European perspectives on African so-called 'tribal' art are typically somewhat Eurocentric - it tends to be understood and appreciated in terms of what it did for the canons of western art. So its effects on the work of Picasso, of Andre Derain, and Modigliani, how it sculpted primitivism, cubism and expressionism.  However, it is so much more. It is the oldest aesthetic inheritance on earth. It dates back to the very earliest anatomically modern humans around 100,000 years ago. And of course we are missing most of it because it was made of wood and other perishables that have vanished in the archaeological record. What we have left is - for me - some of the most exciting, socially significant and beautiful works of art in existence. And it doesn't spring from anything as crass as social climbing and faux religious devotionalism (i.e. the Renaissance) - it's twisted into the fabric of everything that African societies did and were, from hunting magic to entertainment, worship to social signalling, trade to protection, and for the sheer love of beauty for its own sake. 

I have spent years collecting and working with these items, and have extended my interests to other parts of the world where I have worked or travelled (i.e. Central America, South America). My home is absolutely packed with masks and figures. Everything comes with its story, and I have files of information about previous owners and the collections to which they once belonged. I only buy what I like so the collection is somewhat eclectic, although there is a definite preference for Nigerian art forms, especially the Yoruba. If you have any questions, let me know.


P.S.  As an archaeologist I will have nothing to do with anything excavated, as these were invariably stolen from sites that have been destroyed by looters. Most of the literature concerning this in African relates to the Benin Bronzes taken by the British at the turn of the 19th-20th centuries, but the problem is in fact far more widespread, as demand drives illicit looting, the results of which flow to middlemen on commission to supposedly reputable art galleries in the US and Europe. 

Nok Terrcottas Trafficking

Bura Culture

Looting Mali's History







TalkTribal Blog

Owning your own piece of Owens history

Every so often the Lawrence Owens collection gets a little bit too large to handle at which point I’m forced to dispense with some of it, so I can then go and eventually collect some more. If you’d like to avail yourself of a piece of Lawrence Owens history then follow this link to eBay where there will be the offerings of the month available. If you want to be updated on further sales, just click on Saved Sellers to Favorite lawrence_2004 as a seller and then you will be sent the lot notifications whenever anything new is posted.


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