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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Tribal art at Paris auction from Dadaist artist collection

19 June 2017

The tribal art auction to be held at Drouot by Binoche et Giquello on June 22 features a mix of African and Oceanic artefacts and will include two lots that formerly belonged to the artist Tristran Tzara.

Maori flute

Sleeping bugle awakens at £140,000

04 March 2017

Estimated at £50-100, this Maori flute sold for £140,000 (plus 24% buyer’s premium) at John Nicholson’s of Haslemere on February 23.

tribal necklace

Total sleeper: Tribal necklace sells for £99,000 at Ewbank’s instead of £15 at flea market

05 December 2016

Some good old-fashioned saleroom drama ensued at Ewbank’s of Send in Surrey on December 1 when a tribal art necklace estimated at £60-100 sold to a buyer from Continental Europe at £99,000 (plus 22.5% premium).

Haida hat

Hold on to your hat: Paris' annual Parcours des Mondes gets off to a good start

09 September 2016

The Parcours des Mondes, Paris' annual tribal trail and one of the biggest commercial gatherings in this collecting area, opened on September 6.

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Peter Wilson tribal art auctions show African influence on Pablo Picasso and Cubism

29 July 2016

Pablo Picasso is revered as a key pioneer of Cubism, the radical approach to representing reality that he spearheaded with Georges Braque in the early 1900s. As with so many art movements, its roots extend further back, however.

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South Pacific clubs hit the heights at auction

26 August 2015

South Pacific war clubs continue to strike high prices at auctions, as this Tongan example sold in Stafford this month shows.

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Rivals raise the stakes over South African art

13 February 2015

Bonhams throw down the gauntlet at Irma Stern Museum after Strauss & Co's China Girl TV stunt

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Fine feathers for faithful Lady Franklin

27 November 2014

Lady Jane Franklin (1791-1875) gained worldwide admiration for her efforts to trace her husband’s disappearance on his fatal 1845 voyage seeking the North West Passage.

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Fangs very much – an unexpected £88,000

19 November 2014

This 17in (43cm) Fang bieri guardian palmwood figure from Gabon in West Africa set a house record at Netherhampton Salerooms in Salisbury when it sold for £88,000.

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Frum beats the tribal drum alongside the Parcours

24 September 2014

ALL 49 lots from the Murray Frum collection of Oceanic art found a buyer on September 16 at Sotheby’s (25/20/12% buyer’s premium) in Paris. The hammer total was €6.24m (£5.2m).

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Heads up for two tribal gatherings

26 August 2014

As the summer break ends, next month sees a rush of activity in the art world with a flurry of events not least in the Tribal Art category.

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Maori artefacts top regional tribal gathering

11 July 2014

Maori boat-shaped feather boxes – or ‘waka huia’ – are infrequent visitors to UK salerooms so it was unusual to see two examples sold in close proximity this summer.

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Congo figure adds up to £44,000

19 February 2014

The first stand-alone tribal art sale held by Woolley & Wallis in Salisbury was topped at £44,000 by this 19th or early 20th century Yombe seated figure from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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Looking ahead to South African art sales

10 February 2014

Last October, South Africa House in Trafalgar Square, London hosted an exhibition of artworks in the image of, and inspired by, Nelson Mandela.

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Weapons of choice in the Pacific Islands

10 January 2014

In the islands of the Pacific, where hardwood trees were abundant and iron virtually non-existent until the 19th century, the fighting club was elevated to an art form – made in a wider variety of forms and with more lavish decoration than any other weapon.

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A £35,000 Aboriginal parrying shield is the pick of two tribal gatherings

19 July 2013

To great publicity last November Martel Maides of Guernsey sold a collection of Fijian cannibal forks for close to £30,000. They were the property of a local collector, who had bought them privately in the North Midlands three or four decades ago – the same vendor who entered an Aboriginal parrying shield to the auctioneer’s sale last month with hopes of £3000-4000.

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Cast of Napoleon’s death mask takes £140,000

25 June 2013

He may have conquered much of Europe, but time waits for no man, as Napoleon found out on May 5, 1821.

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An Aboriginal star of sale and screen

24 August 2012

The multitude of television shows devoted to antiques are rarely popular with the antiques trade as a whole – in a well-worn argument some credit them with the disintegration of the dealing community itself – but auctioneers are ready participants both for the publicity and the prospect of a decent consignment.

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From South Seas to Staffordshire

21 May 2012

Around ten pieces of tribal art consigned from a private collection are to be auctioned in Cuttlestones’ mixed-discipline sale in Penkridge, Staffordshire, on May 25.

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Tribal eyes turn to Paris

15 May 2012

Soon after the gallery doors close at the BRUNEAF fair in Brussels on June 10 all eyes turn to Paris where Christie’s and Sotheby’s will hold major African and Oceanic sales on succeeding days.

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