Is it possible to differenciate authentic african art from fakes? : LUSENET : Non-Western Art Questions & Answers : One Thread

I have became interested in African Art, and I have found some galleries in my town selling african art objects. I have found that many of those objects are quite similar to the ones pictured in African Art books I own, which normally are in museums or private collections from the very-rich. I cannot say what is the difference between what is being sold in those shops and what is stored in museums, but the price.

Is it possible to say what is an african art fake?

-- Ernst Padilla (, February 20, 2001


In fact, there is a lot of academic discussion about this issue. Gallery owners will surely tell you that if the object was collected in Africa before the 50īs, it is for sure authentic, and not otherwise. The issue is, however, far more complex.

There is tacit agreement that an authentic piece of african art is the one which was created by an african artist to be used by africans in a traditional context. However, this includes the thousands of pieces currently being created for this kind of use in Africa. Many cultures are still creating objects with religious or traditional uses. The problem is that if you buy this piece in, say, New York, to an african art trader, you probably cannot demonstrate that this piece was created to be used by africans in a traditional context. Therefore the piece will be labelled as "fake". This is why gallery owners try to simplify by only accepting those items collected when (an this is also a wrong assumption) african artist created objects only for traditional uses.

In practice, there are many objects in the market which have been purposely aged to simulate an african "antique", but most of them are not so. In most of the cases, you will notice that because of the price. If it was an antique, it cannot cost 10$!

-- Carlos Garcia (, February 20, 2001.

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