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New World Circuits

New World Circuits

(p.95) 12 New World Circuits
The Power of the Between
University of Chicago Press

This chapter discusses how West African art traders adjusted their commercial practices to North American economic realities. Thirty years ago very few traders came to North America; they sold much of their inventory to gallery owners and to small numbers of private clients. In the late 1990s, the number of traders bringing objects to North America increased exponentially. There are two possible reasons for the expansion. The excitement surrounding the Museum of Modern Art's 1984 exhibit, Primitivism in Twentieth-Century Art, to consider the first reason, augmented the legitimacy and increased the value of tribal art. This attracted new groups of collectors looking to invest in objects the value of which would quickly increase. The appeal of Afrocentrism, to consider the second reason, triggered much interest in Africa—including interest in African art—in African American communities. In Harlem, African American shoppers have bought the aforementioned Ghanaian “kente” cloth strips and hats from West African vendors. West African beads, incense, amulets, jewelry, and “kente” products, according to West African vendors in Harlem, underscored Afrocentric identification with Africa.

Keywords:   West African art, art traders, African wood, Afrocentrism

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