Ethnographic Art for the Discerning Collector!

For Beginning Collectors

ImageSitting and thinking about what to post this week brought to mind questions I am often asked: “Where does one start with a collection of tribal (or any) art?  How do I know what to buy?  Will it be worth more in the future?”
There are many aspects to consider:  will the pieces be solely for decoration, or are you looking for something which may appreciate in the future?  What is your budget?  Is this investment art? 

Do you want one or two statement pieces or are you trying to amass a collection?  Will you collect a specific type of item (ex. masks of the world)?  Will you collect a particular tribal or ethnic group’s work or will you collect a particular type of item (ex. shields of African tribes) or artist, or area of the world?  Is provenance important to you?  What is your space availability?  Do you have the proper conditions for storage/display of the objects?  What is the availability of the items you wish to collect (must you travel, are there galleries specializing in your interest area, are you a flea market picker, an EBay peruser)?


First and foremost, the answers can be found with a bit of research—nothing heavy duty—simply visit available galleries, museums, internet sites (ex., and shows (ethnographic, antique).  Talk to the dealers, curators, gallerists.  Ask about the type of pieces that interest you.  Find out where they originate from, what they are related to, what their value potential may be.  Ask about good reference books, go to, Barnes and or any of the other major booksellers with a search engine.  Type the subject into Google, Bing, or any of the multitude of search engines on the web.  Check out the major auction houses and galleries online.
Finally, be very aware of your budget!!!  Choose the best piece you can afford without guilt.  Look for fine quality art/craft.  Approach the purchase with the idea that the piece in some way “speaks” to you, that you like it well enough to display it, whether or not it appreciates in the future—that way you will never feel cheated or have buyer’s remorse.  Never pay more than you think it is worth to you.
As you acquire more knowledge, you can refine your collection by upgrading the quality or rarity of your pieces.  Now you have officially gained the title of “Collector”!!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: