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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Pick of the week: Polynesian war club is a big hit in Salisbury

30 September 2019

A tribal war club from the Marquesas Islands with textbook provenance has sold for £71,000 at Woolley & Wallis. The u’u (head club) came for sale at the Salisbury saleroom from the descendants of an early-19th century missionary.

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Eclectic sales at London’s 12th tribal gathering

16 September 2019

A Madonna and Child sculpture from 19th century Luba culture in the Democratic Republic of Congo was among the sales at Tribal Art London, where the theme was Mother, Muse and Maker.

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Social media storm stops Maori cloak auction

09 September 2019

Sussex auction house Burstow & Hewett has withdrawn a rare Maori cloak after its imminent sale was met by online threats and abuse.

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Latest sales at London’s tribal gathering

09 September 2019

Dealer Ian Shaw sold this Tutsi shield, made of lightweight wood with natural pigment and offered for £13,000, to an interior designer from Denmark at last week’s 'Tribal Art London' fair.

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PAD London: The prime design destination

09 September 2019

This Mayfair event provides an eclectic selection for professionals and public alike

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Aboriginal weapons saved from a skip now sell at auction

15 July 2019

Saved at the last minute from a skip, a collection of Aboriginal weapons drew worldwide interest at Martel Maides’ sale in St Peter Port, Guernsey.

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Go fishing for tribal art in Landshut auction

01 July 2019

Numerous tribes inhabit the Cross River state of south-eastern Nigeria, close to the border with Cameroon. Animals of many kinds play a major part in the myths and religions of the area.

Baule mask

Sale of dealer’s collection of African art led by rare mask at Sotheby’s

22 June 2019

Sotheby’s chalked up a premium-inclusive total of just under €11.5m (£10.25m) when it sold the Marceau Rivière collection of African art in Paris.

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Meet the ‘last living Surrealist’ – Desmond Morris on painting and collecting

10 June 2019

Desmond Morris on his many lives as a zoologist, painter, author and collector

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Zulu War relics from extensive collection on offer at Kent auction along with tribal art

03 January 2019

Relics from the hard-fought defence of Rorke’s Drift in the Zulu War are among the lots for sale in a Kent auction as part of an extensive collection from the period.

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Salisbury saleroom becomes travel hub twice a year to cover tribal art market

08 October 2018

The biannual world tour of tribal lands – Alaska to New Zealand via Arizona, Africa and Taiwan – organised by auctioneer Will Hobbs at Woolley & Wallis (25% buyer’s premium) offered a global view of what is an active, if often unpredictable, field.

Canoe bailer

South Pacific ula and canoe bailer from the family of 19th century murdered missionary hammered down at auction in Dorset

14 April 2018

A South Pacific ula throwing club and a Maori canoe bailer that once belonged to an English reverend killed by cannibals in Vanuatu in the 19th century has sold at an auction at Duke's Auctioneers in Dorchester.

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North Nguni headrest takes more than 10 times estimate at Edinburgh auction

03 April 2018

An African headrest soared past its upper estimate to take £65,000 at a recent Edinburgh auction.

Maori artefacts

Maori artefacts traced back to early English missionaries come to auction in Surrey

20 September 2017

A collection of Maori artefacts with an unbroken provenance dating back to their acquisition by early English missionaries to New Zealand will be offered for sale at John Nicholson’s of Fernhurst on October 5.

Club

Tribal clubs strike it hot at Elgin auction house

25 August 2017

There was some good old-fashioned auction drama at the Elgin Auction Centre in Morayshire on August 23 when two lots of loosely-catalogued tribal clubs sold to online bidders for a combined £46,500.

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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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