Africa is a gigantic continent extending on either side of the equator, which has given birth to a great many different cultures over the millennia. It was probably the cradle of mankind.


Most of the art objects in wood belonging to museums and collectors were however, with rare exceptions, made after the advent of the industrial age, that means after 1850. given that wood rots quickly in tropical climate.


Far-reaching political changes, the opening up of the black continent to mass tourism and the desire of the local populations to make money following the example of the West not only altered old traditions, but stimulated the production of copies of their inherited cultural models for purely commercial reasons.


African art produced in the second half of the 20th century has a high probability of not being genuine. Understanding this limitation helps us to distinguish between authentic and non-authentic.


For African art, the best way of determining the age of an object is by dating the wood. Today there is a scientific method serving this purpose which is accessible to everyone interested: spectroscopy.


Obviously the fact that a piece of wood is old does not necessarily make it a work of art. But an object which has been dated gives an expert, a collector or a gallery owner the chance to make the most of his or her knowledge of art history and investigate the meaning of the work, setting it in its cultural context.


For further information please visit our sites and or consult Volume 3 of our Museumís handbook (p.99-121)