african art collectors

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Brief history of African Art

African art has a rich and diverse history that dates back thousands of years. From the rock paintings of the Sahara Desert to the intricate bronze sculptures of the Benin Kingdom, African art has been a powerful medium for communication, storytelling, and cultural expression. This essay serves as a comprehensive guide for beginners who wish to start their own African art collection. It will cover the various aspects of African art, from its diversity and art forms to ethical considerations and tips for buying and collecting.

A Beginner's Guide to Collecting African Art
A Beginner’s Guide to Collecting African Art | © Cheri Samba, I love colour

Importance and influence of African Art on the global art scene

African art has played a significant role in shaping the global art scene, influencing major art movements such as Cubism, Fauvism, and Expressionism. The unique styles, techniques, and materials used in African art have captured the attention of artists and collectors worldwide, leading to increased appreciation and demand for African art. Collecting African art is not only a rewarding personal journey but also a way to preserve and promote this rich cultural heritage.

Aim of this Guide: To guide beginners in starting their own African art collection

The aim of this guide is to provide a comprehensive guide for beginners who are interested in collecting African art. By following this guide, you will gain a deeper understanding of African art and learn how to start your own collection of African Art.

Understanding African Art

Diversity of African Art

Regions and countries

African art encompasses a vast array of styles, techniques, and materials that differ by region and country. From the ancient Egyptian art of North Africa to the modern and contemporary art of South Africa, each region offers unique artistic expressions.

Ethnic groups and tribes

Within the various countries of Africa, there are numerous ethnic groups and tribes, each with their distinct artistic styles and traditions. Some well-known examples include the Yoruba, Igbo, and Bamileke tribes, which are renowned for their unique sculptural styles.

Art forms


Sculpture is one of the most prevalent art forms in Africa, ranging from small figurines to large-scale installations. African sculptures are typically made from materials such as wood, bronze, terracotta, and stone. They often depict human figures, animals, and abstract forms.


African paintings are diverse and include a variety of styles, from the ancient rock paintings of the Sahara to the collections of contemporary works of artists like the Jean Pigozzi collection. Traditional paintings often use natural pigments and incorporate intricate patterns and symbols.


African textiles are known for their vibrant colors and bold patterns. They are created using a variety of techniques such as weaving, dyeing, and embroidery. Some famous examples include the Kente cloth of Ghana and the Mudcloth of Mali.


African ceramics range from utilitarian objects such as pots and bowls to decorative pieces like terracotta sculptures. These works are often adorned with intricate patterns and designs.


African metalwork is a diverse art form, including objects such as the intricate bronze sculptures of the Benin Kingdom and the gold jewelry of the Akan people.


African jewelry is created using a variety of materials, such as beads, metals, and natural materials. These pieces are often intricately designed and hold cultural and symbolic significance.

Traditional vs. contemporary African Art

Traditional African art refers to the art created by indigenous tribes and ethnic groups, often with deep cultural and spiritual significance. Contemporary African art, on the other hand, includes the works of modern artists who may

incorporate traditional elements, techniques, and themes in their work while also engaging with global artistic trends and issues. Both traditional and contemporary African art offer unique perspectives and are equally valuable to collectors.

Cultural significance and symbolism

African art is deeply rooted in the cultures, beliefs, and traditions of the diverse peoples of the continent. It often carries symbolic meanings and serves as a means of communication, storytelling, and preserving cultural identity. Understanding the cultural significance and symbolism of the art you collect is essential for a deeper appreciation and connection to the pieces.

How to Start Collecting African Art

Setting a budget and goals

Before you start collecting African art, it’s essential to set a budget and define your goals. Are you collecting for personal enjoyment, investment, or both? Your budget and goals will help guide your decisions when purchasing art and building your collection.

Identifying personal interests and preferences

When starting your African art collection, it’s important to identify your personal interests and preferences. This will help you focus on the types of art that resonate with you and create a cohesive and meaningful collection.

Researching and educating oneself about African Art

Books and publications

There are numerous books and publications available that cover various aspects of African art. These resources can help you gain a deeper understanding of the history, styles, techniques, and artists associated with African art.

