How to buy authentic African art?

African Art : We suggest you to know more about this market and we give you advice to avoid counterfeits.

How to buy authentic African art?


Since artists such as Picasso, Matisse and Duchamp have brought it to light through their works, African art has never ceased to fascinate collectors and amateurs. Masks, statues, fetishes, but also jewellery, musical instruments, weapons... have invested the museums, starting with the one of the quay Branly in Paris. If you are looking for such items, be aware that the market is very complex. A situation that is due to the very history of the African continent, forged notably by colonialism, tribal wars, missions of evangelization... The works are rare... and the fakes are numerous.


We suggest you to know more about this market and we give you advice to avoid counterfeits.


Traditional African Art: some landmarks


First of all, when we talk about African art is in fact evoked a very wide variety of works and objects from the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, from Niger to Namibia, from Ivory Coast to Mozambique, through Nigeria, Congo, Madagascar...

Until the beginning of the 20th century, this rich artistic production is neglected by western museums, collectors and other art lovers. It is mainly the painters of Avant-garde who popularize this art, like Picasso in his painting the damsels of Avignon. The missionaries, the military, the Europeans who returned to the continent after the independence of these African countries... carry in their suitcases many objects of art which will populate the cabinets of curiosity, the galleries, the museums. And since the years 80, the African art market has been experiencing a spectacular craze. One speaks then rather of the first arts or primitive art. Since then, demand has grown steadily; But the offer is limited.


Watch out for counterfeits


The experts agree that the masterpieces of African art are already preserved in western museums, for example in Paris, Quai Branly. However, it is always possible to find masks, fetishes and other ritual statuettes as well as everyday objects like dishes, tools, weapons... Apart from the objects made of bronze, coming from the Kingdom of Nigeria in particular, these works remain rare, because their material and their way of preservation did not allow them to cross the centuries. This is why it is exceptional to find old objects over 50-100 years old. Other factors explain the disappearance of these pieces: evangelism, conversion to Islam, war wars, an ineffective heritage protection policy...


But the success is there. And it leads to an abundance of counterfeits, often manufactured and purchased directly in Africa. Counterfeiters have developed craft techniques to imitate the patina of old objects and sell as such contemporary productions. They can then be sold at a price of gold; And these fakes can even be found in the heart of the collections of the greatest museums.


How to avoid fakes?


Another difficulty: traditional art objects created in Africa are neither signed nor dated. That is why, before buying an item, it is essential that it be accompanied by a certificate of authenticity, which must accurately trace the history of the work: where, when and by whom was it found, in which countries/places did it pass through and On what date, between which hands remained, etc. Before you decide for such an object, you must be vigilant and inform you as much as possible. Visit museums and exhibitions, see sales catalogues and specialized books, meet galleries and collectors...


To know that the value of these works from Africa depends for many of their finder and collector. The more the latter are reputed, the more likely the work is to be authentic; And its price will be determined accordingly. The fact that the mask, the statue, the weapon... has actually been used also gives it a lot of value, perhaps more than these neatly aesthetic qualities.


All the objects proposed by Bidtween, virtual Sales hotel, are authenticated and valuation by qualified and certified auctioneers. Enough to reassure yourself before bidding on the work of African art that appeals to you.


What about African contemporary art?


African art is more than just statuettes, fetishes, jewellery and other ritual or usual objects. Artists, sculptors, designers, engravers... animate from their rich creations all African countries, from Ghana to Ethiopia through Mali or Benin. And their productions are, rightly, increasingly being developed, whether at the local level or internationally. This is a young market, but it is still growing. The growing interest of collectors and museums for contemporary artists in Africa allows you to find quality works that will undoubtedly be valuable over time. This investment in the long term goes first and foremost through the search for quality and authenticity. Check out the catalogues, find out more about the artists, learn how to make an "eye" and feel free to take advice from specialists to secure your investment.