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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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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Tribal treasures from Southsea

02 April 2012

AUCTIONEER Martin Lawrence of Petersfield firm Jacobs & Hunt was not expecting much when asked to conduct a probate valuation in a top-floor council flat in a rundown part of Southsea.

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Totem heads for home as vendor relents

25 October 2011

A KENT auction house has withdrawn a sacred Aboriginal artefact from sale after intervention from cultural experts and the Australian High Commission.

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Mexico sparks new tribal art row in Paris

28 March 2011

A ROW has erupted after another attempt by South American interests to intervene in a tribal art sale in Paris.

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Benin ivory mask withdrawn from Sotheby's sale

04 January 2011

JUST days after Sotheby’s announced the sale of a 16th century ivory mask and five other works from the Kingdom of Benin, the auctioneers said they have been withdrawn.

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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.

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