of the airlines I had business with, and was told the number 4 is "Si" in Chinese, and is pronounced very closely to their word for death or to die.   A bit like superstitious folks and the number "13" in western cultures. 
                     
                    The Chinese have an obsession with youth and "new" things, rather than old, used and death / spiritual relics or the representation thereof.  This is in stark contrast to traditional and conservative African generations that revere ancestral homage, death and spirits as manifested in; anthropomorphic and zoomorphic inventions worshipped via libations and power objects to house deities and spirits as nkisi / minkisi and so on.  
                     
                     
                    There is a notion that all westerners are compelled and adore old, used things--- which according to most Asian-centered cultures seems to be taboo or a turn-off, as the idea that an object has been tainted in an undesirable way by another person's soul.  My wife is from a nomadic Turkic tribe, and I can tell you as an enthusiast of certain Anatolian and Central Asian artifacts, this also holds true, but there are always cultural out-casts and ones that do not think as the common demagogue in all societies.
                     
                     
                     
                    Anyway, the info and observations you expressed are true and revealing.  This will certainly have an effect on what interests their artistic fancy. 
                     
                    And I also agree with William Klebous about eBay.  I did not think about it that way, but it is vey much like the largest and most prolific seller of African arts.  In fact, many members of this forum are selling on the eBay forum and have good items.   When something has a positive monetary effect, it will always bring an element of opportunistic and unsavory types, and this will always be the case in life.  As you know, people are opportunistic, some more than others.  
                     
                    I would tend to support and agree with anyone making the assessment that greed will eventually over-shadow and diminish cultural (esoteric) knowledge... Herbert (Skip) Cole mentioned this as well as others.  This is the dilemma we find in African arts.  African cultures have evolved, and is changing.  The youth do not have the interest to live as their ancestors did 3 or 4 generations (and I do not blame them).  No culture or national group wants their youth to struggle or suffer, and this holds particularly true in developing and Third World countries.  
                     
                     
                    Ed   
                     

                    From: "Monroe, John W [HIST]" <jmonroe@...>
                    To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                    Sent: Sunday, August 4, 2013 10:14 PM
                    Subject: RE: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity
                     
                    Chinese art is an interesting parallel!  I wonder if we'll find the equation of value similarly flipped if African collectors ever begin to move the market in the way Chinese collectors have.  I do wonder if it's less a question of "authenticity" than one of cultural value: the new Chinese collectors simply *like* different things than Western collectors have generally liked.  A friend of mine who's a collector of Asian art, for instance, once told me that Chinese collectors really don't want pieces that have been buried in tombs -- they find the association with death unpleasant.  Tang dynasty horses, I think he said, were a particularly clear example: they used to be a lot more expensive than they are now. Also, as for Ebay, I think William's totally right.  It's a wonderfully transparent, if sometimes deceptive, market.  It's surprising how many times I've seen something I remember from an Ebay listing crop up at a Tribal Art Week or "real" gallery.  The key is spotting the object that can be convincingly re-branded, which takes a knack.  Of the three William listed, by the way, I've got to say I think 1 could make the jump (especially if well-mounted), possibly 2, but not 3.   John Monroe
                    From: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com [African_Arts@yahoogroups.com] on behalf of William Klebous [klebous@...]
                    Sent: Sunday, August 04, 2013 10:12 PM
                    To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
                    Subject: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity

                     

                    I would like to support the notion that an over-emphasis on "authenticity" is exactly what has damaged the African Art market so badly. In almost every other "indiginous" art market, there is a sort of rough balance between age, beauty, authenticity, and rarity which altogether determine an object's value through genuine market action amongst a large base of collectors. A good example of these market forces in action has been the recent surge in prices for impressive 19th century examples of Asian Art, mostly due to the influx of new money from China. 19th century Asian Art had been somewhat scorned by experts for reasons that will sound familiar: Too much Western influence. Not authentic enough. But a large base of new collectors has righted this market distortion, this over-emphasis on authenticity. Without a large new base of African Art collectors, which I do not currently see on the horizon, the distortions we see in the African Art market will continue. In the meantime, don't be too condemning of the sort of rigged game we currently see at the top end of the market. If they were having no success in manipulating upwards the prices of these top-end objects, the true market for African Art would be even lower. Perhaps much lower. In my opinion the largest and therefore most true market for African Art currently is Ebay. This particular market also, in my opinion, does a better job of balancing out age, beauty, authenticity, and rarity than any better-vetted venue I know of. So, as an experiment, I searched for Ebay objects sold at auction recently with a non-trivial amount of bids and without significant provenance. Here for your consideration are three of the most highly valued lots, only one of which may be sufficiently "authentic" for many of you. But personally, I think the Ebay market did a pretty good job in establishing something like true market value. (FYI, I have no connection whatsoever with any of these objects or sellers. And myself, currently I wouldn't have paid this much for any of the three lots, mostly because I've been more interested in Asian Art the last five or so years, only picking up a few absolute "steals" in African Art during this period.) Teke magical figure $1325 Ebay#400478731307 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/A-Fine-TEKE-magical-figure-Fetiche-Kongo-Fetischfigur-brown-patina-ochre-pigment-/00/s/NTk5WDYwOA==/z/4vUAAMXQY8JRgWDN/$(KGrHqZHJEUFE2I4LZQcBRgWDNY5Qg~~60_3.JPG Fon fetsih figure $990 Ebay#181143448960 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/EWE-FON-FETISH-FIGURE-/00/s/MTYwMFgxMjAw/z/3OsAAOxycERRmP05/$(KGrHqV,!qMFGBdUgLn9BRmP04v2DQ~~60_57.JPG Baule spirit couple $543 Ebay#370829424980 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/Superb-African-Art-BAULE-Fertility-Spirit-Couple-Figure-Collectible-/00/s/MTYwMFgxMjAw/$(KGrHqF,!oME-9lSRgEsBP2+49i-O!~~60_57.JPG  
                    --
                    Currently  in Israel:
                     
                    In Israel:
                    Emeritus, Dept of Psychology
                    University of Haifa
                    Haifa 31905
                    Tel: 077-7825306
                    Cell: 050-7332323
                     
                    In the US:
                    1742 Grant Ave
                    East Meadow, NY 11554
                    Tel.: 516-750-5335
                    Cell: 646-894-4904
                     
                  • Ann Porteus
                    Hello again, I meant to add to my last post a big thank you all for your considered and disciplined posts to this subject. It has been a great few days of
                    Message 10 of 25 , Aug 6, 2013
                    • 0 Attachment
                      Hello again,
                      I meant to add to my last post a big thank you all for your considered and disciplined posts to this subject.
                      It has been a great few days of reading on the African arts forum with solid intelligent debate and a constructive  conversation.
                      I for one have truly enjoyed reading these posts and appreciated your input. 
                      I hope that it can continue in this manner.
                      Thank you all,
                      ann

                      Ann Porteus
                      Sidewalk Tribal Gallery
                      19-21 Castray Esplanade,
                      Battery Point 7004
                      Hobart Tasmania Australia

                      +613 62240331

                      On 07/08/2013, at 7:47 AM, William Klebous <klebous@...> wrote:

                       

                      Respectfully, Rich, it seems to me that your argument is essentially "it is bad that only 10 dealers control the market
                      for 'authentic' African art, but it would be good if 20 dealers did".

                      The Asian art market is swimming in fakes, but it is a healthy market nonetheless, because of DEMAND. Competition
                      amongst expert collectors has driven prices way up for even non-provenanced non-expertly-vetted pieces.

                      Here is the true problem:  When an OBVIOUSLY authentic piece of antique or semi-antique African art comes up for bid on
                      Ebay, without reserve or provenance, often it goes for just a song. I can assure you that when an OBVIOUSLY authentic
                      piece of antique Asian art appears on Ebay, without reserve or provenance, it does not go for just a song. It goes for
                      good money.

                      We don't suffer from a lack of experts. We suffer from a lack of enthusiasts, with fat wallets.



                      From: rschust <richschust@...>
                      To: African Arts Group <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                      Sent: Wednesday, 7 August 2013 1:45 AM
                      Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity



                      This discussion of the market for Asian arts leads me to add a brief postscript to my comments on the unfortunate link between use of "real" and "authentic" to justify the Sotheby model of exorbitant prices for African art.
                       
                      Some of you have suggested that the Sotheby/prestigious-gallery model helps the market because it creates a high ceiling that lifts up the whole market. But you then ignore the negative effect on the market for African carvings from classifying anything else as "not real" (Lou Wells to me) or "not authentic." (Again, Lou Wells to me: "One test of authenticity would be simply to ask whether Sotheby’s or Christie’s would offer the piece.")
                       
                      The result of this elitism  is bound to be that our purchases of more recent carvings, despite their authenticity in terms of origin and provenance (from where they originate, not what collection they came from) is a fool's paradise of buying carvings that are, in effect, "not real." We are simply wasting our money and becoming fools as well.by buying items that are judged as inauthentic and "not real" despite the sellers' claims of "old," used, etc. I believe this is  one of the main reason why the demand for African carvings is not greater. A lot of potential new collectors are wary of being fooled and duped unless they restrict their purchases to truly inexpensive, mass-produced carvings whose sole virtue is that they may be attractive. Or remind you of your African safari holiday..
                       
                      This is also why the field would gain - along with the value of our collections - if we could show by invoice that our carvings were purchased from dealers who have earned certification as handling only authentic carvings, whether or not these are the Sotheby or the "common collector" kind. This is why I suggested that an ad hoc committee of knowledgeable people - many of whom who participate in this forum - should be created to provide this vetting.
                       
                      My experience with a few dealers in the US and Europe is that such dealers exist - many selling via eBay - who genuinely endeavor to handle only authentic items. If they were officially credited with doing so, we would all be in a better place, as would the market overall.


                      On Tue, Aug 6, 2013 at 11:25 AM, William Klebous <klebous@...> wrote:
                       
                      It's true that this new class of Chinese collectors seems to have something of an aversion to grave goods,
                      but that only explains why prices have not risen on these items, not why they have fallen, despite continuing
                      interest from Western collectors. Prices have fallen because of a surge in supply, approved by the Chinese
                      government, due to systematic excavation of ancient tombs and, except for the premier objects which go
                      to Chinese museums, the marketing of "average" items to dealers and auction houses in the West in exchange
                      for highly desirable dollars and euros. Its not that large tri-color Tang dynasty tomb horses are any less beautiful
                      than they were twenty years ago, its just that they're a lot more common than we used to think.

                      On the other hand, if you look at something like antique Buddhist bronzes, where the supply is essentially
                      steady, but collector interest has soared, suddenly objects of secondary and tertiary and even lower quality
                      easily find willing buyers, and really its just an all-around wonderful thing. The stranglehold of a few dealers
                      and auction houses gets broken, or at least relaxed, and long-time collectors, perhaps nearing retirement
                      age, get to see a decent return on their investment.

                      So, getting back on topic, that's the main point I think. That only a surge of new interest in African Art can
                      possibly cure the deep market ills that we have been discussing. Otherwise it is quite natural in the face of
                      limited demand for any market to become highly controlled and exclusive and manipulated as its top dealers
                      seek to survive lean times.

                      _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
                      From: Ed Jones <bucit@...>
                      To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                      Sent: Monday, 5 August 2013 8:42 PM
                      Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity



                      John:
                       
                      I am inclined to agree with your thoughts about Chinese preferences in opposition to authenticity.  
                      Every place I have visited in China (10 places currently), one cannot find  the number "4" on any elevator.  During my first visit to The Peoples Republic of China in the latter 90s, I asked a person at one of the airlines I had business with, and was told the number 4 is "Si" in Chinese, and is pronounced very closely to their word for death or to die.   A bit like superstitious folks and the number "13" in western cultures. 
                       
                      The Chinese have an obsession with youth and "new" things, rather than old, used and death / spiritual relics or the representation thereof.  This is in stark contrast to traditional and conservative African generations that revere ancestral homage, death and spirits as manifested in; anthropomorphic and zoomorphic inventions worshipped via libations and power objects to house deities and spirits as nkisi / minkisi and so on.  
                       
                       
                      There is a notion that all westerners are compelled and adore old, used things--- which according to most Asian-centered cultures seems to be taboo or a turn-off, as the idea that an object has been tainted in an undesirable way by another person's soul.  My wife is from a nomadic Turkic tribe, and I can tell you as an enthusiast of certain Anatolian and Central Asian artifacts, this also holds true, but there are always cultural out-casts and ones that do not think as the common demagogue in all societies.
                       
                       
                       
                      Anyway, the info and observations you expressed are true and revealing.  This will certainly have an effect on what interests their artistic fancy. 
                       
                      And I also agree with William Klebous about eBay.  I did not think about it that way, but it is vey much like the largest and most prolific seller of African arts.  In fact, many members of this forum are selling on the eBay forum and have good items.   When something has a positive monetary effect, it will always bring an element of opportunistic and unsavory types, and this will always be the case in life.  As you know, people are opportunistic, some more than others.  
                       
                      I would tend to support and agree with anyone making the assessment that greed will eventually over-shadow and diminish cultural (esoteric) knowledge... Herbert (Skip) Cole mentioned this as well as others.  This is the dilemma we find in African arts.  African cultures have evolved, and is changing.  The youth do not have the interest to live as their ancestors did 3 or 4 generations (and I do not blame them).  No culture or national group wants their youth to struggle or suffer, and this holds particularly true in developing and Third World countries.  
                       
                       
                      Ed   
                       

                      From: "Monroe, John W [HIST]" <jmonroe@...>
                      To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                      Sent: Sunday, August 4, 2013 10:14 PM
                      Subject: RE: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity
                       
                      Chinese art is an interesting parallel!  I wonder if we'll find the equation of value similarly flipped if African collectors ever begin to move the market in the way Chinese collectors have.  I do wonder if it's less a question of "authenticity" than one of cultural value: the new Chinese collectors simply *like* different things than Western collectors have generally liked.  A friend of mine who's a collector of Asian art, for instance, once told me that Chinese collectors really don't want pieces that have been buried in tombs -- they find the association with death unpleasant.  Tang dynasty horses, I think he said, were a particularly clear example: they used to be a lot more expensive than they are now. Also, as for Ebay, I think William's totally right.  It's a wonderfully transparent, if sometimes deceptive, market.  It's surprising how many times I've seen something I remember from an Ebay listing crop up at a Tribal Art Week or "real" gallery.  The key is spotting the object that can be convincingly re-branded, which takes a knack.  Of the three William listed, by the way, I've got to say I think 1 could make the jump (especially if well-mounted), possibly 2, but not 3.   John Monroe
                      From: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com [African_Arts@yahoogroups.com] on behalf of William Klebous [klebous@...]
                      Sent: Sunday, August 04, 2013 10:12 PM
                      To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
                      Subject: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity

                       

                      I would like to support the notion that an over-emphasis on "authenticity" is exactly what has damaged the African Art market so badly. In almost every other "indiginous" art market, there is a sort of rough balance between age, beauty, authenticity, and rarity which altogether determine an object's value through genuine market action amongst a large base of collectors. A good example of these market forces in action has been the recent surge in prices for impressive 19th century examples of Asian Art, mostly due to the influx of new money from China. 19th century Asian Art had been somewhat scorned by experts for reasons that will sound familiar: Too much Western influence. Not authentic enough. But a large base of new collectors has righted this market distortion, this over-emphasis on authenticity. Without a large new base of African Art collectors, which I do not currently see on the horizon, the distortions we see in the African Art market will continue. In the meantime, don't be too condemning of the sort of rigged game we currently see at the top end of the market. If they were having no success in manipulating upwards the prices of these top-end objects, the true market for African Art would be even lower. Perhaps much lower. In my opinion the largest and therefore most true market for African Art currently is Ebay. This particular market also, in my opinion, does a better job of balancing out age, beauty, authenticity, and rarity than any better-vetted venue I know of. So, as an experiment, I searched for Ebay objects sold at auction recently with a non-trivial amount of bids and without significant provenance. Here for your consideration are three of the most highly valued lots, only one of which may be sufficiently "authentic" for many of you. But personally, I think the Ebay market did a pretty good job in establishing something like true market value. (FYI, I have no connection whatsoever with any of these objects or sellers. And myself, currently I wouldn't have paid this much for any of the three lots, mostly because I've been more interested in Asian Art the last five or so years, only picking up a few absolute "steals" in African Art during this period.) Teke magical figure $1325 Ebay#400478731307 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/A-Fine-TEKE-magical-figure-Fetiche-Kongo-Fetischfigur-brown-patina-ochre-pigment-/00/s/NTk5WDYwOA==/z/4vUAAMXQY8JRgWDN/$(KGrHqZHJEUFE2I4LZQcBRgWDNY5Qg~~60_3.JPG Fon fetsih figure $990 Ebay#181143448960 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/EWE-FON-FETISH-FIGURE-/00/s/MTYwMFgxMjAw/z/3OsAAOxycERRmP05/$(KGrHqV,!qMFGBdUgLn9BRmP04v2DQ~~60_57.JPG Baule spirit couple $543 Ebay#370829424980 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/Superb-African-Art-BAULE-Fertility-Spirit-Couple-Figure-Collectible-/00/s/MTYwMFgxMjAw/$(KGrHqF,!oME-9lSRgEsBP2+49i-O!~~60_57.JPG  







                      --
                      Currently  in Israel:
                       
                      In Israel:
                      Emeritus, Dept of Psychology
                      University of Haifa
                      Haifa 31905
                      Tel: 077-7825306
                      Cell: 050-7332323
                       
                      In the US:
                      1742 Grant Ave
                      East Meadow, NY 11554
                      Tel.: 516-750-5335
                      Cell: 646-894-4904
                       






                    • William Klebous
                      Ed, yes, but... 1) Safety is exactly what the major auction houses and major dealers provide, and charge such a premium for. If you want it, pay for it. 2)
                      Message 11 of 25 , Aug 7, 2013
                      • 0 Attachment
                        Ed, yes, but...

