The Bruneaf (Brussels Non European Art Fair) has now become one of the leading exhibitions on african tribal art in the world. In the cataloque of the 17. Bruneaf was announced, that all objects published in the cataloque were approved by experts of african tribal art. The members of the committee were well known persons. We were very glad of knowing an expert team watching the Bruneaf.
We visited the Bruneaf and admired a lot of really good african masks and african figures. But sometimes we could not understand that pieces of that quality were offered there. One important african figure to be visited on the Bruneaf was discussed everywhere. Some persons told us, they know the object and they didn`t believe in the authenticity.
All this is of course to be regarded from the point of competition and of the own knowledge. Every collector will make the experience, that when he shows one of his african masks or african figures to a dealer or collector he will very often hear objections to the quality of his posession. And we admit that our opinion is not accepted by all other collectors too.
This indeed is not so much a problem when you buy an inexpensive object of african tribal art. If you like it, what really does it mean when other say it is not old or not made for real use. The problem is given when the objects are expensive and you hope to get back the paid money one day. What to believe in? Even when the object of african tribal art was published in an auction cataloque or in a book or is offered in a gallery specialised on african tribal art, you are confronted with the opinion of the auction house, the book author or gallery owner. It is no independant judgement. Whenthe objects in a book are selected out of museum – or private collections by an expert, this is independant and as we think the best way of information.
Independant experts for african tribal art would be a good way and there is no reason, not to have them. If you buy a picture you can get an expertise and when you aquire a stamp for often less than EUR 100 a certificate is usual.
The other way is to become an expert of african tribal art yourself. It is never a neutral expertise and its quality depends on your experience. To become an expert for african tribal art you have to work for very hard. Think of a tennis player or golfer how long he must work to be outstanding.
Coming back to the experts of the Bruneaf we could read in an email of D.Norden to his clients reporting from the first antique fair this year that the last years experts were exchanged and a new committee was established with stronger rules.
Important is the consequent following of the route. It may be difficult, but one day independent experts in the field of african tribal art will be normal. We are looking for the next Bruneaf and will try to find out, what changes happened.