Agence France Presse covers the market in African tribal works earlier this month as the best dealers in the world gather in Paris to
discuss, among other things, the rise of fakes and the scarcity of good pieces:
“There are practically no authentic pieces left in Africa”, said Pierre Moos, who runs tribal art’s most prestigious yearly event, a “best-of” show by the globe’s top 60 galleries that draws museums, experts, dealers, collectors — and African hustlers — under the title, Parcours des Mondes.
Unlike most Western art and antiques, whose traceability is in the artist’s signature or documented for posterity in history books, little to nothing is known about the artists behind the pieces from Africa, Asia or Oceania that are fetching fortunes on the market. Recession may be rocking the art market at large, but tribal arts are flourishing, with this year’s top sale registered by a piece from Gabon that fetched 1.4 million dollars (971,950 euros)
So how can a buyer be sure of the authenticity of the Papua New Guinea drum that this year went for almost 700,000 euros or the 400,000-euro mask from Angola? “As there are less and less original works available, the market is stable price-wise, but there are more and more forgeries,” said Moos. […] Very few African antiques have left the continent since the 1970s and 1980s, meaning that high-end pieces currently on the market are part of authenticated colonial collections that now trade between the world’s 20 to 30 top dealers. So the million-dollar mask is no fraud.