                        1) "Safety" is exactly what the major auction houses and major dealers provide, and charge
                        such a premium for. If you want it, pay for it.

                        2) As has been pointed out, a lesser kind of safety is already provided by dozens of ethical
                        mid-range dealers. Generally speaking, under current market conditions, your purchase
                        from these dealers will NOT be respected by the major dealers and major auction houses,
                        but it will provide some support if and when you decide to sell into a less-rigged venue,
                        although even recovering your additional investment, no less making a profit, will likely prove
                        difficult. (Moment of nostalgia: There was a time, not long ago, when many dealers had a
                        standing offer to re-purchase the item they sold you for its original purchase price, so confident
                        were they of a steadily rising market.)

                        3) Or, study hard and gain confidence and compete with these mid-range dealers at out-of-
                        the-way auctions and estate sales. In other words, buy wholesale. Have fun, make mistakes,
                        learn. Think of your mistakes as tuition. Nothing concentrates the mind like gambling your own
                        hard-earned money.


                        From: Ed Jones <bucit@...>
                        To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                        Sent: Wednesday, 7 August 2013 3:11 PM
                        Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity




                         William:
                         
                        Could it be [self] trust or confidence more than not having a fat wallet? 
                         
                        Perhaps, when one asserts the question and answer game for discernment, it is not too difficult to perceive that folks really do not know, and do not want to get taken.
                         
                        For me, mistakes only expose you for the moment, and it is not near as painful as carrying the burden of on the long-term.  In that manner, I am a bit brazen (or foolish to some).  It doesn't matter.  Last count, this forum has well over 900 members, but we certainly do not hear from even 10% on a regular basis... Hmmn.  And, I do not believe that Facebook provides art enthusiasts anything more soluble except "a safer, feel good zone".  My parents used to tell my siblings and I that there is no gain or development with some pain and discomfort. 
                         
                        Even among this forum, there is a "fear" of exposing oneself, and mistakes. particularly with a bad object choice, so "less" is more (safe).  When people feel "safe", they will open up their purse strings.  
                         
                        The money is still out there.
                         
                        Ed
                         
                         
                         
                        From: William Klebous <klebous@...>
                        To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                        Sent: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 2:47 PM
                        Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity
                         
                        Respectfully, Rich, it seems to me that your argument is essentially "it is bad that only 10 dealers control the market for 'authentic' African art, but it would be good if 20 dealers did". The Asian art market is swimming in fakes, but it is a healthy market nonetheless, because of DEMAND. Competition amongst expert collectors has driven prices way up for even non-provenanced non-expertly-vetted pieces. Here is the true problem:  When an OBVIOUSLY authentic piece of antique or semi-antique African art comes up for bid on Ebay, without reserve or provenance, often it goes for just a song. I can assure you that when an OBVIOUSLY authentic piece of antique Asian art appears on Ebay, without reserve or provenance, it does not go for just a song. It goes for good money. We don't suffer from a lack of experts. We suffer from a lack of enthusiasts, with fat wallets.


                        From: rschust <richschust@...>
                        To: African Arts Group <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                        Sent: Wednesday, 7 August 2013 1:45 AM
                        Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity

                        This discussion of the market for Asian arts leads me to add a brief postscript to my comments on the unfortunate link between use of "real" and "authentic" to justify the Sotheby model of exorbitant prices for African art.
                         
                        Some of you have suggested that the Sotheby/prestigious-gallery model helps the market because it creates a high ceiling that lifts up the whole market. But you then ignore the negative effect on the market for African carvings from classifying anything else as "not real" (Lou Wells to me) or "not authentic." (Again, Lou Wells to me: "One test of authenticity would be simply to ask whether Sotheby’s or Christie’s would offer the piece.")
                         
                        The result of this elitism  is bound to be that our purchases of more recent carvings, despite their authenticity in terms of origin and provenance (from where they originate, not what collection they came from) is a fool's paradise of buying carvings that are, in effect, "not real." We are simply wasting our money and becoming fools as well.by buying items that are judged as inauthentic and "not real" despite the sellers' claims of "old," used, etc. I believe this is  one of the main reason why the demand for African carvings is not greater. A lot of potential new collectors are wary of being fooled and duped unless they restrict their purchases to truly inexpensive, mass-produced carvings whose sole virtue is that they may be attractive. Or remind you of your African safari holiday..
                         
                        This is also why the field would gain - along with the value of our collections - if we could show by invoice that our carvings were purchased from dealers who have earned certification as handling only authentic carvings, whether or not these are the Sotheby or the "common collector" kind. This is why I suggested that an ad hoc committee of knowledgeable people - many of whom who participate in this forum - should be created to provide this vetting.
                         
                        My experience with a few dealers in the US and Europe is that such dealers exist - many selling via eBay - who genuinely endeavor to handle only authentic items. If they were officially credited with doing so, we would all be in a better place, as would the market overall.
                        On Tue, Aug 6, 2013 at 11:25 AM, William Klebous <klebous@...> wrote:
                         
                        It's true that this new class of Chinese collectors seems to have something of an aversion to grave goods, but that only explains why prices have not risen on these items, not why they have fallen, despite continuing interest from Western collectors. Prices have fallen because of a surge in supply, approved by the Chinese government, due to systematic excavation of ancient tombs and, except for the premier objects which go to Chinese museums, the marketing of "average" items to dealers and auction houses in the West in exchange for highly desirable dollars and euros. Its not that large tri-color Tang dynasty tomb horses are any less beautiful than they were twenty years ago, its just that they're a lot more common than we used to think. On the other hand, if you look at something like antique Buddhist bronzes, where the supply is essentially steady, but collector interest has soared, suddenly objects of secondary and tertiary and even lower quality easily find willing buyers, and really its just an all-around wonderful thing. The stranglehold of a few dealers and auction houses gets broken, or at least relaxed, and long-time collectors, perhaps nearing retirement age, get to see a decent return on their investment. So, getting back on topic, that's the main point I think. That only a surge of new interest in African Art can possibly cure the deep market ills that we have been discussing. Otherwise it is quite natural in the face of limited demand for any market to become highly controlled and exclusive and manipulated as its top dealers seek to survive lean times. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
                        From: Ed Jones <bucit@...>
                        To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                        Sent: Monday, 5 August 2013 8:42 PM
                        Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity
                        John:
                         
                        I am inclined to agree with your thoughts about Chinese preferences in opposition to authenticity.  
                        Every place I have visited in China (10 places currently), one cannot find  the number "4" on any elevator.  During my first visit to The Peoples Republic of China in the latter 90s, I asked a person at one of the airlines I had business with, and was told the number 4 is "Si" in Chinese, and is pronounced very closely to their word for death or to die.   A bit like superstitious folks and the number "13" in western cultures. 
                         
                        The Chinese have an obsession with youth and "new" things, rather than old, used and death / spiritual relics or the representation thereof.  This is in stark contrast to traditional and conservative African generations that revere ancestral homage, death and spirits as manifested in; anthropomorphic and zoomorphic inventions worshipped via libations and power objects to house deities and spirits as nkisi / minkisi and so on.  
                         
                         
                        There is a notion that all westerners are compelled and adore old, used things--- which according to most Asian-centered cultures seems to be taboo or a turn-off, as the idea that an object has been tainted in an undesirable way by another person's soul.  My wife is from a nomadic Turkic tribe, and I can tell you as an enthusiast of certain Anatolian and Central Asian artifacts, this also holds true, but there are always cultural out-casts and ones that do not think as the common demagogue in all societies.
                         
                         
                         
                        Anyway, the info and observations you expressed are true and revealing.  This will certainly have an effect on what interests their artistic fancy. 
                         
                        And I also agree with William Klebous about eBay.  I did not think about it that way, but it is vey much like the largest and most prolific seller of African arts.  In fact, many members of this forum are selling on the eBay forum and have good items.   When something has a positive monetary effect, it will always bring an element of opportunistic and unsavory types, and this will always be the case in life.  As you know, people are opportunistic, some more than others.  
                         
                        I would tend to support and agree with anyone making the assessment that greed will eventually over-shadow and diminish cultural (esoteric) knowledge... Herbert (Skip) Cole mentioned this as well as others.  This is the dilemma we find in African arts.  African cultures have evolved, and is changing.  The youth do not have the interest to live as their ancestors did 3 or 4 generations (and I do not blame them).  No culture or national group wants their youth to struggle or suffer, and this holds particularly true in developing and Third World countries.  
                         
                         
                        Ed   
                         

                        From: "Monroe, John W [HIST]" <jmonroe@...>
                        To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                        Sent: Sunday, August 4, 2013 10:14 PM
                        Subject: RE: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity
                         
                        Chinese art is an interesting parallel!  I wonder if we'll find the equation of value similarly flipped if African collectors ever begin to move the market in the way Chinese collectors have.  I do wonder if it's less a question of "authenticity" than one of cultural value: the new Chinese collectors simply *like* different things than Western collectors have generally liked.  A friend of mine who's a collector of Asian art, for instance, once told me that Chinese collectors really don't want pieces that have been buried in tombs -- they find the association with death unpleasant.  Tang dynasty horses, I think he said, were a particularly clear example: they used to be a lot more expensive than they are now. Also, as for Ebay, I think William's totally right.  It's a wonderfully transparent, if sometimes deceptive, market.  It's surprising how many times I've seen something I remember from an Ebay listing crop up at a Tribal Art Week or "real" gallery.  The key is spotting the object that can be convincingly re-branded, which takes a knack.  Of the three William listed, by the way, I've got to say I think 1 could make the jump (especially if well-mounted), possibly 2, but not 3.   John Monroe
                        From: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com [African_Arts@yahoogroups.com] on behalf of William Klebous [klebous@...]
                        Sent: Sunday, August 04, 2013 10:12 PM
                        To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
                        Subject: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity

                         

                        I would like to support the notion that an over-emphasis on "authenticity" is exactly what has damaged the African Art market so badly. In almost every other "indiginous" art market, there is a sort of rough balance between age, beauty, authenticity, and rarity which altogether determine an object's value through genuine market action amongst a large base of collectors. A good example of these market forces in action has been the recent surge in prices for impressive 19th century examples of Asian Art, mostly due to the influx of new money from China. 19th century Asian Art had been somewhat scorned by experts for reasons that will sound familiar: Too much Western influence. Not authentic enough. But a large base of new collectors has righted this market distortion, this over-emphasis on authenticity. Without a large new base of African Art collectors, which I do not currently see on the horizon, the distortions we see in the African Art market will continue. In the meantime, don't be too condemning of the sort of rigged game we currently see at the top end of the market. If they were having no success in manipulating upwards the prices of these top-end objects, the true market for African Art would be even lower. Perhaps much lower. In my opinion the largest and therefore most true market for African Art currently is Ebay. This particular market also, in my opinion, does a better job of balancing out age, beauty, authenticity, and rarity than any better-vetted venue I know of. So, as an experiment, I searched for Ebay objects sold at auction recently with a non-trivial amount of bids and without significant provenance. Here for your consideration are three of the most highly valued lots, only one of which may be sufficiently "authentic" for many of you. But personally, I think the Ebay market did a pretty good job in establishing something like true market value. (FYI, I have no connection whatsoever with any of these objects or sellers. And myself, currently I wouldn't have paid this much for any of the three lots, mostly because I've been more interested in Asian Art the last five or so years, only picking up a few absolute "steals" in African Art during this period.) Teke magical figure $1325 Ebay#400478731307 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/A-Fine-TEKE-magical-figure-Fetiche-Kongo-Fetischfigur-brown-patina-ochre-pigment-/00/s/NTk5WDYwOA==/z/4vUAAMXQY8JRgWDN/$(KGrHqZHJEUFE2I4LZQcBRgWDNY5Qg~~60_3.JPG Fon fetsih figure $990 Ebay#181143448960 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/EWE-FON-FETISH-FIGURE-/00/s/MTYwMFgxMjAw/z/3OsAAOxycERRmP05/$(KGrHqV,!qMFGBdUgLn9BRmP04v2DQ~~60_57.JPG Baule spirit couple $543 Ebay#370829424980 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/Superb-African-Art-BAULE-Fertility-Spirit-Couple-Figure-Collectible-/00/s/MTYwMFgxMjAw/$(KGrHqF,!oME-9lSRgEsBP2+49i-O!~~60_57.JPG  
                        --
                        Currently  in Israel:
                         
                        In Israel:
                        Emeritus, Dept of Psychology
                        University of Haifa
                        Haifa 31905
                        Tel: 077-7825306
                        Cell: 050-7332323
                         
                        In the US:
                        1742 Grant Ave
                        East Meadow, NY 11554
                        Tel.: 516-750-5335
                        Cell: 646-894-4904
                         




                      • William Klebous
                        Oh yes, I forgot one thing... 4) And if you take path 3) accept the liklihood that probably the only way that you re ever going to profit from your expertise
                        Message 12 of 25 , Aug 7, 2013
                        • 0 Attachment
                          Oh yes, I forgot one thing...

                          4) And if you take path 3) accept the liklihood that probably the only way that
                          you're ever going to profit from your expertise is not by selling to mid-range dealers,
                          but rather by becoming a mid-range dealer yourself at some point in your life.
                          Otherwise, just enjoy the fact that you have some powerful authentic African art
                          in your life at a fraction of what it would have otherwise cost.



                          From: William Klebous <klebous@...>
                          To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                          Sent: Wednesday, 7 August 2013 5:00 PM
                          Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity

                          Ed, yes, but...

                          1) "Safety" is exactly what the major auction houses and major dealers provide, and charge
                          such a premium for. If you want it, pay for it.

                          2) As has been pointed out, a lesser kind of safety is already provided by dozens of ethical
                          mid-range dealers. Generally speaking, under current market conditions, your purchase
                          from these dealers will NOT be respected by the major dealers and major auction houses,
                          but it will provide some support if and when you decide to sell into a less-rigged venue,
                          although even recovering your additional investment, no less making a profit, will likely prove
                          difficult. (Moment of nostalgia: There was a time, not long ago, when many dealers had a
                          standing offer to re-purchase the item they sold you for its original purchase price, so confident
                          were they of a steadily rising market.)

                          3) Or, study hard and gain confidence and compete with these mid-range dealers at out-of-
                          the-way auctions and estate sales. In other words, buy wholesale. Have fun, make mistakes,
                          learn. Think of your mistakes as tuition. Nothing concentrates the mind like gambling your own
                          hard-earned money.


                          From: Ed Jones <bucit@...>
                          To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                          Sent: Wednesday, 7 August 2013 3:11 PM
                          Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity




                           William:
                           
                          Could it be [self] trust or confidence more than not having a fat wallet? 
                           
                          Perhaps, when one asserts the question and answer game for discernment, it is not too difficult to perceive that folks really do not know, and do not want to get taken.
                           
                          For me, mistakes only expose you for the moment, and it is not near as painful as carrying the burden of on the long-term.  In that manner, I am a bit brazen (or foolish to some).  It doesn't matter.  Last count, this forum has well over 900 members, but we certainly do not hear from even 10% on a regular basis... Hmmn.  And, I do not believe that Facebook provides art enthusiasts anything more soluble except "a safer, feel good zone".  My parents used to tell my siblings and I that there is no gain or development with some pain and discomfort. 
                           
