Tribal Art

Any regular visitor to the world’s leading contemporary art fairs will have noticed an increase in the amount of tribal art on display, specifically African tribal art. Unsurprisingly, this surge has corresponded with a rise in the price of high-end lots sold at the world’s big auction houses. In 2014, a very rare Senufo female statue carved by 19th-century Ivory Coast artist Master of Sinasso sold for $12m at Sotheby’s New York. Prior to that, the record was held by a Ngil mask of the West African Fang culture, which fetched $7.5m in Paris in 2006. “Tribal art has been in the same conversation as Cubism, Picasso, Braque and Modigliani for years now, so it’s no surprise people are buying bits for their art collections,” says Bryan Reeves, owner of Tribal Gathering London, which provided the mask pictured – made by a Malawian tribe, the Chewa. Regardless of your budget, there are certain qualities to look out for if you’re tempted to invest: age and rarity are important; pieces have to be made for traditional tribal use, not for commercial sale; and they also need to have great form, patina and expression.