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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Sotheby’s to sell rare Benin ivory mask in London

22 December 2010

IN London on February 17, Sotheby's will sell a rediscovered 16th century Benin ivory mask – and five other rare works from the Kingdom of Benin in Nigeria – consigned by the family of a key participant in the controversial Punitive Expedition. The mask alone is estimated at £3.5m-4.5m.

Bonhams move into Aboriginal art

06 December 2010

CONFIRMING their intentions in the Australian market, Bonhams have launched an Aboriginal art department in Sydney.


New York dealer secures Woburn club

01 November 2010

THIS late 18th/early 19th century Native American ball-head club made a house record when it sold for £33,000 at Charles Ross auctioneers in Woburn, Bedfordshire.


A Rapa earns respect selling at £220,000

29 April 2010

FOR the Rapa Nui people of Easter Island, wooden dance paddles known simply as Rapa were essential to many ceremonies and dances.


A warrior’s £19,500 battle cry

04 January 2010

FOUR centuries of contact with the North American continent – exploration, trade, settlement, war and missionary activity – mean that, just occasionally, spectacular Native American art objects are found in the United Kingdom.


French specialist wins international battle for African headrest

01 December 2008

TRIBAL Art seems to one area bucking the credit crunch at present. Witness this superbly-patinated Shona hardwood headrest that was unearthed by South Down Auctioneers of Midhurst, West Sussex in a local home.


International stand-off over tribal art sale in Paris

22 September 2008

PRE-COLOMBIAN art valued at €5m in total was withdrawn from sale in Paris on September 12 after the last-minute intervention of the Mexican Embassy.


Fangtastic price as fetish figure sells for €520,000

29 May 2007

Munich auctioneers Hermann Historica are known internationally as experts for arms and armour, medals and historical collectibles rather than tribal art, so they were on unfamiliar territory with lot 3324 in their latest blockbuster sale held from May 2 to 11.


Mission to save a collection

16 October 2006

In 1862, the English missionary Father William Duncan brought around 70 Tsimshian Christian converts to an abandoned Native village and established a model Church of England mission settlement at Metlakatla in Northern British Columbia.

Australia launch probe into Aboriginal art trade

18 April 2006

THE Australian government has acted to protect indigenous artists following media reports that exposed exploitation and corruption in the Aboriginal art world.


Thieves get away with valuable artefacts in attack on auctioneer’s parked car

19 November 2004

VALUABLE Native American artefacts were stolen in a smash-and-grab raid on an auctioneer’s car in Surrey last week. A substantial reward is being offered for the safe return of the stolen items.


Paris Tribal trail puts on a show of strength

16 September 2004

OVERLAPPING with the start of the Biennale (September 15-19) will be the third annual Parcours des Mondes, a Left Bank gallery trail featuring 50 tribal art dealers.


Benin bronzes prove the prize catch

07 July 2004

THE highlight of Christie's (20.93/11.96% buyer's premium) sale on June 14 was this 16in (40cm) high Benin bronze plaque (c.1580-1620), right, featuring a warrior chief, brandishing a sceptre in his right hand and a short eben sword in his left. The plaque, formerly owned by Edgar Dimsey, a surgeon on the British punitive expedition to Benin in February 1897, retained sharp detailing and sold to a European collector for a hefty €450,000 (£300,000) against an estimate of €150,000-200,000.


Tongan pillow talk of the day at £8600

22 June 2004

THE quality of the Salisbury sales held by Woolley & Wallis (15% buyer’s premium) has been previously mentioned in these pages of late and the 470-lot May 10 event was a case in point. Billed as a furniture, clocks and works of art sale, there were highlights across the sections, including a William IV rosewood chaise longue with a wonderful scroll end at £3200 and a 10 1/2in (27cm) blue john urn with re-gilded ormolu mounts at £2600.


Fiesta time as Brussels opens its doors to colleagues and clients

10 June 2004

BRUSSELS have two similar events this month, both of which are festivals rather than fairs, with specialist dealers mounting concurrent selling exhibitions, promoted jointly, and also inviting overseas specialists in the same discipline to show as guests in the Brussels galleries.

Big help

03 June 2004

SMALLER, more modest events, I am sure, benefit from the big fairs in town. Visitors to the Hali fair, for example, may well find the London Antique Textiles, Tribal Art and Decorative Antiques Fair on Sunday June 6 at Hammersmith Town Hall in King Street, London W6 to their liking.

Olympic links make common sense at the exotic Hali

28 May 2004

AT its seventh staging, the popular Hali fair at Olympia is undergoing some major changes, not the least of which is a name change. The event is now titled The Hali Fair: Carpets, Textiles and Tribal Art. The duration of the fair has been extended from four to 10 days and it will take place in the National Hall Gallery at Olympia from June 3 to 13, at the same time as the summer Fine Art & Antiques Fair. The fairs will be linked allowing easy access between the two.

Christie’s to continue Paris sales of pre-Columbian art

19 May 2004

ALTHOUGH they were one of three auctioneers forced to withdraw pre-Columbian works of art from sale last year over questions of provenance, Christie’s will continue to offer early South American items for auction in Paris.

Tribal mask works its magic in fells of Cumbria

19 April 2004

THE chances of finding good-quality tribal material in the remoter parts of Cumbria may be slim but a local vendor furnished Mitchells' (15% buyer's premium) 1294-lot March 4-5 outing with a 19th century African carved wooden headrest.


23 March 2004

THE 330-lot tribal art sale at Blanchet & Associés (17.94% buyer’s premium) back on January 30 featured 173 pre-Columbian pieces. These achieved a 70 per cent take-up, with a top price of €14,500 (£10,000) for a polished stone ritual Hacha from Guatemala, right, 9 1/2 x 7 1/2in (24 x 19.5cm), whose relief decoration took the form of the profiled face of a dead man, topped by the giant, curved fang of the sacred serpent.