                          Even among this forum, there is a "fear" of exposing oneself, and mistakes. particularly with a bad object choice, so "less" is more (safe).  When people feel "safe", they will open up their purse strings.  
                           
                          The money is still out there.
                           
                          Ed
                           
                           
                           
                          From: William Klebous <klebous@...>
                          To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                          Sent: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 2:47 PM
                          Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity
                           
                          Respectfully, Rich, it seems to me that your argument is essentially "it is bad that only 10 dealers control the market for 'authentic' African art, but it would be good if 20 dealers did". The Asian art market is swimming in fakes, but it is a healthy market nonetheless, because of DEMAND. Competition amongst expert collectors has driven prices way up for even non-provenanced non-expertly-vetted pieces. Here is the true problem:  When an OBVIOUSLY authentic piece of antique or semi-antique African art comes up for bid on Ebay, without reserve or provenance, often it goes for just a song. I can assure you that when an OBVIOUSLY authentic piece of antique Asian art appears on Ebay, without reserve or provenance, it does not go for just a song. It goes for good money. We don't suffer from a lack of experts. We suffer from a lack of enthusiasts, with fat wallets.


                          From: rschust <richschust@...>
                          To: African Arts Group <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                          Sent: Wednesday, 7 August 2013 1:45 AM
                          Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity

                          This discussion of the market for Asian arts leads me to add a brief postscript to my comments on the unfortunate link between use of "real" and "authentic" to justify the Sotheby model of exorbitant prices for African art.
                           
                          Some of you have suggested that the Sotheby/prestigious-gallery model helps the market because it creates a high ceiling that lifts up the whole market. But you then ignore the negative effect on the market for African carvings from classifying anything else as "not real" (Lou Wells to me) or "not authentic." (Again, Lou Wells to me: "One test of authenticity would be simply to ask whether Sotheby’s or Christie’s would offer the piece.")
                           
                          The result of this elitism  is bound to be that our purchases of more recent carvings, despite their authenticity in terms of origin and provenance (from where they originate, not what collection they came from) is a fool's paradise of buying carvings that are, in effect, "not real." We are simply wasting our money and becoming fools as well.by buying items that are judged as inauthentic and "not real" despite the sellers' claims of "old," used, etc. I believe this is  one of the main reason why the demand for African carvings is not greater. A lot of potential new collectors are wary of being fooled and duped unless they restrict their purchases to truly inexpensive, mass-produced carvings whose sole virtue is that they may be attractive. Or remind you of your African safari holiday..
                           
                          This is also why the field would gain - along with the value of our collections - if we could show by invoice that our carvings were purchased from dealers who have earned certification as handling only authentic carvings, whether or not these are the Sotheby or the "common collector" kind. This is why I suggested that an ad hoc committee of knowledgeable people - many of whom who participate in this forum - should be created to provide this vetting.
                           
                          My experience with a few dealers in the US and Europe is that such dealers exist - many selling via eBay - who genuinely endeavor to handle only authentic items. If they were officially credited with doing so, we would all be in a better place, as would the market overall.
                          On Tue, Aug 6, 2013 at 11:25 AM, William Klebous <klebous@...> wrote:
                           
                          It's true that this new class of Chinese collectors seems to have something of an aversion to grave goods, but that only explains why prices have not risen on these items, not why they have fallen, despite continuing interest from Western collectors. Prices have fallen because of a surge in supply, approved by the Chinese government, due to systematic excavation of ancient tombs and, except for the premier objects which go to Chinese museums, the marketing of "average" items to dealers and auction houses in the West in exchange for highly desirable dollars and euros. Its not that large tri-color Tang dynasty tomb horses are any less beautiful than they were twenty years ago, its just that they're a lot more common than we used to think. On the other hand, if you look at something like antique Buddhist bronzes, where the supply is essentially steady, but collector interest has soared, suddenly objects of secondary and tertiary and even lower quality easily find willing buyers, and really its just an all-around wonderful thing. The stranglehold of a few dealers and auction houses gets broken, or at least relaxed, and long-time collectors, perhaps nearing retirement age, get to see a decent return on their investment. So, getting back on topic, that's the main point I think. That only a surge of new interest in African Art can possibly cure the deep market ills that we have been discussing. Otherwise it is quite natural in the face of limited demand for any market to become highly controlled and exclusive and manipulated as its top dealers seek to survive lean times. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
                          From: Ed Jones <bucit@...>
                          To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                          Sent: Monday, 5 August 2013 8:42 PM
                          Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity
                          John:
                           
                          I am inclined to agree with your thoughts about Chinese preferences in opposition to authenticity.  
                          Every place I have visited in China (10 places currently), one cannot find  the number "4" on any elevator.  During my first visit to The Peoples Republic of China in the latter 90s, I asked a person at one of the airlines I had business with, and was told the number 4 is "Si" in Chinese, and is pronounced very closely to their word for death or to die.   A bit like superstitious folks and the number "13" in western cultures. 
                           
                          The Chinese have an obsession with youth and "new" things, rather than old, used and death / spiritual relics or the representation thereof.  This is in stark contrast to traditional and conservative African generations that revere ancestral homage, death and spirits as manifested in; anthropomorphic and zoomorphic inventions worshipped via libations and power objects to house deities and spirits as nkisi / minkisi and so on.  
                           
                           
                          There is a notion that all westerners are compelled and adore old, used things--- which according to most Asian-centered cultures seems to be taboo or a turn-off, as the idea that an object has been tainted in an undesirable way by another person's soul.  My wife is from a nomadic Turkic tribe, and I can tell you as an enthusiast of certain Anatolian and Central Asian artifacts, this also holds true, but there are always cultural out-casts and ones that do not think as the common demagogue in all societies.
                           
                           
                           
                          Anyway, the info and observations you expressed are true and revealing.  This will certainly have an effect on what interests their artistic fancy. 
                           
                          And I also agree with William Klebous about eBay.  I did not think about it that way, but it is vey much like the largest and most prolific seller of African arts.  In fact, many members of this forum are selling on the eBay forum and have good items.   When something has a positive monetary effect, it will always bring an element of opportunistic and unsavory types, and this will always be the case in life.  As you know, people are opportunistic, some more than others.  
                           
                          I would tend to support and agree with anyone making the assessment that greed will eventually over-shadow and diminish cultural (esoteric) knowledge... Herbert (Skip) Cole mentioned this as well as others.  This is the dilemma we find in African arts.  African cultures have evolved, and is changing.  The youth do not have the interest to live as their ancestors did 3 or 4 generations (and I do not blame them).  No culture or national group wants their youth to struggle or suffer, and this holds particularly true in developing and Third World countries.  
                           
                           
                          Ed   
                           

                          From: "Monroe, John W [HIST]" <jmonroe@...>
                          To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                          Sent: Sunday, August 4, 2013 10:14 PM
                          Subject: RE: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity
                           
                          Chinese art is an interesting parallel!  I wonder if we'll find the equation of value similarly flipped if African collectors ever begin to move the market in the way Chinese collectors have.  I do wonder if it's less a question of "authenticity" than one of cultural value: the new Chinese collectors simply *like* different things than Western collectors have generally liked.  A friend of mine who's a collector of Asian art, for instance, once told me that Chinese collectors really don't want pieces that have been buried in tombs -- they find the association with death unpleasant.  Tang dynasty horses, I think he said, were a particularly clear example: they used to be a lot more expensive than they are now. Also, as for Ebay, I think William's totally right.  It's a wonderfully transparent, if sometimes deceptive, market.  It's surprising how many times I've seen something I remember from an Ebay listing crop up at a Tribal Art Week or "real" gallery.  The key is spotting the object that can be convincingly re-branded, which takes a knack.  Of the three William listed, by the way, I've got to say I think 1 could make the jump (especially if well-mounted), possibly 2, but not 3.   John Monroe
                          From: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com [African_Arts@yahoogroups.com] on behalf of William Klebous [klebous@...]
                          Sent: Sunday, August 04, 2013 10:12 PM
                          To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
                          Subject: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity

                           

                          I would like to support the notion that an over-emphasis on "authenticity" is exactly what has damaged the African Art market so badly. In almost every other "indiginous" art market, there is a sort of rough balance between age, beauty, authenticity, and rarity which altogether determine an object's value through genuine market action amongst a large base of collectors. A good example of these market forces in action has been the recent surge in prices for impressive 19th century examples of Asian Art, mostly due to the influx of new money from China. 19th century Asian Art had been somewhat scorned by experts for reasons that will sound familiar: Too much Western influence. Not authentic enough. But a large base of new collectors has righted this market distortion, this over-emphasis on authenticity. Without a large new base of African Art collectors, which I do not currently see on the horizon, the distortions we see in the African Art market will continue. In the meantime, don't be too condemning of the sort of rigged game we currently see at the top end of the market. If they were having no success in manipulating upwards the prices of these top-end objects, the true market for African Art would be even lower. Perhaps much lower. In my opinion the largest and therefore most true market for African Art currently is Ebay. This particular market also, in my opinion, does a better job of balancing out age, beauty, authenticity, and rarity than any better-vetted venue I know of. So, as an experiment, I searched for Ebay objects sold at auction recently with a non-trivial amount of bids and without significant provenance. Here for your consideration are three of the most highly valued lots, only one of which may be sufficiently "authentic" for many of you. But personally, I think the Ebay market did a pretty good job in establishing something like true market value. (FYI, I have no connection whatsoever with any of these objects or sellers. And myself, currently I wouldn't have paid this much for any of the three lots, mostly because I've been more interested in Asian Art the last five or so years, only picking up a few absolute "steals" in African Art during this period.) Teke magical figure $1325 Ebay#400478731307 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/A-Fine-TEKE-magical-figure-Fetiche-Kongo-Fetischfigur-brown-patina-ochre-pigment-/00/s/NTk5WDYwOA==/z/4vUAAMXQY8JRgWDN/$(KGrHqZHJEUFE2I4LZQcBRgWDNY5Qg~~60_3.JPG Fon fetsih figure $990 Ebay#181143448960 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/EWE-FON-FETISH-FIGURE-/00/s/MTYwMFgxMjAw/z/3OsAAOxycERRmP05/$(KGrHqV,!qMFGBdUgLn9BRmP04v2DQ~~60_57.JPG Baule spirit couple $543 Ebay#370829424980 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/Superb-African-Art-BAULE-Fertility-Spirit-Couple-Figure-Collectible-/00/s/MTYwMFgxMjAw/$(KGrHqF,!oME-9lSRgEsBP2+49i-O!~~60_57.JPG  
                          --
                          Currently  in Israel:
                           
                          In Israel:
                          Emeritus, Dept of Psychology
                          University of Haifa
                          Haifa 31905
                          Tel: 077-7825306
                          Cell: 050-7332323
                           
                          In the US:
                          1742 Grant Ave
                          East Meadow, NY 11554
                          Tel.: 516-750-5335
                          Cell: 646-894-4904
                           






                        • Ed Jones
                          Hi William:   Having fun, making mistakes, and learning should be the first and only precept as an enthusiast.  Mistakes are truly an investment, as you
                          Message 13 of 25 , Aug 7, 2013
                          • 0 Attachment
                            Hi William:
                             
                            Having fun, making mistakes, and learning should be the first and only precept as an enthusiast.  Mistakes are truly an investment, as you expressed; sort of tuition.   I agree, and think we are saying the same thing using different analogies. 
                             
                            Just realize, this is not everyone's idea.
                             
                            I also stated the following in need "And, I do not believe that Facebook provides art enthusiasts anything more soluble except "a safer, feel good zone".  My parents used to tell my siblings and I that there is no gain or development with some pain and discomfort."  I meant without some pain  and discomfort. 
                             
                            Now that we have helped identify a few of the potential woes plaguing African enthusiasts, what next?
                             
                            Ed
                             
                             

                            From: William Klebous <klebous@...>
                            To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                            Sent: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 12:41 AM
                            Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity
                             
                            Oh yes, I forgot one thing... 4) And if you take path 3) accept the liklihood that probably the only way that you're ever going to profit from your expertise is not by selling to mid-range dealers, but rather by becoming a mid-range dealer yourself at some point in your life. Otherwise, just enjoy the fact that you have some powerful authentic African art in your life at a fraction of what it would have otherwise cost.


                            From: William Klebous <klebous@...>
                            To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                            Sent: Wednesday, 7 August 2013 5:00 PM
                            Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity
                            Ed, yes, but... 1) "Safety" is exactly what the major auction houses and major dealers provide, and charge such a premium for. If you want it, pay for it. 2) As has been pointed out, a lesser kind of safety is already provided by dozens of ethical mid-range dealers. Generally speaking, under current market conditions, your purchase from these dealers will NOT be respected by the major dealers and major auction houses, but it will provide some support if and when you decide to sell into a less-rigged venue, although even recovering your additional investment, no less making a profit, will likely prove difficult. (Moment of nostalgia: There was a time, not long ago, when many dealers had a standing offer to re-purchase the item they sold you for its original purchase price, so confident were they of a steadily rising market.) 3) Or, study hard and gain confidence and compete with these mid-range dealers at out-of- the-way auctions and estate sales. In other words, buy wholesale. Have fun, make mistakes, learn. Think of your mistakes as tuition. Nothing concentrates the mind like gambling your own hard-earned money.

                            From: Ed Jones <bucit@...>
                            To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                            Sent: Wednesday, 7 August 2013 3:11 PM
                            Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity

                             William:
                             
                            Could it be [self] trust or confidence more than not having a fat wallet? 
                             
                            Perhaps, when one asserts the question and answer game for discernment, it is not too difficult to perceive that folks really do not know, and do not want to get taken.
                             
                            For me, mistakes only expose you for the moment, and it is not near as painful as carrying the burden of on the long-term.  In that manner, I am a bit brazen (or foolish to some).  It doesn't matter.  Last count, this forum has well over 900 members, but we certainly do not hear from even 10% on a regular basis... Hmmn.  And, I do not believe that Facebook provides art enthusiasts anything more soluble except "a safer, feel good zone".  My parents used to tell my siblings and I that there is no gain or development with some pain and discomfort. 
                             
                            Even among this forum, there is a "fear" of exposing oneself, and mistakes. particularly with a bad object choice, so "less" is more (safe).  When people feel "safe", they will open up their purse strings.  
                             
                            The money is still out there.
                             
                            Ed
                             
                             
                             
                            From: William Klebous <klebous@...>
                            To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                            Sent: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 2:47 PM
                            Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity
                             
                            Respectfully, Rich, it seems to me that your argument is essentially "it is bad that only 10 dealers control the market for 'authentic' African art, but it would be good if 20 dealers did". The Asian art market is swimming in fakes, but it is a healthy market nonetheless, because of DEMAND. Competition amongst expert collectors has driven prices way up for even non-provenanced non-expertly-vetted pieces. Here is the true problem:  When an OBVIOUSLY authentic piece of antique or semi-antique African art comes up for bid on Ebay, without reserve or provenance, often it goes for just a song. I can assure you that when an OBVIOUSLY authentic piece of antique Asian art appears on Ebay, without reserve or provenance, it does not go for just a song. It goes for good money. We don't suffer from a lack of experts. We suffer from a lack of enthusiasts, with fat wallets.


                            From: rschust <richschust@...>
                            To: African Arts Group <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                            Sent: Wednesday, 7 August 2013 1:45 AM
                            Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity

                            This discussion of the market for Asian arts leads me to add a brief postscript to my comments on the unfortunate link between use of "real" and "authentic" to justify the Sotheby model of exorbitant prices for African art.
                             
                            Some of you have suggested that the Sotheby/prestigious-gallery model helps the market because it creates a high ceiling that lifts up the whole market. But you then ignore the negative effect on the market for African carvings from classifying anything else as "not real" (Lou Wells to me) or "not authentic." (Again, Lou Wells to me: "One test of authenticity would be simply to ask whether Sotheby’s or Christie’s would offer the piece.")
                             
                            The result of this elitism  is bound to be that our purchases of more recent carvings, despite their authenticity in terms of origin and provenance (from where they originate, not what collection they came from) is a fool's paradise of buying carvings that are, in effect, "not real." We are simply wasting our money and becoming fools as well.by buying items that are judged as inauthentic and "not real" despite the sellers' claims of "old," used, etc. I believe this is  one of the main reason why the demand for African carvings is not greater. A lot of potential new collectors are wary of being fooled and duped unless they restrict their purchases to truly inexpensive, mass-produced carvings whose sole virtue is that they may be attractive. Or remind you of your African safari holiday..
                             
