Art Sales as Cultural Intelligence

Analysis of the Auction Market for African Tribal Art

Published in: African Security, v. 4, no. 2, 2011, p. 127-144

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2011

by Erik Nemeth

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The market value of tribal art has implications for the risk of looting in Africa. Consequent trafficking in tribal art compromises security on the continent by eroding cultural identity, fostering public-sector corruption, and providing a source of revenue for insurgents. This paper examines auction sales of African tribal art for the continent as a whole and by individual nations of origin. Graphical analysis of sales data from the past nine years identifies distinct market trends for temporal comparison with security in nations from which the artworks originate. The analysis suggests that collecting trends in "market nations" may reflect perceptions of security in "source nations."

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