A fine Eastern Pende Panya-Gombe African mask. Coll.: David Norden
Selling African art. Investors can find ancient or modern art from Africa
Feb. 28, 2005, 10:17PM Moneymakers found at Houston Chronicle Copyright 2005
Seven exhibitions of contemporary work from Africa are on view now until at May 9 at five Houston museums.
Lloyd Gite, owner of the Gite Gallery at 2024 Alabama, spoke with the Chronicle's Shannon Buggs about the evolution and economics of selling African art.
At the very, very high end — antiquities that are certified and are 50 years old or older — you will find a lot of work in bronze and terra cotta and a lot of masks.
But I tell people to not worry so much about age and function of a piece and more about the aesthetic qualities. Do your heart and eyes like it? If you do, buy it. Then research it. If it turns out later that it's a good investment piece, that's even better.
But remember what you are seeing in the museums is very modern art. Some of it is almost devoid of an African feel and instead has more of a futuristic, space feel.
But most people who get into African art are more interested in work that is more traditional.
When we think of African art, we think of masks, fabrics and statues. We don't think of paintings in acrylics, oil and other types of original fine art.
But there are some artists who work on canvas and paper that are really becoming quite a force, such as Larry Otoo from Ghana.
Q: What is the etiquette for haggling over the price of a piece of art without insulting the artist or dealer?
But if you are in a market in Africa, then of course you would haggle. You start at half of what you want to spend, then work your way up to what you are willing to pay.
But that is not the way most people interested in African art go about acquiring it. I've found there are three types of African art buyers.
The first tier is the people who go to T.J. Maxx or some other discount retailer and buy a piece of African art that was mass produced in China.
Then there is the middle market that wants to buy original works of art that cost no more than four figures.
The third tier goes to art auctions and has $25,000 or more to spend on authentic art that is anywhere from 50 to 200 years old. You can still find rare pieces, but you are going to pay top dollar for them.
The Internet has opened up so many opportunities to find out what you have, what it's worth and what it will be worth.
If you find that something you like is growing in value, buy more. It surprises me sometimes how collectible some of these African artists have become. Their life spans are much different from ours, so some of them have died in their 40s and 60s, and the value of their work has grown.
Speaking of art.
Where are they now: former Channel 26 reporter Lloyd Gite?
"I have my own art gallery in the Museum District. It's called the Gite Gallery, and we have a wide collection of art from Africa," Gite said.
"I travel to Africa and pick the pieces myself. What makes the gallery different is I have many paintings by African artists. I have acrylics, watercolors and charcoal drawings. I've been traveling to Africa since 1976, so this gallery is the result of years of passion for art,"
The Gite Gallery is at 1924 Calumet.
Gite, who left Channel 26 in 2001, still dabbles in TV as a freelance reporter for the Major Broadcasting Cable Network.
"I spent 25 years in TV before opening my gallery. I owe a lot to my career in television because it allowed me to travel internationally and open my eyes to art."
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