                            This is also why the field would gain - along with the value of our collections - if we could show by invoice that our carvings were purchased from dealers who have earned certification as handling only authentic carvings, whether or not these are the Sotheby or the "common collector" kind. This is why I suggested that an ad hoc committee of knowledgeable people - many of whom who participate in this forum - should be created to provide this vetting.
                             
                            My experience with a few dealers in the US and Europe is that such dealers exist - many selling via eBay - who genuinely endeavor to handle only authentic items. If they were officially credited with doing so, we would all be in a better place, as would the market overall.
                            On Tue, Aug 6, 2013 at 11:25 AM, William Klebous <klebous@...> wrote:
                             
                            It's true that this new class of Chinese collectors seems to have something of an aversion to grave goods, but that only explains why prices have not risen on these items, not why they have fallen, despite continuing interest from Western collectors. Prices have fallen because of a surge in supply, approved by the Chinese government, due to systematic excavation of ancient tombs and, except for the premier objects which go to Chinese museums, the marketing of "average" items to dealers and auction houses in the West in exchange for highly desirable dollars and euros. Its not that large tri-color Tang dynasty tomb horses are any less beautiful than they were twenty years ago, its just that they're a lot more common than we used to think. On the other hand, if you look at something like antique Buddhist bronzes, where the supply is essentially steady, but collector interest has soared, suddenly objects of secondary and tertiary and even lower quality easily find willing buyers, and really its just an all-around wonderful thing. The stranglehold of a few dealers and auction houses gets broken, or at least relaxed, and long-time collectors, perhaps nearing retirement age, get to see a decent return on their investment. So, getting back on topic, that's the main point I think. That only a surge of new interest in African Art can possibly cure the deep market ills that we have been discussing. Otherwise it is quite natural in the face of limited demand for any market to become highly controlled and exclusive and manipulated as its top dealers seek to survive lean times. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
                            From: Ed Jones <bucit@...>
                            To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                            Sent: Monday, 5 August 2013 8:42 PM
                            Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity
                            John:
                             
                            I am inclined to agree with your thoughts about Chinese preferences in opposition to authenticity.  
                            Every place I have visited in China (10 places currently), one cannot find  the number "4" on any elevator.  During my first visit to The Peoples Republic of China in the latter 90s, I asked a person at one of the airlines I had business with, and was told the number 4 is "Si" in Chinese, and is pronounced very closely to their word for death or to die.   A bit like superstitious folks and the number "13" in western cultures. 
                             
                            The Chinese have an obsession with youth and "new" things, rather than old, used and death / spiritual relics or the representation thereof.  This is in stark contrast to traditional and conservative African generations that revere ancestral homage, death and spirits as manifested in; anthropomorphic and zoomorphic inventions worshipped via libations and power objects to house deities and spirits as nkisi / minkisi and so on.  
                             
                             
                            There is a notion that all westerners are compelled and adore old, used things--- which according to most Asian-centered cultures seems to be taboo or a turn-off, as the idea that an object has been tainted in an undesirable way by another person's soul.  My wife is from a nomadic Turkic tribe, and I can tell you as an enthusiast of certain Anatolian and Central Asian artifacts, this also holds true, but there are always cultural out-casts and ones that do not think as the common demagogue in all societies.
                             
                             
                             
                            Anyway, the info and observations you expressed are true and revealing.  This will certainly have an effect on what interests their artistic fancy. 
                             
                            And I also agree with William Klebous about eBay.  I did not think about it that way, but it is vey much like the largest and most prolific seller of African arts.  In fact, many members of this forum are selling on the eBay forum and have good items.   When something has a positive monetary effect, it will always bring an element of opportunistic and unsavory types, and this will always be the case in life.  As you know, people are opportunistic, some more than others.  
                             
                            I would tend to support and agree with anyone making the assessment that greed will eventually over-shadow and diminish cultural (esoteric) knowledge... Herbert (Skip) Cole mentioned this as well as others.  This is the dilemma we find in African arts.  African cultures have evolved, and is changing.  The youth do not have the interest to live as their ancestors did 3 or 4 generations (and I do not blame them).  No culture or national group wants their youth to struggle or suffer, and this holds particularly true in developing and Third World countries.  
                             
                             
                            Ed   
                             

                            From: "Monroe, John W [HIST]" <jmonroe@...>
                            To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                            Sent: Sunday, August 4, 2013 10:14 PM
                            Subject: RE: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity
                             
                            Chinese art is an interesting parallel!  I wonder if we'll find the equation of value similarly flipped if African collectors ever begin to move the market in the way Chinese collectors have.  I do wonder if it's less a question of "authenticity" than one of cultural value: the new Chinese collectors simply *like* different things than Western collectors have generally liked.  A friend of mine who's a collector of Asian art, for instance, once told me that Chinese collectors really don't want pieces that have been buried in tombs -- they find the association with death unpleasant.  Tang dynasty horses, I think he said, were a particularly clear example: they used to be a lot more expensive than they are now. Also, as for Ebay, I think William's totally right.  It's a wonderfully transparent, if sometimes deceptive, market.  It's surprising how many times I've seen something I remember from an Ebay listing crop up at a Tribal Art Week or "real" gallery.  The key is spotting the object that can be convincingly re-branded, which takes a knack.  Of the three William listed, by the way, I've got to say I think 1 could make the jump (especially if well-mounted), possibly 2, but not 3.   John Monroe
                            From: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com [African_Arts@yahoogroups.com] on behalf of William Klebous [klebous@...]
                            Sent: Sunday, August 04, 2013 10:12 PM
                            To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
                            Subject: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity

                             

                            I would like to support the notion that an over-emphasis on "authenticity" is exactly what has damaged the African Art market so badly. In almost every other "indiginous" art market, there is a sort of rough balance between age, beauty, authenticity, and rarity which altogether determine an object's value through genuine market action amongst a large base of collectors. A good example of these market forces in action has been the recent surge in prices for impressive 19th century examples of Asian Art, mostly due to the influx of new money from China. 19th century Asian Art had been somewhat scorned by experts for reasons that will sound familiar: Too much Western influence. Not authentic enough. But a large base of new collectors has righted this market distortion, this over-emphasis on authenticity. Without a large new base of African Art collectors, which I do not currently see on the horizon, the distortions we see in the African Art market will continue. In the meantime, don't be too condemning of the sort of rigged game we currently see at the top end of the market. If they were having no success in manipulating upwards the prices of these top-end objects, the true market for African Art would be even lower. Perhaps much lower. In my opinion the largest and therefore most true market for African Art currently is Ebay. This particular market also, in my opinion, does a better job of balancing out age, beauty, authenticity, and rarity than any better-vetted venue I know of. So, as an experiment, I searched for Ebay objects sold at auction recently with a non-trivial amount of bids and without significant provenance. Here for your consideration are three of the most highly valued lots, only one of which may be sufficiently "authentic" for many of you. But personally, I think the Ebay market did a pretty good job in establishing something like true market value. (FYI, I have no connection whatsoever with any of these objects or sellers. And myself, currently I wouldn't have paid this much for any of the three lots, mostly because I've been more interested in Asian Art the last five or so years, only picking up a few absolute "steals" in African Art during this period.) Teke magical figure $1325 Ebay#400478731307 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/A-Fine-TEKE-magical-figure-Fetiche-Kongo-Fetischfigur-brown-patina-ochre-pigment-/00/s/NTk5WDYwOA==/z/4vUAAMXQY8JRgWDN/$(KGrHqZHJEUFE2I4LZQcBRgWDNY5Qg~~60_3.JPG Fon fetsih figure $990 Ebay#181143448960 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/EWE-FON-FETISH-FIGURE-/00/s/MTYwMFgxMjAw/z/3OsAAOxycERRmP05/$(KGrHqV,!qMFGBdUgLn9BRmP04v2DQ~~60_57.JPG Baule spirit couple $543 Ebay#370829424980 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/Superb-African-Art-BAULE-Fertility-Spirit-Couple-Figure-Collectible-/00/s/MTYwMFgxMjAw/$(KGrHqF,!oME-9lSRgEsBP2+49i-O!~~60_57.JPG  
                            --
                            Currently  in Israel:
                             
                            In Israel:
                            Emeritus, Dept of Psychology
                            University of Haifa
                            Haifa 31905
                            Tel: 077-7825306
                            Cell: 050-7332323
                             
                            In the US:
                            1742 Grant Ave
                            East Meadow, NY 11554
                            Tel.: 516-750-5335
                            Cell: 646-894-4904
                             
                          • Monroe, John W [HIST]
                            In light of the turn this discussion has taken, particularly in the recent posts from William, Ed, Bob and Richard, I thought people might be interested in
                            Message 14 of 25 , Aug 7, 2013
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                              In light of the turn this discussion has taken, particularly in the recent posts from William, Ed, Bob and Richard, I thought people might be interested in Michael Auliso’s recent interview with Heinrich Schweizer, the head of Sotheby’s African and Oceanic department in New York:


                              http://www.tribalmania.com/INTERVIEW.HEINRICH.htm


                              In the interview, he gives a pretty candid statement of exactly how Sotheby’s is currently marketing African art, and what sorts of pieces get chosen to figure in its auctions.  In New York, Sotheby’s has shrunk both the number of sales and the number of lots on offer, all with an eye toward focusing attention on a select few lots, chosen for their “universal appeal” – by which Schweizer means both their essential esthetic quality, and their ability to attract buyers who think of themselves as “art collectors” in the broad sense.  These buyers, in turn, are the post-2008 international super-rich, people for whom “$15,000 is not a lot of money anymore.” 


                              The objects Sotheby’s selects to appeal to such buyers, Schweizer says, have to have two attributes: a certain esthetic quality deemed (in this cultural setting) to be “transcendent,” and a particular kind of provenance.  Understandably , he’s coy about the esthetic side of things.  As he notes, the ability to identify objects with the power to “transcend” is a “trade secret,” which is actually true for any dealer in this field.  However, he’s more explicit about provenance.  Buyers looking for “universal masterpieces” pay particularly close attention to details of past ownership and – especially – exhibition and publication history.  The object that makes it to Sotheby’s, in addition to being a certain kind of beautiful (whatever that is) has to be *well known* when it arrives on the auction block.  My guess is that, in practice, the second attribute – object “fame” – is probably a lot more important than the aesthetic “special sauce.”  There might be the occasional unknown piece “plucked from obscurity” in a Sotheby’s sale, but those long-shot bets are going to be hedged with plenty of sure things.


                              This confirms what people have been saying here: the top end is rising, but contracting sharply, while in the rest of the market, prices are slack and tending lower.  As William notes, this certainly owes something to an absence of demand.  Collecting African art just isn’t “in” anymore, in the way it was in the 50s and 60s.  There isn’t the critical mass of people willing to invest the money and self-instruction time that becoming a knowledgeable connoisseur-collector in this field requires, the way there is today in the world of Chinese antiques.  Think of all those psychoanalysts, academics and doctors in cities like Boston, New York and Chicago who used to see an interest in traditional African art as a sign of a certain type of cultivation and progressiveness – they’re mostly gone or aging now, and younger people have different badges of “hipness.”


                              That does leave some strong upsides, however, as several posters have noted.  If you choose to get serious in this field and look to vetted specialist auctions, it’s possible to score some very nice – on occasion, actually museum-worthy – works of art for prices far lower than you’d pay if you were buying Western paintings or sculptures of equivalent quality.  Even on Ebay, as William says, every so often genuine, sometimes very fine, objects do appear.  And they *do* sell for a song.  In a decade on the site, checking it daily, I have never seen an African sculpture fetch more than $2500…and if you’re looking at a museum-quality piece, that is still “a song.”  (Of course given the poor quality of most Ebay listing-photos, you’re usually buying a pig in a poke to some degree, and in my opinion it’s that general sense of risk that sets the price ceiling.)    


                              Outside of the charmed circle of Sotheby’s, then, collecting African art just isn’t a very good financial bet if you’re looking to sell your objects for lots more than you paid originally, even if you have a very cultivated eye and an excellent collection.  Here I agree with William completely.  This is something to do as an esthetic investment, rather than a financial one.  On those terms, though, I think it’s a pretty great deal.


                              John Monroe  

                                     

                               


                              From: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com [African_Arts@yahoogroups.com] on behalf of William Klebous [klebous@...]
                              Sent: Wednesday, August 07, 2013 2:41 AM
                              To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
                              Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity

                               

                              Oh yes, I forgot one thing...

                              4) And if you take path 3) accept the liklihood that probably the only way that
                              you're ever going to profit from your expertise is not by selling to mid-range dealers,
                              but rather by becoming a mid-range dealer yourself at some point in your life.
                              Otherwise, just enjoy the fact that you have some powerful authentic African art
                              in your life at a fraction of what it would have otherwise cost.



                              From: William Klebous <klebous@...>
                              To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                              Sent: Wednesday, 7 August 2013 5:00 PM
                              Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity

                              Ed, yes, but...

                              1) "Safety" is exactly what the major auction houses and major dealers provide, and charge
                              such a premium for. If you want it, pay for it.

                              2) As has been pointed out, a lesser kind of safety is already provided by dozens of ethical
                              mid-range dealers. Generally speaking, under current market conditions, your purchase
                              from these dealers will NOT be respected by the major dealers and major auction houses,
                              but it will provide some support if and when you decide to sell into a less-rigged venue,
                              although even recovering your additional investment, no less making a profit, will likely prove
                              difficult. (Moment of nostalgia: There was a time, not long ago, when many dealers had a
                              standing offer to re-purchase the item they sold you for its original purchase price, so confident
                              were they of a steadily rising market.)

                              3) Or, study hard and gain confidence and compete with these mid-range dealers at out-of-
                              the-way auctions and estate sales. In other words, buy wholesale. Have fun, make mistakes,
                              learn. Think of your mistakes as tuition. Nothing concentrates the mind like gambling your own
                              hard-earned money.


                              From: Ed Jones <bucit@...>
                              To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                              Sent: Wednesday, 7 August 2013 3:11 PM
                              Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity




                               William:
                               
                              Could it be [self] trust or confidence more than not having a fat wallet? 
                               
                              Perhaps, when one asserts the question and answer game for discernment, it is not too difficult to perceive that folks really do not know, and do not want to get taken.
                               
                              For me, mistakes only expose you for the moment, and it is not near as painful as carrying the burden of on the long-term.  In that manner, I am a bit brazen (or foolish to some).  It doesn't matter.  Last count, this forum has well over 900 members, but we certainly do not hear from even 10% on a regular basis... Hmmn.  And, I do not believe that Facebook provides art enthusiasts anything more soluble except "a safer, feel good zone".  My parents used to tell my siblings and I that there is no gain or development with some pain and discomfort. 
                               
                              Even among this forum, there is a "fear" of exposing oneself, and mistakes. particularly with a bad object choice, so "less" is more (safe).  When people feel "safe", they will open up their purse strings.  
                               
                              The money is still out there.
                               
                              Ed
                               
                               
                               
                              From: William Klebous <klebous@...>
                              To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                              Sent: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 2:47 PM
                              Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity
                               
                              Respectfully, Rich, it seems to me that your argument is essentially "it is bad that only 10 dealers control the market for 'authentic' African art, but it would be good if 20 dealers did". The Asian art market is swimming in fakes, but it is a healthy market nonetheless, because of DEMAND. Competition amongst expert collectors has driven prices way up for even non-provenanced non-expertly-vetted pieces. Here is the true problem:  When an OBVIOUSLY authentic piece of antique or semi-antique African art comes up for bid on Ebay, without reserve or provenance, often it goes for just a song. I can assure you that when an OBVIOUSLY authentic piece of antique Asian art appears on Ebay, without reserve or provenance, it does not go for just a song. It goes for good money. We don't suffer from a lack of experts. We suffer from a lack of enthusiasts, with fat wallets.


                              From: rschust <richschust@...>
                              To: African Arts Group <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                              Sent: Wednesday, 7 August 2013 1:45 AM
                              Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity

                              This discussion of the market for Asian arts leads me to add a brief postscript to my comments on the unfortunate link between use of "real" and "authentic" to justify the Sotheby model of exorbitant prices for African art.
                               
