Ethnographica & Tribal Art

This category comprises artefacts and works of art made by indigenous peoples.

It began as a collecting area when anthropologists began acquiring and studying these items in the 19th century. Nowadays works are valued for their craftsmanship and decorative quality as well as for their historical and social interest.

The geographical spread in this sector ranges from Oceanic (Pacific Islands, Australia and New Zealand), African, Native American and South American art. Pre-Columbian works represent a sought-after sector – art from the Americas dating from before the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492.

Fang head

Paris auction sets record for a tribal art collection result

12 July 2021

The sale of Michel Périnet’s collection of tribal art at Christie’s in Paris on June 23 real ised a remarkable €66m/£57m (including buyer’s premium) and every one of the 61 lots were sold.

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Tribal highlights: mask and figure at Woolley & Wallis

28 June 2021

The best-performing lots in the tribal art sale at Woolley & Wallis (25% buyer’s premium) in Salisbury on June 8 were these two pieces: an Ibibio mask (idiok ekpo) sold at £30,000 and a Nicobar standing male figure (kareau) that brought £34,000.

Ibibio mask (idiok ekpo)

Top-selling Nigerian mask stars in our pick of five auction highlights sold this week

11 June 2021

ATG’s weekly selection of items that caught bidders’ eyes includes a rare Ibibio mask from the Niger Delta that made over 35-times estimate in Salisbury.

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Fijian bowl with rare form brings fervent interest at Lyon & Turnbull

17 May 2021

This Fijian kava bowl, or daveniyaqona, carved in the form of a shallow figure, would have been used for both the consumption of kava (yaqona – the intoxicating liquor of the pepper plant) by priests during religious rites and to hold sacred oil.

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The head masters from Africa

17 May 2021

Exhibition at firm’s new premises focuses on headdress and headwear

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Benin plaque withdrawn from auction after curator raises provenance questions

03 May 2021

The increasingly contentious issue of selling Benin works of art at auction raised its head again last week after an ancestral plaque catalogued as 16th or 17th century was withdrawn from an East Sussex sale.

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5 Questions: African Arts dealer David Malík

19 April 2021

David Malík of David Malík African Arts has a primary interest in the field of Contemporary African art and the long-standing art traditions of western and central Africa.

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Amsterdam tribal fair online, take two

12 April 2021

This dance mask known as a takü, would have been used during rituals to mourn the dead by the Cubeo tribes of present-day Colombia and Brazil.

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5 Questions: tribal art dealer and fair organiser Finette Lemaire

12 April 2021

Finette Lemaire specialises in tribal art and owns Galerie Lemaire in Amsterdam.

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Ritual figure from Rapa Nui and sells in Germany

12 April 2021

Tribal art specialist Zemanek-Münster will be holding a spring auction on April 24 in Würzburg.

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Tribal Art London reports increased numbers of online visitors

08 February 2021

This Karamojong headrest from Uganda was one of more than 100 objects offered at Tribal Art London’s (TAL) online event, Spirit Animals. It was sold by tribal art specialist Kezhia Field for £450.

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Two 'exceptional' tribal vessels sold on the same day at different sales

18 January 2021

Two exceptional examples of ethnographic art – one from the north-west coast of America, the other for Polynesia – sold in the UK regions last month.

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Unesco ad campaign on looted art has ‘intention to mislead’

07 December 2020

A Unesco campaign aimed at increasing public awareness of looted art is threatening to backfire after it emerged the ‘stories’ told in its adverts were fabricated.

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Tribal show gets into the spirit

07 December 2020

Offered by Bryan Reeves of Tribal Gathering for £4200, this Luba baboon mask is one of more than 100 objects on offer at Tribal Art London’s third online event, Spirit Animals.

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Amsterdam tribal art fair runs online with 21 dealers

26 October 2020

The rare Ankwe terracotta figure is attributed to ceramicist Azume of Goemai, who died c.1951. Her figures were made for women and important locals, and two other examples – the only others known – currently reside in The British Museum.

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Korean helmet and Tongan war club

05 October 2020

Two lots from Tennants’ (20% buyer’s premium) sale in Leyburn on September 4. The 17th century Korean leather and steel helmet sold to a South Korean buyer for £4800.

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Oceanic objects surface in trio of British salerooms

31 August 2020

Pictured below are three lots of Oceanic art that proved to be in much demand during UK sales held in August.

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Eskimo baskets bring high demand at Skinner

31 August 2020

One of the highest prices in the large 650-plus lot American Indian and Ethnographic Arts auction held by Skinner (25/20/12% buyer’s premium) in Massachusetts was the $4000 (£3075) paid against a $400-600 guide for a trio of Eskimo baskets woven from baleen.

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War club to be brandished in North Yorks

31 August 2020

This 4ft (1.2m) long Tongan Aku-Tau ironwood war club will feature in a sale of Militaria and Ethnographica to be held by Tennants in Leyburn, North Yorkshire, on September 4.

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Collection offered at auction highlights an engineer’s fascination in native history

31 August 2020

A number of single-owner collections feature in Woolley & Wallis of Salisbury’s September 22 Tribal Art and Antiquities auction. These include the Michael G Johnson collection which makes up over 100 lots in the North American section.

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