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[tribal art]

The market for ‘tribal art’ emerged in the first decades of the 20th century. By way of avant-garde artists and pioneering dealers, African and Oceanic art slowly became accepted as ‘art’—with its inclusion in the Musée du Louvre in Paris in 2000 as a decisive endorsement. Initially, it was referred to as ‘primitive art’—alluding to an early ‘primitive’ stage in human development; later replaced by the equally biased ‘tribal art’. While still used widely among dealers and collectors (for want of a better word and being conveniently short), the term ‘tribe’, or its derivative ‘tribal’, is frowned upon by the scholarly community.

The foundations of the tribal art market were laid at the turn of the 20th century. European powers colonized large overseas territories in both Africa and Oceania and, along with other commodities, there arrived ethnographic artefacts. Europeans had conducted coastal trade with many African regions over centuries, but systematic explorations of the continental hinterland did sometimes not take place until the first decades of the 20th century. These resulted in the discovery of previously unknown cultures whose ritual objects, such as masks, were displayed during world’s fairs and colonial exhibitions. Many of these objects ended up in newly established museums, such as the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, outside Brussels. Vigorous competitors in the collection of ethnographic objects in both Africa and Oceania, these museums became the leading players in the early phases of the tribal art market’s development. Next to these large-scale official collecting activities, colonial, military, or missionary personnel also brought home exotic objects....

Article

Joseph R. Givens

(b Abadan, May 15, 1943).

Iranian photographer, curator, and art dealer, active in the USA. Shafrazi introduced graffiti to the mainstream art market and contributed to the contemporary art boom of the 1980s. Raised in Abadan, a small port town that experienced an oil boom in the post-war years, Shafrazi was fascinated by Western popular culture and art. He moved to England in 1956 and three years later began formal art study at Hammersmith College of Art and Building, before continuing at the Royal College of Art, where he graduated in 1967. Following college, Shafrazi pursued a career as an artist while also teaching, first at the Manchester College of Art then at the School of Visual Arts in New York in 1969.

A newfound interest in political activism shifted his creative focus from art objects to art actions. His involvement with the latter culminated in an infamous incident that took place on 28 February 1974...