                              Some of you have suggested that the Sotheby/prestigious-gallery model helps the market because it creates a high ceiling that lifts up the whole market. But you then ignore the negative effect on the market for African carvings from classifying anything else as "not real" (Lou Wells to me) or "not authentic." (Again, Lou Wells to me: "One test of authenticity would be simply to ask whether Sotheby’s or Christie’s would offer the piece.")
                               
                              The result of this elitism  is bound to be that our purchases of more recent carvings, despite their authenticity in terms of origin and provenance (from where they originate, not what collection they came from) is a fool's paradise of buying carvings that are, in effect, "not real." We are simply wasting our money and becoming fools as well.by buying items that are judged as inauthentic and "not real" despite the sellers' claims of "old," used, etc. I believe this is  one of the main reason why the demand for African carvings is not greater. A lot of potential new collectors are wary of being fooled and duped unless they restrict their purchases to truly inexpensive, mass-produced carvings whose sole virtue is that they may be attractive. Or remind you of your African safari holiday..
                               
                              This is also why the field would gain - along with the value of our collections - if we could show by invoice that our carvings were purchased from dealers who have earned certification as handling only authentic carvings, whether or not these are the Sotheby or the "common collector" kind. This is why I suggested that an ad hoc committee of knowledgeable people - many of whom who participate in this forum - should be created to provide this vetting.
                               
                              My experience with a few dealers in the US and Europe is that such dealers exist - many selling via eBay - who genuinely endeavor to handle only authentic items. If they were officially credited with doing so, we would all be in a better place, as would the market overall.
                              On Tue, Aug 6, 2013 at 11:25 AM, William Klebous <klebous@...> wrote:
                               
                              It's true that this new class of Chinese collectors seems to have something of an aversion to grave goods, but that only explains why prices have not risen on these items, not why they have fallen, despite continuing interest from Western collectors. Prices have fallen because of a surge in supply, approved by the Chinese government, due to systematic excavation of ancient tombs and, except for the premier objects which go to Chinese museums, the marketing of "average" items to dealers and auction houses in the West in exchange for highly desirable dollars and euros. Its not that large tri-color Tang dynasty tomb horses are any less beautiful than they were twenty years ago, its just that they're a lot more common than we used to think. On the other hand, if you look at something like antique Buddhist bronzes, where the supply is essentially steady, but collector interest has soared, suddenly objects of secondary and tertiary and even lower quality easily find willing buyers, and really its just an all-around wonderful thing. The stranglehold of a few dealers and auction houses gets broken, or at least relaxed, and long-time collectors, perhaps nearing retirement age, get to see a decent return on their investment. So, getting back on topic, that's the main point I think. That only a surge of new interest in African Art can possibly cure the deep market ills that we have been discussing. Otherwise it is quite natural in the face of limited demand for any market to become highly controlled and exclusive and manipulated as its top dealers seek to survive lean times. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
                              From: Ed Jones <bucit@...>
                              To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                              Sent: Monday, 5 August 2013 8:42 PM
                              Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity
                              John:
                               
                              I am inclined to agree with your thoughts about Chinese preferences in opposition to authenticity.  
                              Every place I have visited in China (10 places currently), one cannot find  the number "4" on any elevator.  During my first visit to The Peoples Republic of China in the latter 90s, I asked a person at one of the airlines I had business with, and was told the number 4 is "Si" in Chinese, and is pronounced very closely to their word for death or to die.   A bit like superstitious folks and the number "13" in western cultures. 
                               
                              The Chinese have an obsession with youth and "new" things, rather than old, used and death / spiritual relics or the representation thereof.  This is in stark contrast to traditional and conservative African generations that revere ancestral homage, death and spirits as manifested in; anthropomorphic and zoomorphic inventions worshipped via libations and power objects to house deities and spirits as nkisi / minkisi and so on.  
                               
                               
                              There is a notion that all westerners are compelled and adore old, used things--- which according to most Asian-centered cultures seems to be taboo or a turn-off, as the idea that an object has been tainted in an undesirable way by another person's soul.  My wife is from a nomadic Turkic tribe, and I can tell you as an enthusiast of certain Anatolian and Central Asian artifacts, this also holds true, but there are always cultural out-casts and ones that do not think as the common demagogue in all societies.
                               
                               
                               
                              Anyway, the info and observations you expressed are true and revealing.  This will certainly have an effect on what interests their artistic fancy. 
                               
                              And I also agree with William Klebous about eBay.  I did not think about it that way, but it is vey much like the largest and most prolific seller of African arts.  In fact, many members of this forum are selling on the eBay forum and have good items.   When something has a positive monetary effect, it will always bring an element of opportunistic and unsavory types, and this will always be the case in life.  As you know, people are opportunistic, some more than others.  
                               
                              I would tend to support and agree with anyone making the assessment that greed will eventually over-shadow and diminish cultural (esoteric) knowledge... Herbert (Skip) Cole mentioned this as well as others.  This is the dilemma we find in African arts.  African cultures have evolved, and is changing.  The youth do not have the interest to live as their ancestors did 3 or 4 generations (and I do not blame them).  No culture or national group wants their youth to struggle or suffer, and this holds particularly true in developing and Third World countries.  
                               
                               
                              Ed   
                               

                              From: "Monroe, John W [HIST]" <jmonroe@...>
                              To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                              Sent: Sunday, August 4, 2013 10:14 PM
                              Subject: RE: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity
                               
                              Chinese art is an interesting parallel!  I wonder if we'll find the equation of value similarly flipped if African collectors ever begin to move the market in the way Chinese collectors have.  I do wonder if it's less a question of "authenticity" than one of cultural value: the new Chinese collectors simply *like* different things than Western collectors have generally liked.  A friend of mine who's a collector of Asian art, for instance, once told me that Chinese collectors really don't want pieces that have been buried in tombs -- they find the association with death unpleasant.  Tang dynasty horses, I think he said, were a particularly clear example: they used to be a lot more expensive than they are now. Also, as for Ebay, I think William's totally right.  It's a wonderfully transparent, if sometimes deceptive, market.  It's surprising how many times I've seen something I remember from an Ebay listing crop up at a Tribal Art Week or "real" gallery.  The key is spotting the object that can be convincingly re-branded, which takes a knack.  Of the three William listed, by the way, I've got to say I think 1 could make the jump (especially if well-mounted), possibly 2, but not 3.   John Monroe
                              From: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com [African_Arts@yahoogroups.com] on behalf of William Klebous [klebous@...]
                              Sent: Sunday, August 04, 2013 10:12 PM
                              To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
                              Subject: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity

                               

                              I would like to support the notion that an over-emphasis on "authenticity" is exactly what has damaged the African Art market so badly. In almost every other "indiginous" art market, there is a sort of rough balance between age, beauty, authenticity, and rarity which altogether determine an object's value through genuine market action amongst a large base of collectors. A good example of these market forces in action has been the recent surge in prices for impressive 19th century examples of Asian Art, mostly due to the influx of new money from China. 19th century Asian Art had been somewhat scorned by experts for reasons that will sound familiar: Too much Western influence. Not authentic enough. But a large base of new collectors has righted this market distortion, this over-emphasis on authenticity. Without a large new base of African Art collectors, which I do not currently see on the horizon, the distortions we see in the African Art market will continue. In the meantime, don't be too condemning of the sort of rigged game we currently see at the top end of the market. If they were having no success in manipulating upwards the prices of these top-end objects, the true market for African Art would be even lower. Perhaps much lower. In my opinion the largest and therefore most true market for African Art currently is Ebay. This particular market also, in my opinion, does a better job of balancing out age, beauty, authenticity, and rarity than any better-vetted venue I know of. So, as an experiment, I searched for Ebay objects sold at auction recently with a non-trivial amount of bids and without significant provenance. Here for your consideration are three of the most highly valued lots, only one of which may be sufficiently "authentic" for many of you. But personally, I think the Ebay market did a pretty good job in establishing something like true market value. (FYI, I have no connection whatsoever with any of these objects or sellers. And myself, currently I wouldn't have paid this much for any of the three lots, mostly because I've been more interested in Asian Art the last five or so years, only picking up a few absolute "steals" in African Art during this period.) Teke magical figure $1325 Ebay#400478731307 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/A-Fine-TEKE-magical-figure-Fetiche-Kongo-Fetischfigur-brown-patina-ochre-pigment-/00/s/NTk5WDYwOA==/z/4vUAAMXQY8JRgWDN/$(KGrHqZHJEUFE2I4LZQcBRgWDNY5Qg~~60_3.JPG Fon fetsih figure $990 Ebay#181143448960 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/EWE-FON-FETISH-FIGURE-/00/s/MTYwMFgxMjAw/z/3OsAAOxycERRmP05/$(KGrHqV,!qMFGBdUgLn9BRmP04v2DQ~~60_57.JPG Baule spirit couple $543 Ebay#370829424980 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/Superb-African-Art-BAULE-Fertility-Spirit-Couple-Figure-Collectible-/00/s/MTYwMFgxMjAw/$(KGrHqF,!oME-9lSRgEsBP2+49i-O!~~60_57.JPG  
                              --
                              Currently  in Israel:
                               
                              In Israel:
                              Emeritus, Dept of Psychology
                              University of Haifa
                              Haifa 31905
                              Tel: 077-7825306
                              Cell: 050-7332323
                               
                              In the US:
                              1742 Grant Ave
                              East Meadow, NY 11554
                              Tel.: 516-750-5335
                              Cell: 646-894-4904
                               






                            • Ed Jones
                              Thanks John.    This is a telling article indeed.   It seems to be in lock-step with Anatolian antique kilims and such, as well as carpet purchases. 
                              Message 15 of 25 , Aug 7, 2013
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                                Thanks John. 
                                 
                                This is a telling article indeed.   It seems to be in "lock-step" with Anatolian antique kilims and such, as well as carpet purchases. 
                                 
                                Then again, the 50s-60s era art deco furniture designs, styles and colors fell off the grid for about 50-60 years or so, and is a very popular revived style today.   Why would collecting INVESTMENT African art be any different?  There seems to be a season and cycle for these things.  I wonder how African modernist art and sculptures are fairing such as Woodrow Nash and his "Rage Gallery", does anyone have an idea? 
                                 
                                I met him in person during a business trip to Chicago during the summer of 2003.  He was in attendance at an art Expo.  His recent work has changed quite a bit compared to his early creations.
                                 
                                Ed

                                 
                                From: "Monroe, John W [HIST]" <jmonroe@...>
                                To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                                Sent: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 12:20 PM
                                Subject: RE: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity
                                 
                                In light of the turn this discussion has taken, particularly in the recent posts from William, Ed, Bob and Richard, I thought people might be interested in Michael Auliso’s recent interview with Heinrich Schweizer, the head of Sotheby’s African and Oceanic department in New York:


                                In the interview, he gives a pretty candid statement of exactly how Sotheby’s is currently marketing African art, and what sorts of pieces get chosen to figure in its auctions.  In New York, Sotheby’s has shrunk both the number of sales and the number of lots on offer, all with an eye toward focusing attention on a select few lots, chosen for their “universal appeal” – by which Schweizer means both their essential esthetic quality, and their ability to attract buyers who think of themselves as “art collectors” in the broad sense.  These buyers, in turn, are the post-2008 international super-rich, people for whom “$15,000 is not a lot of money anymore.” 

                                The objects Sotheby’s selects to appeal to such buyers, Schweizer says, have to have two attributes: a certain esthetic quality deemed (in this cultural setting) to be “transcendent,” and a particular kind of provenance.  Understandably , he’s coy about the esthetic side of things.  As he notes, the ability to identify objects with the power to “transcend” is a “trade secret,” which is actually true for any dealer in this field.  However, he’s more explicit about provenance.  Buyers looking for “universal masterpieces” pay particularly close attention to details of past ownership and – especially – exhibition and publication history.  The object that makes it to Sotheby’s, in addition to being a certain kind of beautiful (whatever that is) has to be *well known* when it arrives on the auction block.  My guess is that, in practice, the second attribute – object “fame” – is probably a lot more important than the aesthetic “special sauce.”  There might be the occasional unknown piece “plucked from obscurity” in a Sotheby’s sale, but those long-shot bets are going to be hedged with plenty of sure things.

                                This confirms what people have been saying here: the top end is rising, but contracting sharply, while in the rest of the market, prices are slack and tending lower.  As William notes, this certainly owes something to an absence of demand.  Collecting African art just isn’t “in” anymore, in the way it was in the 50s and 60s.  There isn’t the critical mass of people willing to invest the money and self-instruction time that becoming a knowledgeable connoisseur-collector in this field requires, the way there is today in the world of Chinese antiques.  Think of all those psychoanalysts, academics and doctors in cities like Boston, New York and Chicago who used to see an interest in traditional African art as a sign of a certain type of cultivation and progressiveness – they’re mostly gone or aging now, and younger people have different badges of “hipness.”

                                That does leave some strong upsides, however, as several posters have noted.  If you choose to get serious in this field and look to vetted specialist auctions, it’s possible to score some very nice – on occasion, actually museum-worthy – works of art for prices far lower than you’d pay if you were buying Western paintings or sculptures of equivalent quality.  Even on Ebay, as William says, every so often genuine, sometimes very fine, objects do appear.  And they *do* sell for a song.  In a decade on the site, checking it daily, I have never seen an African sculpture fetch more than $2500…and if you’re looking at a museum-quality piece, that is still “a song.”  (Of course given the poor quality of most Ebay listing-photos, you’re usually buying a pig in a poke to some degree, and in my opinion it’s that general sense of risk that sets the price ceiling.)    

                                Outside of the charmed circle of Sotheby’s, then, collecting African art just isn’t a very good financial bet if you’re looking to sell your objects for lots more than you paid originally, even if you have a very cultivated eye and an excellent collection.  Here I agree with William completely.  This is something to do as an esthetic investment, rather than a financial one.  On those terms, though, I think it’s a pretty great deal.

                                John Monroe  
                                       
                                 
                                From: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com [African_Arts@yahoogroups.com] on behalf of William Klebous [klebous@...]
                                Sent: Wednesday, August 07, 2013 2:41 AM
                                To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
                                Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity

                                 
                                Oh yes, I forgot one thing... 4) And if you take path 3) accept the liklihood that probably the only way that you're ever going to profit from your expertise is not by selling to mid-range dealers, but rather by becoming a mid-range dealer yourself at some point in your life. Otherwise, just enjoy the fact that you have some powerful authentic African art in your life at a fraction of what it would have otherwise cost.


                                From: William Klebous <klebous@...>
                                To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                                Sent: Wednesday, 7 August 2013 5:00 PM
                                Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity
                                Ed, yes, but... 1) "Safety" is exactly what the major auction houses and major dealers provide, and charge such a premium for. If you want it, pay for it. 2) As has been pointed out, a lesser kind of safety is already provided by dozens of ethical mid-range dealers. Generally speaking, under current market conditions, your purchase from these dealers will NOT be respected by the major dealers and major auction houses, but it will provide some support if and when you decide to sell into a less-rigged venue, although even recovering your additional investment, no less making a profit, will likely prove difficult. (Moment of nostalgia: There was a time, not long ago, when many dealers had a standing offer to re-purchase the item they sold you for its original purchase price, so confident were they of a steadily rising market.) 3) Or, study hard and gain confidence and compete with these mid-range dealers at out-of- the-way auctions and estate sales. In other words, buy wholesale. Have fun, make mistakes, learn. Think of your mistakes as tuition. Nothing concentrates the mind like gambling your own hard-earned money.

                                From: Ed Jones <bucit@...>
                                To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                                Sent: Wednesday, 7 August 2013 3:11 PM
                                Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity

                                 William:
                                 
                                Could it be [self] trust or confidence more than not having a fat wallet? 
                                 
                                Perhaps, when one asserts the question and answer game for discernment, it is not too difficult to perceive that folks really do not know, and do not want to get taken.
                                 
                                For me, mistakes only expose you for the moment, and it is not near as painful as carrying the burden of on the long-term.  In that manner, I am a bit brazen (or foolish to some).  It doesn't matter.  Last count, this forum has well over 900 members, but we certainly do not hear from even 10% on a regular basis... Hmmn.  And, I do not believe that Facebook provides art enthusiasts anything more soluble except "a safer, feel good zone".  My parents used to tell my siblings and I that there is no gain or development with some pain and discomfort. 
                                 
                                Even among this forum, there is a "fear" of exposing oneself, and mistakes. particularly with a bad object choice, so "less" is more (safe).  When people feel "safe", they will open up their purse strings.  
                                 
                                The money is still out there.
                                 
