african masksSelling African art
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A fine Eastern Pende Panya-Gombe African mask. Coll.: David Norden

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The Gite Gallery is at 1924 Calumet, Houston

The wealth of Africa resides not just in its gold mines, diamonds and oil. It exists inside its people, especially its visual artists who educate the rest of the globe about both the continent's ancient history and modern life.



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.

Q: What are the criteria for evaluating African art and how do they differ from standards used to judge Western art?

A: It's much easier to duplicate a wooden piece than it is to replicate a ceramic piece or something done in bronze. And since many art pieces in Africa are made of wood, it's important to authenticate age and ethnic origin.

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.

Q: If you want to invest in contemporary African art, which nations have up-and-coming artists who have the potential to be great?

A: Some of the best artists are out of South Africa and West Africa. If you look at the art that is in the Houston museums now, you will see a lot from artists who live in Cape Town and Johannesburg in South Africa.

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?

A: That depends on if you are here or there. If you are here in the States, and you go to a gallery, usually the price stated is the price that it is. I may give a reduction, especially if the person is buying in volume. The worst thing to do is to pitch a price that is way below what you know the piece is worth. Don't walk in to the gallery and ask for a 50 percent discount. I remind people that a gallery is not a flea market.

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.

Q: When does a buyer have the experience to make bids at an auction?

A: I personally would not go to an art auction to buy African art without a certified appraiser or a museum curator along for the ride. To spend that kind of money, you need to have documentation on the piece.

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.

Q: Art can be purchased for pleasure, prestige or financial gain. How can you train your taste in art so that what you buy reflects all three?

A: Research, research, research.

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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In this section:
David's buying tips
African art experts
dealer species
african art commodity
Fake or Copy
Selling African art
currency museum Ottawa
African artefacts
Does it need Evaluation ?
African ceramics
Fake Gabun
ceramic arts in Africa 

African art books

The Tribal Arts of Africa

The Tribal Arts of Africa
Author: Jean-Baptiste Bacquart

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read also : Start ] David's buying tips ] African art experts ] dealer-tips ] dealer species ] african art commodity ] Fake or Copy ] Authenticity-Kamer ] [ Selling African art ] currency museum Ottawa ] African artefacts ] Does it need Evaluation ? ] reconceptualisation ] African-weapons ] African ceramics ] Fake Gabun ] ceramic arts in Africa ]

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