Online resources

Websites such as the Museum of Modern Art Africa (MoMAA) offer a wealth of information on African art, from artist profiles to articles about investing in African modern art. Online resources can help you stay up-to-date on the latest trends and developments in the African art world.

Museums and cultural institutions

Visiting museums and cultural institutions that showcase African art is an excellent way to familiarize yourself with different styles, periods, and artists. These institutions often offer educational programs, workshops, and events that can help deepen your knowledge of African art.

Art courses and workshops

Enrolling in art courses and workshops focused on African art can provide you with valuable insights and skills for understanding, appreciating, and collecting African art.

Connecting with the African art community

Social media

Following African artists, galleries, and museums on social media platforms can help you stay informed about upcoming exhibitions, new artists, and opportunities to acquire art.

Art forums and groups

Joining online art forums and groups dedicated to African art can help you connect with other collectors, share experiences, and gain valuable insights and advice.

Networking events

Attending art-related networking events, such as gallery openings and art fairs, can help you establish connections with artists, gallerists, and fellow collectors.

Art fairs and exhibitions

Visiting art fairs and exhibitions is a great way to discover new artists, view a wide range of art, and learn about the current market trends in African art.

Buying African Art

Authenticating and appraising African art

Importance of provenance

Provenance is the documented history of an artwork’s ownership, and it is crucial for establishing the authenticity and value of a piece. When purchasing African art, it’s essential to verify the provenance to ensure you are buying a genuine work.

Identifying fakes and forgeries

The African art market, like any other art market, has its share of fakes and forgeries. Educating yourself on the styles, techniques, and materials used in African art can help you identify and avoid purchasing counterfeit works.

Geoffrey Mukasa - Untitled (1999)
A Beginner’s Guide to Collecting African Art | © Geoffrey Mukasa – Untitled (1999)

Where to buy African art


Galleries specializing in African art can offer a curated selection of artworks from various artists,

periods, and styles. They often provide expert guidance and assistance in selecting and purchasing art.

Auction houses

Auction houses are a popular place to buy African art, as they offer a wide range of works and the opportunity to bid on unique and rare pieces. Make sure to research the auction house’s reputation and attend previews to inspect the artworks before bidding.

momaa art investment african painting
A Beginner’s Guide to Collecting African Art | © Picasso

Online marketplaces

Online marketplaces dedicated to African art offer the convenience of browsing and purchasing art from the comfort of your own home. However, it’s essential to carefully research the seller’s reputation and the artwork’s provenance before making a purchase.

Directly from artists

Purchasing art directly from artists can be a rewarding experience, as it allows you to support the artist and gain insights into their creative process. This can be done through studio visits or by attending art fairs and festivals where artists showcase their work.

Art fairs and festivals

Art fairs and festivals dedicated to African art offer the opportunity to discover new artists, view a diverse range of art, and purchase pieces directly from the artists or galleries representing them.

Pricing and negotiation

Understanding the value of the African art you are interested in purchasing is crucial to ensure you pay a fair price. Familiarizing yourself with the current market trends, the artist’s reputation, and the artwork’s provenance can help you make informed decisions when negotiating a price.

Protecting your investment


Insuring your African art collection is essential to protect your investment in case of damage, theft, or other unforeseen events. Consult with an insurance expert who specializes in art to ensure your collection is adequately covered.

Proper storage and display

Proper storage and display are crucial for preserving the condition and value of your African art collection. This may include using archival materials, maintaining the appropriate temperature and humidity levels, and protecting the artworks from direct sunlight and other environmental factors.

Conservation and restoration

In some cases, your African art pieces may require conservation or restoration work to preserve their condition and value. Consult with a professional conservator who specializes in African art to ensure the proper care and treatment of your collection.

Boniface Maina - Code Blue Call
Boniface Maina – Code Blue Call \ A Beginner’s Guide to Collecting African Art

Ethical Considerations

Cultural sensitivity and appropriation

When collecting African art, it’s essential to be mindful of cultural sensitivity and avoid engaging in cultural appropriation. This means respecting the cultural significance and symbolism of the art you collect and acknowledging the artists and communities from which the art originates.

Ensuring fair compensation for artists

Supporting artists by ensuring they receive fair compensation for their work is crucial. This can be done by purchasing art directly from the artists or through reputable galleries and dealers who maintain fair and transparent pricing practices.