                                Ed
                                 
                                 
                                 
                                From: William Klebous <klebous@...>
                                To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                                Sent: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 2:47 PM
                                Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity
                                 
                                Respectfully, Rich, it seems to me that your argument is essentially "it is bad that only 10 dealers control the market for 'authentic' African art, but it would be good if 20 dealers did". The Asian art market is swimming in fakes, but it is a healthy market nonetheless, because of DEMAND. Competition amongst expert collectors has driven prices way up for even non-provenanced non-expertly-vetted pieces. Here is the true problem:  When an OBVIOUSLY authentic piece of antique or semi-antique African art comes up for bid on Ebay, without reserve or provenance, often it goes for just a song. I can assure you that when an OBVIOUSLY authentic piece of antique Asian art appears on Ebay, without reserve or provenance, it does not go for just a song. It goes for good money. We don't suffer from a lack of experts. We suffer from a lack of enthusiasts, with fat wallets.


                                From: rschust <richschust@...>
                                To: African Arts Group <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                                Sent: Wednesday, 7 August 2013 1:45 AM
                                Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity

                                This discussion of the market for Asian arts leads me to add a brief postscript to my comments on the unfortunate link between use of "real" and "authentic" to justify the Sotheby model of exorbitant prices for African art.
                                 
                                Some of you have suggested that the Sotheby/prestigious-gallery model helps the market because it creates a high ceiling that lifts up the whole market. But you then ignore the negative effect on the market for African carvings from classifying anything else as "not real" (Lou Wells to me) or "not authentic." (Again, Lou Wells to me: "One test of authenticity would be simply to ask whether Sotheby’s or Christie’s would offer the piece.")
                                 
                                The result of this elitism  is bound to be that our purchases of more recent carvings, despite their authenticity in terms of origin and provenance (from where they originate, not what collection they came from) is a fool's paradise of buying carvings that are, in effect, "not real." We are simply wasting our money and becoming fools as well.by buying items that are judged as inauthentic and "not real" despite the sellers' claims of "old," used, etc. I believe this is  one of the main reason why the demand for African carvings is not greater. A lot of potential new collectors are wary of being fooled and duped unless they restrict their purchases to truly inexpensive, mass-produced carvings whose sole virtue is that they may be attractive. Or remind you of your African safari holiday..
                                 
                                This is also why the field would gain - along with the value of our collections - if we could show by invoice that our carvings were purchased from dealers who have earned certification as handling only authentic carvings, whether or not these are the Sotheby or the "common collector" kind. This is why I suggested that an ad hoc committee of knowledgeable people - many of whom who participate in this forum - should be created to provide this vetting.
                                 
                                My experience with a few dealers in the US and Europe is that such dealers exist - many selling via eBay - who genuinely endeavor to handle only authentic items. If they were officially credited with doing so, we would all be in a better place, as would the market overall.
                                On Tue, Aug 6, 2013 at 11:25 AM, William Klebous <klebous@...> wrote:
                                 
                                It's true that this new class of Chinese collectors seems to have something of an aversion to grave goods, but that only explains why prices have not risen on these items, not why they have fallen, despite continuing interest from Western collectors. Prices have fallen because of a surge in supply, approved by the Chinese government, due to systematic excavation of ancient tombs and, except for the premier objects which go to Chinese museums, the marketing of "average" items to dealers and auction houses in the West in exchange for highly desirable dollars and euros. Its not that large tri-color Tang dynasty tomb horses are any less beautiful than they were twenty years ago, its just that they're a lot more common than we used to think. On the other hand, if you look at something like antique Buddhist bronzes, where the supply is essentially steady, but collector interest has soared, suddenly objects of secondary and tertiary and even lower quality easily find willing buyers, and really its just an all-around wonderful thing. The stranglehold of a few dealers and auction houses gets broken, or at least relaxed, and long-time collectors, perhaps nearing retirement age, get to see a decent return on their investment. So, getting back on topic, that's the main point I think. That only a surge of new interest in African Art can possibly cure the deep market ills that we have been discussing. Otherwise it is quite natural in the face of limited demand for any market to become highly controlled and exclusive and manipulated as its top dealers seek to survive lean times. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
                                From: Ed Jones <bucit@...>
                                To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                                Sent: Monday, 5 August 2013 8:42 PM
                                Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity
                                John:
                                 
                                I am inclined to agree with your thoughts about Chinese preferences in opposition to authenticity.  
                                Every place I have visited in China (10 places currently), one cannot find  the number "4" on any elevator.  During my first visit to The Peoples Republic of China in the latter 90s, I asked a person at one of the airlines I had business with, and was told the number 4 is "Si" in Chinese, and is pronounced very closely to their word for death or to die.   A bit like superstitious folks and the number "13" in western cultures. 
                                 
                                The Chinese have an obsession with youth and "new" things, rather than old, used and death / spiritual relics or the representation thereof.  This is in stark contrast to traditional and conservative African generations that revere ancestral homage, death and spirits as manifested in; anthropomorphic and zoomorphic inventions worshipped via libations and power objects to house deities and spirits as nkisi / minkisi and so on.  
                                 
                                 
                                There is a notion that all westerners are compelled and adore old, used things--- which according to most Asian-centered cultures seems to be taboo or a turn-off, as the idea that an object has been tainted in an undesirable way by another person's soul.  My wife is from a nomadic Turkic tribe, and I can tell you as an enthusiast of certain Anatolian and Central Asian artifacts, this also holds true, but there are always cultural out-casts and ones that do not think as the common demagogue in all societies.
                                 
                                 
                                 
                                Anyway, the info and observations you expressed are true and revealing.  This will certainly have an effect on what interests their artistic fancy. 
                                 
                                And I also agree with William Klebous about eBay.  I did not think about it that way, but it is vey much like the largest and most prolific seller of African arts.  In fact, many members of this forum are selling on the eBay forum and have good items.   When something has a positive monetary effect, it will always bring an element of opportunistic and unsavory types, and this will always be the case in life.  As you know, people are opportunistic, some more than others.  
                                 
                                I would tend to support and agree with anyone making the assessment that greed will eventually over-shadow and diminish cultural (esoteric) knowledge... Herbert (Skip) Cole mentioned this as well as others.  This is the dilemma we find in African arts.  African cultures have evolved, and is changing.  The youth do not have the interest to live as their ancestors did 3 or 4 generations (and I do not blame them).  No culture or national group wants their youth to struggle or suffer, and this holds particularly true in developing and Third World countries.  
                                 
                                 
                                Ed   
                                 

                                From: "Monroe, John W [HIST]" <jmonroe@...>
                                To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                                Sent: Sunday, August 4, 2013 10:14 PM
                                Subject: RE: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity
                                 
                                Chinese art is an interesting parallel!  I wonder if we'll find the equation of value similarly flipped if African collectors ever begin to move the market in the way Chinese collectors have.  I do wonder if it's less a question of "authenticity" than one of cultural value: the new Chinese collectors simply *like* different things than Western collectors have generally liked.  A friend of mine who's a collector of Asian art, for instance, once told me that Chinese collectors really don't want pieces that have been buried in tombs -- they find the association with death unpleasant.  Tang dynasty horses, I think he said, were a particularly clear example: they used to be a lot more expensive than they are now. Also, as for Ebay, I think William's totally right.  It's a wonderfully transparent, if sometimes deceptive, market.  It's surprising how many times I've seen something I remember from an Ebay listing crop up at a Tribal Art Week or "real" gallery.  The key is spotting the object that can be convincingly re-branded, which takes a knack.  Of the three William listed, by the way, I've got to say I think 1 could make the jump (especially if well-mounted), possibly 2, but not 3.   John Monroe
                                From: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com [African_Arts@yahoogroups.com] on behalf of William Klebous [klebous@...]
                                Sent: Sunday, August 04, 2013 10:12 PM
                                To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
                                Subject: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity

                                 

                                I would like to support the notion that an over-emphasis on "authenticity" is exactly what has damaged the African Art market so badly. In almost every other "indiginous" art market, there is a sort of rough balance between age, beauty, authenticity, and rarity which altogether determine an object's value through genuine market action amongst a large base of collectors. A good example of these market forces in action has been the recent surge in prices for impressive 19th century examples of Asian Art, mostly due to the influx of new money from China. 19th century Asian Art had been somewhat scorned by experts for reasons that will sound familiar: Too much Western influence. Not authentic enough. But a large base of new collectors has righted this market distortion, this over-emphasis on authenticity. Without a large new base of African Art collectors, which I do not currently see on the horizon, the distortions we see in the African Art market will continue. In the meantime, don't be too condemning of the sort of rigged game we currently see at the top end of the market. If they were having no success in manipulating upwards the prices of these top-end objects, the true market for African Art would be even lower. Perhaps much lower. In my opinion the largest and therefore most true market for African Art currently is Ebay. This particular market also, in my opinion, does a better job of balancing out age, beauty, authenticity, and rarity than any better-vetted venue I know of. So, as an experiment, I searched for Ebay objects sold at auction recently with a non-trivial amount of bids and without significant provenance. Here for your consideration are three of the most highly valued lots, only one of which may be sufficiently "authentic" for many of you. But personally, I think the Ebay market did a pretty good job in establishing something like true market value. (FYI, I have no connection whatsoever with any of these objects or sellers. And myself, currently I wouldn't have paid this much for any of the three lots, mostly because I've been more interested in Asian Art the last five or so years, only picking up a few absolute "steals" in African Art during this period.) Teke magical figure $1325 Ebay#400478731307 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/A-Fine-TEKE-magical-figure-Fetiche-Kongo-Fetischfigur-brown-patina-ochre-pigment-/00/s/NTk5WDYwOA==/z/4vUAAMXQY8JRgWDN/$(KGrHqZHJEUFE2I4LZQcBRgWDNY5Qg~~60_3.JPG Fon fetsih figure $990 Ebay#181143448960 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/EWE-FON-FETISH-FIGURE-/00/s/MTYwMFgxMjAw/z/3OsAAOxycERRmP05/$(KGrHqV,!qMFGBdUgLn9BRmP04v2DQ~~60_57.JPG Baule spirit couple $543 Ebay#370829424980 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/Superb-African-Art-BAULE-Fertility-Spirit-Couple-Figure-Collectible-/00/s/MTYwMFgxMjAw/$(KGrHqF,!oME-9lSRgEsBP2+49i-O!~~60_57.JPG  
                                --
                                Currently  in Israel:
                                 
                                In Israel:
                                Emeritus, Dept of Psychology
                                University of Haifa
                                Haifa 31905
                                Tel: 077-7825306
                                Cell: 050-7332323
                                 
                                In the US:
                                1742 Grant Ave
                                East Meadow, NY 11554
                                Tel.: 516-750-5335
                                Cell: 646-894-4904
                                 
                              • Monroe, John W [HIST]
                                You re welcome, Ed. Also: your point about mid-century modern furniture is well-taken. It s very possible that fashions could change and we could see more
                                Message 16 of 25 , Aug 8, 2013
                                • 0 Attachment
                                  You're welcome, Ed. 

                                  Also: your point about "mid-century modern" furniture is well-taken.  It's very possible that fashions could change and we could see more collectors of traditional African art appearing -- the art is still the art, and it remains every bit as good as it's always been.  I've been living with my favorite pieces long enough to be deeply confident of that!

                                  If you look at the place of traditional African art in the whole "field of cultural production", museums are a good sign for the future.  African art collections are now more or less obligatory at all major American encyclopedic art museums.  This means their cultural place in the canon of "art" is fixed quite firmly, even if the current market is soft.  It's not a question of getting in the game, it's a question of waiting for a comeback -- and if late nineteenth century French Academic painting can come back (as it recently has), *anything* can.

                                  John Monroe


                                  From: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com [African_Arts@yahoogroups.com] on behalf of Ed Jones [bucit@...]
                                  Sent: Wednesday, August 07, 2013 4:01 PM
                                  To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
                                  Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity

                                   

                                  Thanks John. 
                                   
                                  This is a telling article indeed.   It seems to be in "lock-step" with Anatolian antique kilims and such, as well as carpet purchases. 
                                   
                                  Then again, the 50s-60s era art deco furniture designs, styles and colors fell off the grid for about 50-60 years or so, and is a very popular revived style today.   Why would collecting INVESTMENT African art be any different?  There seems to be a season and cycle for these things.  I wonder how African modernist art and sculptures are fairing such as Woodrow Nash and his "Rage Gallery", does anyone have an idea? 
                                   
                                  I met him in person during a business trip to Chicago during the summer of 2003.  He was in attendance at an art Expo.  His recent work has changed quite a bit compared to his early creations.
                                   
                                  Ed

                                   
                                  From: "Monroe, John W [HIST]" <jmonroe@...>
                                  To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                                  Sent: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 12:20 PM
                                  Subject: RE: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity
                                   
                                  In light of the turn this discussion has taken, particularly in the recent posts from William, Ed, Bob and Richard, I thought people might be interested in Michael Auliso’s recent interview with Heinrich Schweizer, the head of Sotheby’s African and Oceanic department in New York:


                                  In the interview, he gives a pretty candid statement of exactly how Sotheby’s is currently marketing African art, and what sorts of pieces get chosen to figure in its auctions.  In New York, Sotheby’s has shrunk both the number of sales and the number of lots on offer, all with an eye toward focusing attention on a select few lots, chosen for their “universal appeal” – by which Schweizer means both their essential esthetic quality, and their ability to attract buyers who think of themselves as “art collectors” in the broad sense.  These buyers, in turn, are the post-2008 international super-rich, people for whom “$15,000 is not a lot of money anymore.” 

                                  The objects Sotheby’s selects to appeal to such buyers, Schweizer says, have to have two attributes: a certain esthetic quality deemed (in this cultural setting) to be “transcendent,” and a particular kind of provenance.  Understandably , he’s coy about the esthetic side of things.  As he notes, the ability to identify objects with the power to “transcend” is a “trade secret,” which is actually true for any dealer in this field.  However, he’s more explicit about provenance.  Buyers looking for “universal masterpieces” pay particularly close attention to details of past ownership and – especially – exhibition and publication history.  The object that makes it to Sotheby’s, in addition to being a certain kind of beautiful (whatever that is) has to be *well known* when it arrives on the auction block.  My guess is that, in practice, the second attribute – object “fame” – is probably a lot more important than the aesthetic “special sauce.”  There might be the occasional unknown piece “plucked from obscurity” in a Sotheby’s sale, but those long-shot bets are going to be hedged with plenty of sure things.

                                  This confirms what people have been saying here: the top end is rising, but contracting sharply, while in the rest of the market, prices are slack and tending lower.  As William notes, this certainly owes something to an absence of demand.  Collecting African art just isn’t “in” anymore, in the way it was in the 50s and 60s.  There isn’t the critical mass of people willing to invest the money and self-instruction time that becoming a knowledgeable connoisseur-collector in this field requires, the way there is today in the world of Chinese antiques.  Think of all those psychoanalysts, academics and doctors in cities like Boston, New York and Chicago who used to see an interest in traditional African art as a sign of a certain type of cultivation and progressiveness – they’re mostly gone or aging now, and younger people have different badges of “hipness.”

                                  That does leave some strong upsides, however, as several posters have noted.  If you choose to get serious in this field and look to vetted specialist auctions, it’s possible to score some very nice – on occasion, actually museum-worthy – works of art for prices far lower than you’d pay if you were buying Western paintings or sculptures of equivalent quality.  Even on Ebay, as William says, every so often genuine, sometimes very fine, objects do appear.  And they *do* sell for a song.  In a decade on the site, checking it daily, I have never seen an African sculpture fetch more than $2500…and if you’re looking at a museum-quality piece, that is still “a song.”  (Of course given the poor quality of most Ebay listing-photos, you’re usually buying a pig in a poke to some degree, and in my opinion it’s that general sense of risk that sets the price ceiling.)    

                                  Outside of the charmed circle of Sotheby’s, then, collecting African art just isn’t a very good financial bet if you’re looking to sell your objects for lots more than you paid originally, even if you have a very cultivated eye and an excellent collection.  Here I agree with William completely.  This is something to do as an esthetic investment, rather than a financial one.  On those terms, though, I think it’s a pretty great deal.

                                  John Monroe  
                                         
                                   
                                  From: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com [African_Arts@yahoogroups.com] on behalf of William Klebous [klebous@...]
                                  Sent: Wednesday, August 07, 2013 2:41 AM
                                  To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
                                  Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity

                                   
                                  Oh yes, I forgot one thing... 4) And if you take path 3) accept the liklihood that probably the only way that you're ever going to profit from your expertise is not by selling to mid-range dealers, but rather by becoming a mid-range dealer yourself at some point in your life. Otherwise, just enjoy the fact that you have some powerful authentic African art in your life at a fraction of what it would have otherwise cost.


