african masksBuilding-a-collection
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A fine Eastern Pende Panya-Gombe African mask. Coll.: David Norden

African Art books I like | Genuine African Masks

Building your collection.

Building a collection is a little bit like making a bouquet of flowers. It explains how to give personnality to your african art collections and what kind of choices you can make.

Building your collection is a creation. It will show who you are and what you stand for and it also tells something about your personality. 


Or read it in French: creation d'une collection Read also collection-connection

In fact, building a collection is a little bit like making a bouquet of flowers. You can choose to have all similar items coming from a same region and in a specific material, like the collector I know who only wants well-patinated ivory figures from the Congo. If the ivory doesn't show much use, he doesn't want it.

I also know a sculptor who had collected 70 different Bassa masks. He told me 
"It is like the a James Ensor painting - all different characters".

Other collectors, such as the painter Corneille, don't feel a necessity to have old items. 
They just collect on the basis of shapes. A few years ago, I saw an exhibition of Corneiller, in the modern art museum in Oostende and I was shocked to see that most pieces where recent and in my eyes not Museum-worthy. 
Corneille, however, explained that he was just interested in the shapes, expressions and colours to inspire his own work.

You have also other artists collectors like Arman or Baselitz who focus on fine old items. 

I am a professional photographer, and my mother was a collector. That's how I 
became interested myself, but I couldn't live with pieces coming from one tribe only. 
I like it all and the pieces in my shop are like a personal collection and depicting a little bit my own personality in, multiform.
My main interest is Central African art and Gabon, but I also like the fine carvings from West Africa, such as the Baule, Senufo, or Ashanti. I also have a small collection of Indian bronzes, pre-Columbian pieces and other archaeological items.

So before starting a collection you should ask yourself what your goals are 
in relation to your personality :

1) Must my collection consist of items with high value at the short-term (buy only antiques) or long-term (you can also buy contemporary creations)?
2) Do you want a mixed collection or rather focus on a special theme, like a specific animal (e.g. snake, elephant, monkey ), or some utilitarian type of object ( pipes, headle-pulleys, gold weights, Ibedji's twin figures, etc...)?
3) Abstract (textiles, utilitarian items) or figurative; fine carvings or rough; 
used (items with patina) or not? 
4) Will you pick up what comes your way, like a fisher, or will you actively chase after your pieces of choice?
5) Is my collection a work in progress, or will I keep my pieces forever once I have them. Or will I have some goals (e.g.: 100 spoons from different regions), and once attained will I sell it as a collection and start some new collection ?
6) Will I focus on a specific geographic area (eg. All Lega material) or not?
7) Do I want pieces that show European or cross-border influences ?
8) Will I document every piece and try to find similar items?
9) Will I try to find the best samples from current tribes or do I try to be complete by finding the most rare samples?

Tell me what you think. How you build your collection or whether you have other views on the subject?

David Norden 

You may use this text if you keep it complete with links back to my websites.

Read also collection-connection 


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David Norden

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Africa history
TL tests thermoluminescence
collectible home decor
african ceramics 

African art books

The Tribal Arts of Africa

The Tribal Arts of Africa
Author: Jean-Baptiste Bacquart

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read also : Start ] [ Building-a-collection ] object-conservation ] Africa history ] Collectors ] authentication ] TL tests thermoluminescence ] discusses ] collectible home decor ] african ceramics ]

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