Supporting local economies and communities

Collecting African art can have a positive impact on local economies and communities by supporting artists and art-related businesses. Make an effort to buy from local artists, galleries, and dealers to contribute to the sustainability of the African art ecosystem.

Promoting cultural preservation and awareness

As a collector of African art, you have a role in preserving and promoting the rich cultural heritage of Africa. This can be done through sharing your knowledge and passion for African art, supporting cultural institutions, and advocating for the appreciation and preservation of African art.

Oluwole Omofemi - Root II (2019)
Oluwole Omofemi - Root II (2019) | A Beginner's Guide to Collecting African Art

The joys and benefits of collecting African art

In conclusion, Collecting African art can be a deeply rewarding experience, providing personal enjoyment, cultural enrichment, and the potential for financial gains. By following this guide, you will be well-equipped to embark on your African art collecting journey.

The role of collectors in preserving and promoting African art

Collectors play a vital role in preserving and promoting African art by supporting artists, contributing to the art market, and raising awareness of this rich cultural heritage. As a collector, you have the opportunity to make a positive impact on the African

art world and contribute to the appreciation and understanding of this diverse and vibrant art form.

Encouragement for beginners to embark on their African art collecting journey

As a beginner, starting your African art collection may seem daunting, but with research, education, and a genuine passion for the art, you can build a meaningful and valuable collection. Embrace the journey, connect with fellow collectors and artists, and enjoy the process of discovering and acquiring unique and beautiful works of African art.

A Beginner's Guide to Collecting African Art | © Art Jorburg
A Beginner’s Guide to Collecting African Art | © Art Jorburg


Is African art a good investment?

Yes, African art can be a good investment, as it has gained increased recognition and demand in recent years. However, like any investment, there are risks involved, and it’s essential to research and educate yourself on the African art market and the artists you are interested in.

Is there a market for African art?

Yes, there is a growing market for African art, with increasing interest from collectors, museums, and institutions worldwide. The market includes both traditional and contemporary African art, and there are various platforms for buying and selling, such as galleries, auction houses, and online marketplaces.

What is the largest collection of African art?

There are several notable collections of African art, both in private and public institutions. One such example is the Jean Pigozzi Collection, which is considered one of the most extensive collections of contemporary African art.

Where can I sell my African art?

You can sell your African art through various channels, including galleries, auction houses, online marketplaces, and directly to other collectors. Before selling, it’s important to research the market value of your artwork and ensure its provenance is well-documented.

What are the 5 elements of African art?

The five elements of African art often include form, proportion, balance, symmetry, and repetition. These elements can be found in various African art forms, such as sculptures, paintings, textiles, and ceramics.

What are 4 characteristics of African art?

Four characteristics of African art are the use of geometric patterns, emphasis on human and animal figures, the importance of symbolism, and the integration of functional and aesthetic elements.

What is the main art of Africa?

There is no single main art form in Africa, as the continent’s art is incredibly diverse and spans various regions, countries, and ethnic groups. Some prominent art forms include sculpture, painting, textiles, ceramics, metalwork, and jewelry.

What styles of art are in Africa?

There are numerous styles of art in Africa, reflecting the diverse cultures, traditions, and histories of the continent. Some well-known styles include the wood carvings of the Yoruba and Igbo tribes, the ancient Egyptian art, the Benin bronzes, and the contemporary art of artists such as El Anatsui and Wangechi Mutu.

Dr. Abigail Adeyemi, art historian, curator, and writer with over two decades of experience in the field of African and diasporic art. She holds a Ph.D. in Art History from the University of Oxford, where her research focused on contemporary African artists and their impact on the global art scene. Dr. Adeyemi has worked with various prestigious art institutions, including the Tate Modern and the National Museum of African Art, curating numerous exhibitions that showcase the diverse talents of African and diasporic artists. She has authored several books and articles on African art, shedding light on the rich artistic heritage of the continent and the challenges faced by contemporary African artists. Dr. Adeyemi's expertise and passion for African art make her an authoritative voice on the subject, and her work continues to inspire and inform both scholars and art enthusiasts alike.

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