                                  From: William Klebous <klebous@...>
                                  To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                                  Sent: Wednesday, 7 August 2013 5:00 PM
                                  Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity
                                  Ed, yes, but... 1) "Safety" is exactly what the major auction houses and major dealers provide, and charge such a premium for. If you want it, pay for it. 2) As has been pointed out, a lesser kind of safety is already provided by dozens of ethical mid-range dealers. Generally speaking, under current market conditions, your purchase from these dealers will NOT be respected by the major dealers and major auction houses, but it will provide some support if and when you decide to sell into a less-rigged venue, although even recovering your additional investment, no less making a profit, will likely prove difficult. (Moment of nostalgia: There was a time, not long ago, when many dealers had a standing offer to re-purchase the item they sold you for its original purchase price, so confident were they of a steadily rising market.) 3) Or, study hard and gain confidence and compete with these mid-range dealers at out-of- the-way auctions and estate sales. In other words, buy wholesale. Have fun, make mistakes, learn. Think of your mistakes as tuition. Nothing concentrates the mind like gambling your own hard-earned money.

                                  From: Ed Jones <bucit@...>
                                  To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                                  Sent: Wednesday, 7 August 2013 3:11 PM
                                  Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity

                                   William:
                                   
                                  Could it be [self] trust or confidence more than not having a fat wallet? 
                                   
                                  Perhaps, when one asserts the question and answer game for discernment, it is not too difficult to perceive that folks really do not know, and do not want to get taken.
                                   
                                  For me, mistakes only expose you for the moment, and it is not near as painful as carrying the burden of on the long-term.  In that manner, I am a bit brazen (or foolish to some).  It doesn't matter.  Last count, this forum has well over 900 members, but we certainly do not hear from even 10% on a regular basis... Hmmn.  And, I do not believe that Facebook provides art enthusiasts anything more soluble except "a safer, feel good zone".  My parents used to tell my siblings and I that there is no gain or development with some pain and discomfort. 
                                   
                                  Even among this forum, there is a "fear" of exposing oneself, and mistakes. particularly with a bad object choice, so "less" is more (safe).  When people feel "safe", they will open up their purse strings.  
                                   
                                  The money is still out there.
                                   
                                  Ed
                                   
                                   
                                   
                                  From: William Klebous <klebous@...>
                                  To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                                  Sent: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 2:47 PM
                                  Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity
                                   
                                  Respectfully, Rich, it seems to me that your argument is essentially "it is bad that only 10 dealers control the market for 'authentic' African art, but it would be good if 20 dealers did". The Asian art market is swimming in fakes, but it is a healthy market nonetheless, because of DEMAND. Competition amongst expert collectors has driven prices way up for even non-provenanced non-expertly-vetted pieces. Here is the true problem:  When an OBVIOUSLY authentic piece of antique or semi-antique African art comes up for bid on Ebay, without reserve or provenance, often it goes for just a song. I can assure you that when an OBVIOUSLY authentic piece of antique Asian art appears on Ebay, without reserve or provenance, it does not go for just a song. It goes for good money. We don't suffer from a lack of experts. We suffer from a lack of enthusiasts, with fat wallets.


                                  From: rschust <richschust@...>
                                  To: African Arts Group <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                                  Sent: Wednesday, 7 August 2013 1:45 AM
                                  Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity

                                  This discussion of the market for Asian arts leads me to add a brief postscript to my comments on the unfortunate link between use of "real" and "authentic" to justify the Sotheby model of exorbitant prices for African art.
                                   
                                  Some of you have suggested that the Sotheby/prestigious-gallery model helps the market because it creates a high ceiling that lifts up the whole market. But you then ignore the negative effect on the market for African carvings from classifying anything else as "not real" (Lou Wells to me) or "not authentic." (Again, Lou Wells to me: "One test of authenticity would be simply to ask whether Sotheby’s or Christie’s would offer the piece.")
                                   
                                  The result of this elitism  is bound to be that our purchases of more recent carvings, despite their authenticity in terms of origin and provenance (from where they originate, not what collection they came from) is a fool's paradise of buying carvings that are, in effect, "not real." We are simply wasting our money and becoming fools as well.by buying items that are judged as inauthentic and "not real" despite the sellers' claims of "old," used, etc. I believe this is  one of the main reason why the demand for African carvings is not greater. A lot of potential new collectors are wary of being fooled and duped unless they restrict their purchases to truly inexpensive, mass-produced carvings whose sole virtue is that they may be attractive. Or remind you of your African safari holiday..
                                   
                                  This is also why the field would gain - along with the value of our collections - if we could show by invoice that our carvings were purchased from dealers who have earned certification as handling only authentic carvings, whether or not these are the Sotheby or the "common collector" kind. This is why I suggested that an ad hoc committee of knowledgeable people - many of whom who participate in this forum - should be created to provide this vetting.
                                   
                                  My experience with a few dealers in the US and Europe is that such dealers exist - many selling via eBay - who genuinely endeavor to handle only authentic items. If they were officially credited with doing so, we would all be in a better place, as would the market overall.
                                  On Tue, Aug 6, 2013 at 11:25 AM, William Klebous <klebous@...> wrote:
                                   
                                  It's true that this new class of Chinese collectors seems to have something of an aversion to grave goods, but that only explains why prices have not risen on these items, not why they have fallen, despite continuing interest from Western collectors. Prices have fallen because of a surge in supply, approved by the Chinese government, due to systematic excavation of ancient tombs and, except for the premier objects which go to Chinese museums, the marketing of "average" items to dealers and auction houses in the West in exchange for highly desirable dollars and euros. Its not that large tri-color Tang dynasty tomb horses are any less beautiful than they were twenty years ago, its just that they're a lot more common than we used to think. On the other hand, if you look at something like antique Buddhist bronzes, where the supply is essentially steady, but collector interest has soared, suddenly objects of secondary and tertiary and even lower quality easily find willing buyers, and really its just an all-around wonderful thing. The stranglehold of a few dealers and auction houses gets broken, or at least relaxed, and long-time collectors, perhaps nearing retirement age, get to see a decent return on their investment. So, getting back on topic, that's the main point I think. That only a surge of new interest in African Art can possibly cure the deep market ills that we have been discussing. Otherwise it is quite natural in the face of limited demand for any market to become highly controlled and exclusive and manipulated as its top dealers seek to survive lean times. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
                                  From: Ed Jones <bucit@...>
                                  To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                                  Sent: Monday, 5 August 2013 8:42 PM
                                  Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity
                                  John:
                                   
                                  I am inclined to agree with your thoughts about Chinese preferences in opposition to authenticity.  
                                  Every place I have visited in China (10 places currently), one cannot find  the number "4" on any elevator.  During my first visit to The Peoples Republic of China in the latter 90s, I asked a person at one of the airlines I had business with, and was told the number 4 is "Si" in Chinese, and is pronounced very closely to their word for death or to die.   A bit like superstitious folks and the number "13" in western cultures. 
                                   
                                  The Chinese have an obsession with youth and "new" things, rather than old, used and death / spiritual relics or the representation thereof.  This is in stark contrast to traditional and conservative African generations that revere ancestral homage, death and spirits as manifested in; anthropomorphic and zoomorphic inventions worshipped via libations and power objects to house deities and spirits as nkisi / minkisi and so on.  
                                   
                                   
                                  There is a notion that all westerners are compelled and adore old, used things--- which according to most Asian-centered cultures seems to be taboo or a turn-off, as the idea that an object has been tainted in an undesirable way by another person's soul.  My wife is from a nomadic Turkic tribe, and I can tell you as an enthusiast of certain Anatolian and Central Asian artifacts, this also holds true, but there are always cultural out-casts and ones that do not think as the common demagogue in all societies.
                                   
                                   
                                   
                                  Anyway, the info and observations you expressed are true and revealing.  This will certainly have an effect on what interests their artistic fancy. 
                                   
                                  And I also agree with William Klebous about eBay.  I did not think about it that way, but it is vey much like the largest and most prolific seller of African arts.  In fact, many members of this forum are selling on the eBay forum and have good items.   When something has a positive monetary effect, it will always bring an element of opportunistic and unsavory types, and this will always be the case in life.  As you know, people are opportunistic, some more than others.  
                                   
                                  I would tend to support and agree with anyone making the assessment that greed will eventually over-shadow and diminish cultural (esoteric) knowledge... Herbert (Skip) Cole mentioned this as well as others.  This is the dilemma we find in African arts.  African cultures have evolved, and is changing.  The youth do not have the interest to live as their ancestors did 3 or 4 generations (and I do not blame them).  No culture or national group wants their youth to struggle or suffer, and this holds particularly true in developing and Third World countries.  
                                   
                                   
                                  Ed   
                                   

                                  From: "Monroe, John W [HIST]" <jmonroe@...>
                                  To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                                  Sent: Sunday, August 4, 2013 10:14 PM
                                  Subject: RE: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity
                                   
                                  Chinese art is an interesting parallel!  I wonder if we'll find the equation of value similarly flipped if African collectors ever begin to move the market in the way Chinese collectors have.  I do wonder if it's less a question of "authenticity" than one of cultural value: the new Chinese collectors simply *like* different things than Western collectors have generally liked.  A friend of mine who's a collector of Asian art, for instance, once told me that Chinese collectors really don't want pieces that have been buried in tombs -- they find the association with death unpleasant.  Tang dynasty horses, I think he said, were a particularly clear example: they used to be a lot more expensive than they are now. Also, as for Ebay, I think William's totally right.  It's a wonderfully transparent, if sometimes deceptive, market.  It's surprising how many times I've seen something I remember from an Ebay listing crop up at a Tribal Art Week or "real" gallery.  The key is spotting the object that can be convincingly re-branded, which takes a knack.  Of the three William listed, by the way, I've got to say I think 1 could make the jump (especially if well-mounted), possibly 2, but not 3.   John Monroe
                                  From: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com [African_Arts@yahoogroups.com] on behalf of William Klebous [klebous@...]
                                  Sent: Sunday, August 04, 2013 10:12 PM
                                  To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
                                  Subject: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity

                                   

                                  I would like to support the notion that an over-emphasis on "authenticity" is exactly what has damaged the African Art market so badly. In almost every other "indiginous" art market, there is a sort of rough balance between age, beauty, authenticity, and rarity which altogether determine an object's value through genuine market action amongst a large base of collectors. A good example of these market forces in action has been the recent surge in prices for impressive 19th century examples of Asian Art, mostly due to the influx of new money from China. 19th century Asian Art had been somewhat scorned by experts for reasons that will sound familiar: Too much Western influence. Not authentic enough. But a large base of new collectors has righted this market distortion, this over-emphasis on authenticity. Without a large new base of African Art collectors, which I do not currently see on the horizon, the distortions we see in the African Art market will continue. In the meantime, don't be too condemning of the sort of rigged game we currently see at the top end of the market. If they were having no success in manipulating upwards the prices of these top-end objects, the true market for African Art would be even lower. Perhaps much lower. In my opinion the largest and therefore most true market for African Art currently is Ebay. This particular market also, in my opinion, does a better job of balancing out age, beauty, authenticity, and rarity than any better-vetted venue I know of. So, as an experiment, I searched for Ebay objects sold at auction recently with a non-trivial amount of bids and without significant provenance. Here for your consideration are three of the most highly valued lots, only one of which may be sufficiently "authentic" for many of you. But personally, I think the Ebay market did a pretty good job in establishing something like true market value. (FYI, I have no connection whatsoever with any of these objects or sellers. And myself, currently I wouldn't have paid this much for any of the three lots, mostly because I've been more interested in Asian Art the last five or so years, only picking up a few absolute "steals" in African Art during this period.) Teke magical figure $1325 Ebay#400478731307 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/A-Fine-TEKE-magical-figure-Fetiche-Kongo-Fetischfigur-brown-patina-ochre-pigment-/00/s/NTk5WDYwOA==/z/4vUAAMXQY8JRgWDN/$(KGrHqZHJEUFE2I4LZQcBRgWDNY5Qg~~60_3.JPG Fon fetsih figure $990 Ebay#181143448960 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/EWE-FON-FETISH-FIGURE-/00/s/MTYwMFgxMjAw/z/3OsAAOxycERRmP05/$(KGrHqV,!qMFGBdUgLn9BRmP04v2DQ~~60_57.JPG Baule spirit couple $543 Ebay#370829424980 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/Superb-African-Art-BAULE-Fertility-Spirit-Couple-Figure-Collectible-/00/s/MTYwMFgxMjAw/$(KGrHqF,!oME-9lSRgEsBP2+49i-O!~~60_57.JPG  
                                  --
                                  Currently  in Israel:
                                   
                                  In Israel:
                                  Emeritus, Dept of Psychology
                                  University of Haifa
                                  Haifa 31905
                                  Tel: 077-7825306
                                  Cell: 050-7332323
                                   
                                  In the US:
                                  1742 Grant Ave
                                  East Meadow, NY 11554
                                  Tel.: 516-750-5335
                                  Cell: 646-894-4904
                                   

                                • Ed Jones
                                  Hi John:   As a very dear friend would say, A huge hoard of mediocre stuff, one can never really enjoy any piece individually. And with any form of art you
                                  Message 17 of 25 , Aug 11, 2013
                                  • 0 Attachment
                                    Hi John:
                                     
                                    As a very dear friend would say,
                                    "A huge hoard of mediocre stuff, one can never really enjoy any piece individually. And with any form of art you can only really look and enjoy one piece at a time.  Perhaps, people that hoard will never be satisfied, so continue to search not only to expand their numbers but also to find better pieces. They find it impossible to get past the bargain hunt because they do not have patience to wait. They cannot focus their thoughts. These are usually people not prepared to research their pieces and compare. Instead of research they often look for a story to attach to each piece that suits their ideas of what it should be. They skim from the info they are given and add to it at will. They lose interest quickly in their latest purchases and move on with their hunt.
                                    True collectors do not need to do this. They are more like exceptionally good decorators who are able to focus their mind and wait while slowly building their dream set."
                                     
                                    Personally, I could not have expressed this any better, "African art is firmly (and securely) fixed in the canon of art, regardless of occasional soft market trends." 
                                     
                                    Pax vobiscum,
                                    Ed
                                     
                                     
                                    From: "Monroe, John W [HIST]" <jmonroe@...>
                                    To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                                    Sent: Thursday, August 8, 2013 12:03 PM
                                    Subject: RE: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity
                                     
                                    You're welcome, Ed.  Also: your point about "mid-century modern" furniture is well-taken.  It's very possible that fashions could change and we could see more collectors of traditional African art appearing -- the art is still the art, and it remains every bit as good as it's always been.  I've been living with my favorite pieces long enough to be deeply confident of that! If you look at the place of traditional African art in the whole "field of cultural production", museums are a good sign for the future.  African art collections are now more or less obligatory at all major American encyclopedic art museums.  This means their cultural place in the canon of "art" is fixed quite firmly, even if the current market is soft.  It's not a question of getting in the game, it's a question of waiting for a comeback -- and if late nineteenth century French Academic painting can come back (as it recently has), *anything* can. John Monroe
                                    From: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com [African_Arts@yahoogroups.com] on behalf of Ed Jones [bucit@...]
                                    Sent: Wednesday, August 07, 2013 4:01 PM
                                    To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
                                    Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity

                                     
                                    Thanks John. 
                                     
                                    This is a telling article indeed.   It seems to be in "lock-step" with Anatolian antique kilims and such, as well as carpet purchases. 
                                     
                                    Then again, the 50s-60s era art deco furniture designs, styles and colors fell off the grid for about 50-60 years or so, and is a very popular revived style today.   Why would collecting INVESTMENT African art be any different?  There seems to be a season and cycle for these things.  I wonder how African modernist art and sculptures are fairing such as Woodrow Nash and his "Rage Gallery", does anyone have an idea? 
                                     
                                    I met him in person during a business trip to Chicago during the summer of 2003.  He was in attendance at an art Expo.  His recent work has changed quite a bit compared to his early creations.
                                     
                                    Ed

                                     
                                    From: "Monroe, John W [HIST]" <jmonroe@...>
                                    To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                                    Sent: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 12:20 PM
                                    Subject: RE: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity
                                     
                                    In light of the turn this discussion has taken, particularly in the recent posts from William, Ed, Bob and Richard, I thought people might be interested in Michael Auliso’s recent interview with Heinrich Schweizer, the head of Sotheby’s African and Oceanic department in New York:


                                    In the interview, he gives a pretty candid statement of exactly how Sotheby’s is currently marketing African art, and what sorts of pieces get chosen to figure in its auctions.  In New York, Sotheby’s has shrunk both the number of sales and the number of lots on offer, all with an eye toward focusing attention on a select few lots, chosen for their “universal appeal” – by which Schweizer means both their essential esthetic quality, and their ability to attract buyers who think of themselves as “art collectors” in the broad sense.  These buyers, in turn, are the post-2008 international super-rich, people for whom “$15,000 is not a lot of money anymore.” 

                                    The objects Sotheby’s selects to appeal to such buyers, Schweizer says, have to have two attributes: a certain esthetic quality deemed (in this cultural setting) to be “transcendent,” and a particular kind of provenance.  Understandably , he’s coy about the esthetic side of things.  As he notes, the ability to identify objects with the power to “transcend” is a “trade secret,” which is actually true for any dealer in this field.  However, he’s more explicit about provenance.  Buyers looking for “universal masterpieces” pay particularly close attention to details of past ownership and – especially – exhibition and publication history.  The object that makes it to Sotheby’s, in addition to being a certain kind of beautiful (whatever that is) has to be *well known* when it arrives on the auction block.  My guess is that, in practice, the second attribute – object “fame” – is probably a lot more important than the aesthetic “special sauce.”  There might be the occasional unknown piece “plucked from obscurity” in a Sotheby’s sale, but those long-shot bets are going to be hedged with plenty of sure things.

                                    This confirms what people have been saying here: the top end is rising, but contracting sharply, while in the rest of the market, prices are slack and tending lower.  As William notes, this certainly owes something to an absence of demand.  Collecting African art just isn’t “in” anymore, in the way it was in the 50s and 60s.  There isn’t the critical mass of people willing to invest the money and self-instruction time that becoming a knowledgeable connoisseur-collector in this field requires, the way there is today in the world of Chinese antiques.  Think of all those psychoanalysts, academics and doctors in cities like Boston, New York and Chicago who used to see an interest in traditional African art as a sign of a certain type of cultivation and progressiveness – they’re mostly gone or aging now, and younger people have different badges of “hipness.”

                                    That does leave some strong upsides, however, as several posters have noted.  If you choose to get serious in this field and look to vetted specialist auctions, it’s possible to score some very nice – on occasion, actually museum-worthy – works of art for prices far lower than you’d pay if you were buying Western paintings or sculptures of equivalent quality.  Even on Ebay, as William says, every so often genuine, sometimes very fine, objects do appear.  And they *do* sell for a song.  In a decade on the site, checking it daily, I have never seen an African sculpture fetch more than $2500…and if you’re looking at a museum-quality piece, that is still “a song.”  (Of course given the poor quality of most Ebay listing-photos, you’re usually buying a pig in a poke to some degree, and in my opinion it’s that general sense of risk that sets the price ceiling.)    

                                    Outside of the charmed circle of Sotheby’s, then, collecting African art just isn’t a very good financial bet if you’re looking to sell your objects for lots more than you paid originally, even if you have a very cultivated eye and an excellent collection.  Here I agree with William completely.  This is something to do as an esthetic investment, rather than a financial one.  On those terms, though, I think it’s a pretty great deal.

                                    John Monroe  
                                           
                                     
                                    From: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com [African_Arts@yahoogroups.com] on behalf of William Klebous [klebous@...]
                                    Sent: Wednesday, August 07, 2013 2:41 AM
                                    To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
                                    Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity

                                     
                                    Oh yes, I forgot one thing... 4) And if you take path 3) accept the liklihood that probably the only way that you're ever going to profit from your expertise is not by selling to mid-range dealers, but rather by becoming a mid-range dealer yourself at some point in your life. Otherwise, just enjoy the fact that you have some powerful authentic African art in your life at a fraction of what it would have otherwise cost.


                                    From: William Klebous <klebous@...>
                                    To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                                    Sent: Wednesday, 7 August 2013 5:00 PM
                                    Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity
                                    Ed, yes, but... 1) "Safety" is exactly what the major auction houses and major dealers provide, and charge such a premium for. If you want it, pay for it. 2) As has been pointed out, a lesser kind of safety is already provided by dozens of ethical mid-range dealers. Generally speaking, under current market conditions, your purchase from these dealers will NOT be respected by the major dealers and major auction houses, but it will provide some support if and when you decide to sell into a less-rigged venue, although even recovering your additional investment, no less making a profit, will likely prove difficult. (Moment of nostalgia: There was a time, not long ago, when many dealers had a standing offer to re-purchase the item they sold you for its original purchase price, so confident were they of a steadily rising market.) 3) Or, study hard and gain confidence and compete with these mid-range dealers at out-of- the-way auctions and estate sales. In other words, buy wholesale. Have fun, make mistakes, learn. Think of your mistakes as tuition. Nothing concentrates the mind like gambling your own hard-earned money.

                                    From: Ed Jones <bucit@...>
                                    To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                                    Sent: Wednesday, 7 August 2013 3:11 PM
                                    Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity

                                     William:
                                     
                                    Could it be [self] trust or confidence more than not having a fat wallet? 
                                     
                                    Perhaps, when one asserts the question and answer game for discernment, it is not too difficult to perceive that folks really do not know, and do not want to get taken.
                                     
                                    For me, mistakes only expose you for the moment, and it is not near as painful as carrying the burden of on the long-term.  In that manner, I am a bit brazen (or foolish to some).  It doesn't matter.  Last count, this forum has well over 900 members, but we certainly do not hear from even 10% on a regular basis... Hmmn.  And, I do not believe that Facebook provides art enthusiasts anything more soluble except "a safer, feel good zone".  My parents used to tell my siblings and I that there is no gain or development with some pain and discomfort. 
                                     
                                    Even among this forum, there is a "fear" of exposing oneself, and mistakes. particularly with a bad object choice, so "less" is more (safe).  When people feel "safe", they will open up their purse strings.  
                                     
                                    The money is still out there.
                                     
                                    Ed
                                     
                                     
                                     
                                    From: William Klebous <klebous@...>
                                    To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                                    Sent: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 2:47 PM
                                    Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity
                                     
                                    Respectfully, Rich, it seems to me that your argument is essentially "it is bad that only 10 dealers control the market for 'authentic' African art, but it would be good if 20 dealers did". The Asian art market is swimming in fakes, but it is a healthy market nonetheless, because of DEMAND. Competition amongst expert collectors has driven prices way up for even non-provenanced non-expertly-vetted pieces. Here is the true problem:  When an OBVIOUSLY authentic piece of antique or semi-antique African art comes up for bid on Ebay, without reserve or provenance, often it goes for just a song. I can assure you that when an OBVIOUSLY authentic piece of antique Asian art appears on Ebay, without reserve or provenance, it does not go for just a song. It goes for good money. We don't suffer from a lack of experts. We suffer from a lack of enthusiasts, with fat wallets.


                                    From: rschust <richschust@...>
                                    To: African Arts Group <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                                    Sent: Wednesday, 7 August 2013 1:45 AM
                                    Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity

                                    This discussion of the market for Asian arts leads me to add a brief postscript to my comments on the unfortunate link between use of "real" and "authentic" to justify the Sotheby model of exorbitant prices for African art.
                                     
                                    Some of you have suggested that the Sotheby/prestigious-gallery model helps the market because it creates a high ceiling that lifts up the whole market. But you then ignore the negative effect on the market for African carvings from classifying anything else as "not real" (Lou Wells to me) or "not authentic." (Again, Lou Wells to me: "One test of authenticity would be simply to ask whether Sotheby’s or Christie’s would offer the piece.")
                                     
                                    The result of this elitism  is bound to be that our purchases of more recent carvings, despite their authenticity in terms of origin and provenance (from where they originate, not what collection they came from) is a fool's paradise of buying carvings that are, in effect, "not real." We are simply wasting our money and becoming fools as well.by buying items that are judged as inauthentic and "not real" despite the sellers' claims of "old," used, etc. I believe this is  one of the main reason why the demand for African carvings is not greater. A lot of potential new collectors are wary of being fooled and duped unless they restrict their purchases to truly inexpensive, mass-produced carvings whose sole virtue is that they may be attractive. Or remind you of your African safari holiday..
                                     
                                    This is also why the field would gain - along with the value of our collections - if we could show by invoice that our carvings were purchased from dealers who have earned certification as handling only authentic carvings, whether or not these are the Sotheby or the "common collector" kind. This is why I suggested that an ad hoc committee of knowledgeable people - many of whom who participate in this forum - should be created to provide this vetting.
                                     
                                    My experience with a few dealers in the US and Europe is that such dealers exist - many selling via eBay - who genuinely endeavor to handle only authentic items. If they were officially credited with doing so, we would all be in a better place, as would the market overall.
                                    On Tue, Aug 6, 2013 at 11:25 AM, William Klebous <klebous@...> wrote:
                                     
                                    It's true that this new class of Chinese collectors seems to have something of an aversion to grave goods, but that only explains why prices have not risen on these items, not why they have fallen, despite continuing interest from Western collectors. Prices have fallen because of a surge in supply, approved by the Chinese government, due to systematic excavation of ancient tombs and, except for the premier objects which go to Chinese museums, the marketing of "average" items to dealers and auction houses in the West in exchange for highly desirable dollars and euros. Its not that large tri-color Tang dynasty tomb horses are any less beautiful than they were twenty years ago, its just that they're a lot more common than we used to think. On the other hand, if you look at something like antique Buddhist bronzes, where the supply is essentially steady, but collector interest has soared, suddenly objects of secondary and tertiary and even lower quality easily find willing buyers, and really its just an all-around wonderful thing. The stranglehold of a few dealers and auction houses gets broken, or at least relaxed, and long-time collectors, perhaps nearing retirement age, get to see a decent return on their investment. So, getting back on topic, that's the main point I think. That only a surge of new interest in African Art can possibly cure the deep market ills that we have been discussing. Otherwise it is quite natural in the face of limited demand for any market to become highly controlled and exclusive and manipulated as its top dealers seek to survive lean times. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
                                    From: Ed Jones <bucit@...>
                                    To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                                    Sent: Monday, 5 August 2013 8:42 PM
                                    Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity
                                    John:
                                     
                                    I am inclined to agree with your thoughts about Chinese preferences in opposition to authenticity.  
                                    Every place I have visited in China (10 places currently), one cannot find  the number "4" on any elevator.  During my first visit to The Peoples Republic of China in the latter 90s, I asked a person at one of the airlines I had business with, and was told the number 4 is "Si" in Chinese, and is pronounced very closely to their word for death or to die.   A bit like superstitious folks and the number "13" in western cultures. 
                                     
                                    The Chinese have an obsession with youth and "new" things, rather than old, used and death / spiritual relics or the representation thereof.  This is in stark contrast to traditional and conservative African generations that revere ancestral homage, death and spirits as manifested in; anthropomorphic and zoomorphic inventions worshipped via libations and power objects to house deities and spirits as nkisi / minkisi and so on.  
                                     
                                     
                                    There is a notion that all westerners are compelled and adore old, used things--- which according to most Asian-centered cultures seems to be taboo or a turn-off, as the idea that an object has been tainted in an undesirable way by another person's soul.  My wife is from a nomadic Turkic tribe, and I can tell you as an enthusiast of certain Anatolian and Central Asian artifacts, this also holds true, but there are always cultural out-casts and ones that do not think as the common demagogue in all societies.
                                     
                                     
                                     
                                    Anyway, the info and observations you expressed are true and revealing.  This will certainly have an effect on what interests their artistic fancy. 
                                     
                                    And I also agree with William Klebous about eBay.  I did not think about it that way, but it is vey much like the largest and most prolific seller of African arts.  In fact, many members of this forum are selling on the eBay forum and have good items.   When something has a positive monetary effect, it will always bring an element of opportunistic and unsavory types, and this will always be the case in life.  As you know, people are opportunistic, some more than others.  
                                     
                                    I would tend to support and agree with anyone making the assessment that greed will eventually over-shadow and diminish cultural (esoteric) knowledge... Herbert (Skip) Cole mentioned this as well as others.  This is the dilemma we find in African arts.  African cultures have evolved, and is changing.  The youth do not have the interest to live as their ancestors did 3 or 4 generations (and I do not blame them).  No culture or national group wants their youth to struggle or suffer, and this holds particularly true in developing and Third World countries.  
                                     
                                     
                                    Ed   
                                     

                                    From: "Monroe, John W [HIST]" <jmonroe@...>
                                    To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
                                    Sent: Sunday, August 4, 2013 10:14 PM
                                    Subject: RE: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity
                                     
                                    Chinese art is an interesting parallel!  I wonder if we'll find the equation of value similarly flipped if African collectors ever begin to move the market in the way Chinese collectors have.  I do wonder if it's less a question of "authenticity" than one of cultural value: the new Chinese collectors simply *like* different things than Western collectors have generally liked.  A friend of mine who's a collector of Asian art, for instance, once told me that Chinese collectors really don't want pieces that have been buried in tombs -- they find the association with death unpleasant.  Tang dynasty horses, I think he said, were a particularly clear example: they used to be a lot more expensive than they are now. Also, as for Ebay, I think William's totally right.  It's a wonderfully transparent, if sometimes deceptive, market.  It's surprising how many times I've seen something I remember from an Ebay listing crop up at a Tribal Art Week or "real" gallery.  The key is spotting the object that can be convincingly re-branded, which takes a knack.  Of the three William listed, by the way, I've got to say I think 1 could make the jump (especially if well-mounted), possibly 2, but not 3.   John Monroe
                                    From: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com [African_Arts@yahoogroups.com] on behalf of William Klebous [klebous@...]
                                    Sent: Sunday, August 04, 2013 10:12 PM
                                    To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
                                    Subject: [African_Arts] Re: Quick thought on authenticity

                                     

                                    I would like to support the notion that an over-emphasis on "authenticity" is exactly what has damaged the African Art market so badly. In almost every other "indiginous" art market, there is a sort of rough balance between age, beauty, authenticity, and rarity which altogether determine an object's value through genuine market action amongst a large base of collectors. A good example of these market forces in action has been the recent surge in prices for impressive 19th century examples of Asian Art, mostly due to the influx of new money from China. 19th century Asian Art had been somewhat scorned by experts for reasons that will sound familiar: Too much Western influence. Not authentic enough. But a large base of new collectors has righted this market distortion, this over-emphasis on authenticity. Without a large new base of African Art collectors, which I do not currently see on the horizon, the distortions we see in the African Art market will continue. In the meantime, don't be too condemning of the sort of rigged game we currently see at the top end of the market. If they were having no success in manipulating upwards the prices of these top-end objects, the true market for African Art would be even lower. Perhaps much lower. In my opinion the largest and therefore most true market for African Art currently is Ebay. This particular market also, in my opinion, does a better job of balancing out age, beauty, authenticity, and rarity than any better-vetted venue I know of. So, as an experiment, I searched for Ebay objects sold at auction recently with a non-trivial amount of bids and without significant provenance. Here for your consideration are three of the most highly valued lots, only one of which may be sufficiently "authentic" for many of you. But personally, I think the Ebay market did a pretty good job in establishing something like true market value. (FYI, I have no connection whatsoever with any of these objects or sellers. And myself, currently I wouldn't have paid this much for any of the three lots, mostly because I've been more interested in Asian Art the last five or so years, only picking up a few absolute "steals" in African Art during this period.) Teke magical figure $1325 Ebay#400478731307 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/A-Fine-TEKE-magical-figure-Fetiche-Kongo-Fetischfigur-brown-patina-ochre-pigment-/00/s/NTk5WDYwOA==/z/4vUAAMXQY8JRgWDN/$(KGrHqZHJEUFE2I4LZQcBRgWDNY5Qg~~60_3.JPG Fon fetsih figure $990 Ebay#181143448960 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/EWE-FON-FETISH-FIGURE-/00/s/MTYwMFgxMjAw/z/3OsAAOxycERRmP05/$(KGrHqV,!qMFGBdUgLn9BRmP04v2DQ~~60_57.JPG Baule spirit couple $543 Ebay#370829424980 http://i.ebayimg.com/t/Superb-African-Art-BAULE-Fertility-Spirit-Couple-Figure-Collectible-/00/s/MTYwMFgxMjAw/$(KGrHqF,!oME-9lSRgEsBP2+49i-O!~~60_57.JPG  
                                    --
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