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.

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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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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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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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World orders: Parcours des Mondes goes ahead

31 August 2020

Organisers of the Parcours des Mondes decided to go ahead with this edition instead of heading online – but only after careful deliberation

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Lega mask makes appearance in Edinburgh

31 August 2020

Included in the African section of the African and Oceanic Art and Antiquities auction to be held by Lyon & Turnbull in Edinburgh on September 16, this 10in (25cm) high Lega mask is from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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Tobacco bag at Cowan’s auction conveys special powers of the elk

31 August 2020

This beaded hide Sioux Elk Dreamers’ Society tobacco bag is one of the pieces of beadwork from the Robert Jerich collection that is included in Cowan’s September 18 American Indian Art auction in Cincinnati.

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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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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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Knives out to Danish buyer

03 August 2020

Two 19th century ‘prestige’ knives from southern Africa attracted unexpected levels of bidding at Grand Auctions (20% buyer’s premium) in Folkestone. Estimated at just £40-80 each, they made a combined £9200.

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Maori greenstone brought to Britain by 1820s adventurer

20 July 2020

Pictured here is one of two 19th century or earlier Maori greenstone 'mere' offered at a recent sale held by Reeman Dansie (20% buyer’s premium) in Colchester.

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Tribal focus on the trade and travel impact

22 June 2020

A ceremonial woman’s apron from Geelvink Bay, West Papua, Indonesia, is one of the highlights in a new event staged by Tribal Art London (TAL).

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Tomahawk tempts a buyer at $540,000

22 June 2020

The highlight of Morphy Auctions’ (23% buyer’s premium) sale of historical militaria from the independence struggle and War of 1812 era was a rare and extensively provenanced presentation pipe tomahawk.

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A new face to lead the tribal gathering

15 June 2020

Tribal Art London has hired a new director to organise and lead the fair.

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Auction action outside Paris with Old Masters and tribal art bringing demand

15 June 2020

Outside Paris auctions have also started up as lockdown eases.

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Early eyewitness views of Australian Aborigines

15 June 2020

An album of 12 early watercolour drawings of Australian Aborigines made a surprising £72,000 (plus 25% buyer’s premium) at Forum Auctions in London.

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Senufo peoples statuette features in Paris tribal art sale

18 May 2020

This unpublished carved wooden statuette from the Senufo peoples of south-east Mali, west Africa, is to be offered in a 154-lot sale of Tribal Art to be held on May 26 by Ader in its Paris, rue Favart rooms in collaboration with the Euvrard Fabre auction house.

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Collection of husband-and-wife artistic duo Stieglitz and O'Keeffe sells in New York

30 March 2020

Works by artist Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) and her husband, photographer Alfred Stieglitz (1864- 1946), were the chief focus of a sale held by Sotheby’s (25/20/13.9% buyer’s premium) in New York.

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Only existing drawing of Benin from before 1890 in demand at auction

02 March 2020

Several surprises emerged in the tribal art sale held by Cologne auction house Lempertz (24% buyer’s premium) in a recent sale held in Brussels.

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Stieglitz’s African spoons emerge at Sotheby's

17 February 2020

In 1914 Western interest in African art was in its infancy. When these two wooden anthropomorphic spoons were shown as part of an exhibition of African wood statuary at the photographer Alfred Stieglitz’s New York gallery in that year it represented a key moment.

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