Robb Design Portfolio: The Tribal Tastemakers

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Early paintings by Picasso and his contemporaries demonstrate just how strong the aesthetic influence of primitivism was on 20th-century European art. Meanwhile, the era’s collectors and ethnographers were just beginning to understand the distinct plastic vocabularies of more than 100 tribes of sub-Saharan Africa.

Fortunately, the handing down of ancient religions and traditions has ensured the continuity of each tribe’s definitive forms, because most of the wooden sculpture—apart from those pieces collected years ago—cannot survive more than a generation in the all-consuming African climate.
 
Most pieces on today’s market are contemporary and are not sought by serious collectors. Genuine artifacts (like those shown) with provenance from the 19th and early 20th centuries are scarce. The pieces generally belong to European collections assembled long before African sculpture assumed the status of "serious" art. A reputable dealer and lots of scholarship are essential tools for those (dare we say it?) with a tribal fetish.
 
Pace Primitive Gallery, New York, 212.421.3688

This circa-1900 pink-swirl marble is in what Dan Morphy calls “wet mint condition,” or as pristine...
Photo by Bob Tursack
Maya Angelou’s art collection focused on works by African-American masters...
When the air had cleared after the frenzy of New York’s spring art auctions, players and spectators...
The display is part of a hotel-wide renovation that will be completed by the end of the year...
Heritage Auctions will also offer Mickey Mantle’s rookie card and Mike Ditka’s Super Bowl playbook…
Photo by Cordero Studios⁄corderostudios.com
Charles and Judy Tate assembled a world-class collection of Latin American art—and then gave it all...
Photo by The Strong, Rochester, N.Y.
The American game culture is almost as old as the country itself...
Photograph by Ron Pierson, courtesy of Guernsey's
The bounty from the sunken ship includes 40 tons of silver and gold valued at $450 million…
Photo by Michael Richter
Visitors trekked to Maastricht, the Netherlands, for the March opening day of the European Fine Art...
The 13 new portraits include images of Douglas Cramer, Judy Garland, and Ernesto Esposito…