Authentication of African Art is one of the main concerns of all African Art collectors in the world, and I have seen many diverging opinions on this subject among collectors, dealers and scholars. On the AfricanAntiques discussion group thousands of messages are related on this subject alone. Establishing authenticity for African art objects has been a concern of academics, museum curators, collectors and gallery dealers for more than fifty years.
Find inside more resources, museum databases and learn about the African Arts magazine that was published a long time ago on this subject, laboratories and related articles on the subject. Age, usage, beauty, marketability, provenance, and authenticity are all different concept to take in account to have a collection to be proud of.
Not everything that is sold at auction or showed in Museums and Universities is authentic, and not everyone telling he is an expert is right. I sometimes joke and tells” The best expert is the one doing less mistakes than the others”. With hundred of tribes it is impossible to know everything, but common sense and confirmation with previous provenances can make the difference.
Resource rolodex to authenticate African Art online and in the real world, with names and URL’s to the main laboratory and experts, and my private opinion about them, and some secrets to know f you have very valuable pieces in your possession and get free valuations :
Of course you can always email me to get my private opinion.
To know if you have something really valuable take contact with Sotheby’s or Christie’s auction houses, since they want items worth 5,000 euros or more, be assured that if they give you a valuation you have something really valuable. When you present something to a dealer it is in his advantage to “lower” the value from your piece to acquire it at the best conditions. For the auctions it is the opposite since they work on commisssion.
To know what you have and put a name on your piece you can consult the “Tribal Arts of Africa” from J_B Bacquart
Once I know the name of the tribe I often visit the yale van rijn photographic archive to be able to compare my objects with similar ones, even if I know they do not garantee all objects in the database are authentic, it gives a good idea of similar object. Unfortunately not everyone has access to the database due to copyright concerns, but if you need some help you can always send me a notice.
I also use the online version of the Who is Who in African Art also from Guy Van Rijn. If I know the name of the collection it is coming from, use this site to check it out, you sometimes learn a bit more about the provenance and context.
you can contact Guy van Rijn if you have a piece worth to be added tothe database
Researchers wishing to view the Archive at the Yale University Art Gallery or make general inquiries may contact:
Amanda Maples, Research Assistant
Yale University Art Gallery
P.O. Box 208271
New Haven, CT 06520-8271
Those wishing to contribute images or data to the Archive may contact:
Guy van Rijn
Avenue de Broqueville 225
Phone: 32(0)2 7790033
Read: april 1976 special issue of African Arts on “Fakes, Fakers and Fakery”.in African Arts Vol.IX
online pdf: http://www.artafrica.info/Pdfs/artigo_14_en.pdf
ART AUTHENTICATION SERVICES:
Nothing is worth a good expert with tens of years of experience, but often it is recommended to add some scientific evidence to what the eye see.
I would also stress that scientific analytics can not be hold as proof of authenticity alone. There is a laboratory in Milan who provides age testings of the wood, and who has a collection that most collectors, dealers and museum curators have serious doubts about the authenticity of most of the pieces in the collection. Like the Teke mask that is on the cover, clearly painted and not similar to the known old ones used in a tribal context. In fact this book is a good illustration of fake pieces from the 1930′s-1950 .You need also to have knowledge on styles and preferably also some anthropological insight, since even in the old days items where made for decorative purposes, and that cheaters are becoming more clever everyday.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED LABORATORY: Antiques Analytics. Used by many Museums worldwide. An address know for it’s experience, and for not beeing involved in scandals. David Norden
Dr. Robert Neunteufel Antiques Analytics is dealing with scientific investigations for the assessment of objets d’art and authentication of antiques on the basis of chemical and physical methods for material analysis.
Decades of experience with most complicated analytical problems are the basis for our expert reports and numerous contented domestic and international customers are proof of our high performance and reliability.
Dr. Marc Ghysels CT scans in art work appraisal . CAT scan – literally “undress” the art work and reveal its internal structure. Provides a more accurate measurement of the density, thereby dissociating parts that are usually merged on a conventional X-ray film. Located in Brussels-Belgium but vey expensive.
Gregory Ghent Appraisals. San Francisco Bay area, provides professional appraisal report.
Laboratory Ralf Kotalla. Worldwide oldest private commercial Laboratory for genuine Analyses. ThermoluminescenceAnalysis for cores of ceramics and cast.
http://www.kotalla.de Problem with this laboratory is they have no ethics, wich is a shame – since they deliver TL datations for bronzes inside castrs, which is proven not to deliver wrong results.
Oxford Authentication, Ltd. Oxford Authentication is the largest laboratory in the world which is dedicated solely to TL testing of ceramic antiquities. Internationally renowned for authenticity testing of pottery, porcelain and the casting cores of bronzes using thermoluminescence. Reports accepted world-wide by museums, auction houses, dealers and collectors as well as in courts of law.
Radio Carbon Information and Labs
Scan revealed pastiche and TL sampling concerns
Friends association can give some clues, but often also let you in your illusuons
Société de Africanistes, Musée de l’Homme – 17, place du Trocadéro – 75116 Paris
Société des amateurs de l’art africain – 3, rue Lagrange -75005 Paris
Société des Océanistes, Musée de l’Homme – 17, place du Trocadéro – 75116 Paris
Bibliothèque Jacques Doucet – Histoire de l’art et l’archéologie historique: 58, rue de Richelieu 75083 Paris Cedex 02. Biblithèque littéraire: 8-10, place du Panthéon 75005 Paris