"When I began collecting, I initially made a few purchasing mistakes. I was impressed by exciting 'hybrid' masks... I quickly got rid of these decorative ornamental pieces in favour of objects that had been consecrated and used in various forms of ceremonies and rituals."
"In the exhibition were three small Fon bocio figures. They had a kind of mystery that I had been trying to bring into my own work. Seeing the Fon figures was one of those moments when the lightbulb went off in my head."
"When we eventually had the means, we were so eager to make the connection between our upbringing and an art collection, especially photography. From that first piece in Gabon, to where we are today, I’d say that we have a very eclectic collection from artists from around the world yet with a focus on photography from the African Diaspora."
"The mistakes that I made were collecting purely impulsively and not really studying and comparing and doing the legwork. Because early on, not doing the preliminary steps can be very detrimental. Late in the game, now, I can make a really quick decision on something and the likelihood of me screwing up is a lot less."
"The most important piece of advice is to see and touch as many pieces as you can. Train your eye and you will begin to see the differences sooner or later. Then you will see pieces and know, that one—no, that one—yes!"
"I now collect two types of beads from Africa; those that either have a history—ancient glass beads—and beads that are used in rituals by African traditional healers, or in animistic rites. I discovered those functions of beads in West Africa, and I started documenting those uses, bead by bead."
"Take your time before any purchase. Do intense research before you decide on a piece. Do not let yourself be pressured by anyone. Even if this special item is sold by the time you have decided to go for it, there will be another piece."
"I like all spoons—East Africa, South, West. To me every culture has its own artistic vision of a spoon. The creativity is so appealing given that all a spoon needs is a handle and a bowl to make it functional. But African spoons go beyond the functional, a lot of thought goes into the carving."
"Too many Africans have been defensive about being African. Our tradition and culture is not something we should throw away. We live on top of, and in the middle of, incredible treasures—our culture and antiquities are priceless."
"Don't try to do it alone. Find people who will help you, mentor you, tutor you. Particularly other collectors. I have found that most collectors are very generous in sharing their passion and experience and eager to pass it on."
"The younger generation need to see African art integrated into timeless and stylish interiors - interiors that include and even highlight tribal art. We need to show that these ‘foreign objects’ can be incredibly beautiful and can add value to an interior."
"For me it’s important that the objects I collect are used ritually; this is the special part of traditional African art. It has meaning, it’s not just beauty for beauty’s sake, it’s beauty for magic, power and expression."
"Collecting should be fun but with tribal art it’s not always that easy, it’s a tricky business. I think every collection is highly personal, the result of aesthetic encounters... a collection is an articulation of the person’s identity and self-narrative."
"Africa is huge and provides enormous variety. Specialising means that you gain massive amounts of knowledge about your very specific collecting field by comparing your discoveries and understanding the similarities and differences... in the end, most importantly, be a passionate collector, not a calculating buyer!"
'Kofi Cole', the artist pseudonym used by African art historian Herbert M. Cole, creates miniature versions of classic African figures and masks. In this Artist Spotlight, we hear from Kofi Cole about his love of African art and his creations which praise the small.
"Young collectors need to exercise patience. They do not need to create their collection in six months, it doesn’t work like that. Collecting should be a lifetime passion, there’s no need to rush. Take your time, have fun—there’s nothing more rewarding."
An extraordinary figure, the first 20th-century businesswoman, a self-made and emancipated woman, a visionary... There is no shortage of superlatives to describe the incredible rise to fame of Helena Rubinstein (1870-1965), dubbed the Empress of beauty by Cocteau, but her role as an experienced collector and a pioneer in the recognition of African and Oceanic arts in Europe and North America is often overlooked. Primarily amassed in Paris through her various encounters, "Madame’s collection", now dispersed, comprised over 400 pieces of non-European art including precious Kota and Fang reliquary guardians, exceptional Baoulé, Bamana, Senoufo and Dogon pieces. The exhibition places the spotlight on her passion for non-Western arts - primarily African art - through sixty pieces, as well as her fascination for their expressive intensity and character.
'IncarNations. African Art as Philosophy' crosses the African continent in search of the essence of African art. Preview the show and hear from its curator, Kendell Geers, by reading his opening speech to the exhibition.