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African Masks

Collectors prize African masks for their celebrated and unique aesthetic and their considerable impact on the trajectory of modern art, most notably influencing the work of masters such as Pablo Picasso and Jean-Michel Basquiat. They were most commonly fabricated from wood, less frequently from malleable stone or metals, and often included other objects such as animal teeth, seashells, and horns. The aesthetic of African masks differs greatly between various cultures.

African masks were primarily used in religious and social events, such as weddings, funerals, and initiation rites. Using human faces and animal muzzles as inspiration, craftsmen exaggerated natural proportions and distorted their physiognomies in order to create highly stylized masks. The concept of exaggerating the inherent physical features of their subjects appears evident in Picasso's oeuvre, most notably in his work from the Rose Period.

African masks introduced an aesthetic that Europeans regarded as untamed and savage in comparison to the traditions that existed within Western Art. These connotations, however misinformed, have been explored and subverted throughout modern and contemporary art, most notably in the work of such African American artists as Basquiat and David Hammons.


Quick Facts

  • The Dogon people of Mali had 78 different types of masks, each of which were used for a different type of ceremony
  • One of Picasso's most famous paintings, "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon," is credited as the beginning of his Rose Period and appears highly influenced by African Fang masks
  • The elongated faces of Amadeo Modigliani's paintings were greatly inspired by African masks, most notably those of the Baule people of what is now the Ivory Coast

Recommended Items at Auction

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African Guro Elephant Mask, 30 x 9 1/2 in. (76.20 x 24.13 cm.)
Dec 06, 10:00 AM EST
African Guro Elephant Mask, 30 x 9 1/2 in. (76.20 x 24.13 cm.)
by Weschler's
Est: $200- $300
$2758 Bids
African Songye Kifwebe Mask, 13 1/2 x 8 1/2 in. (34.29 x 21.59 cm.)
Dec 06, 10:00 AM EST
African Songye Kifwebe Mask, 13 1/2 x 8 1/2 in. (34.29 x 21.59 cm.)
by Weschler's
Est: $50- $100
$604 Bids
African Songye Kifwebe Mask, 14 1/2 x 9 1/2 in. (36.83 x 24.13 cm.)
Dec 06, 10:00 AM EST
African Songye Kifwebe Mask, 14 1/2 x 9 1/2 in. (36.83 x 24.13 cm.)
by Weschler's
Est: $50- $100
$603 Bids
DAN MASK, IVORY COAST OR LIBERIA 12 1/4 x 7 3/4 in. (31.12 x 19.69 cm.)
Dec 13, 10:00 AM EST
DAN MASK, IVORY COAST OR LIBERIA 12 1/4 x 7 3/4 in. (31.12 x 19.69 cm.)
by Potomack Company
Est: $200- $400
$1252 Bids
Ivory Coast Kagle, Dan Kran Bird Beak Mask, 16 x 7 in. (40.64 x 17.78 cm.)
Dec 06, 10:00 AM EST
Ivory Coast Kagle, Dan Kran Bird Beak Mask, 16 x 7 in. (40.64 x 17.78 cm.)
by Weschler's
Est: $100- $200
$552 Bids
Early 20th C Carved Wooden African Tribal Mask
Dec 17, 7:00 PM EST
Early 20th C Carved Wooden African Tribal Mask
by Tunicks Auction Gallery
Est: $10- $300
$101 Bid
African Dan Gagon Bird Beak Mask, 22 1/2 x 8 in. (57.15 x 20.32 cm.)
Dec 06, 10:00 AM EST
African Dan Gagon Bird Beak Mask, 22 1/2 x 8 in. (57.15 x 20.32 cm.)
by Weschler's
Est: $100- $200
$501 Bid
5 African masks in wood…
Dec 17, 11:00 AM CET
5 African masks in wood…
by DVC
Est: €0- €0
€101 Bid
Abelam Maprik
Dec 16, 10:00 AM CET
Abelam Maprik
by Kiefer Buch- und Kunstauktionen
Est: €200- €300
€2000 Bids
Alte Ritualmaske.
Dec 16, 10:00 AM CET
Alte Ritualmaske.
by Kiefer Buch- und Kunstauktionen
Est: €400- €600
€4000 Bids
Bronzemaske der Senufo.
Dec 16, 10:00 AM CET
Bronzemaske der Senufo.
by Kiefer Buch- und Kunstauktionen
Est: €240- €360
€2400 Bids
Alte Antilopenmaske
Dec 16, 10:00 AM CET
Alte Antilopenmaske
by Kiefer Buch- und Kunstauktionen
Est: €120- €180
€1200 Bids
Alte Maske
Dec 16, 10:00 AM CET
Alte Maske
by Kiefer Buch- und Kunstauktionen
Est: €140- €200
€1400 Bids
Maske Ngere Bete.
Dec 16, 10:00 AM CET
Maske Ngere Bete.
by Kiefer Buch- und Kunstauktionen
Est: €80- €120
€800 Bids
Kuyu Kouyou Maske
Dec 16, 10:00 AM CET
Kuyu Kouyou Maske
by Kiefer Buch- und Kunstauktionen
Est: €160- €240
€1600 Bids
Tanzmaske Mali
Dec 16, 10:00 AM CET
Tanzmaske Mali
by Kiefer Buch- und Kunstauktionen
Est: €160- €240
€1600 Bids
Tschokwe prächtige,
Dec 16, 10:00 AM CET
Tschokwe prächtige,
by Kiefer Buch- und Kunstauktionen
Est: €240- €360
€2400 Bids
Mbunda Brettmaske
Dec 16, 10:00 AM CET
Mbunda Brettmaske
by Kiefer Buch- und Kunstauktionen
Est: €80- €120
€800 Bids
A WOOD MASK
Dec 08, 9:30 AM CET
A WOOD MASK
by Nagel Auction
Est: €200- €300
€2000 Bids
BENIN BRONZE CAST MASK
Dec 10, 12:00 PM EST
BENIN BRONZE CAST MASK
by RB Fine Arts
Est: $150- $200
$500 Bids
Bronze Vogelmaske der Senufo.
Dec 16, 10:00 AM CET
Bronze Vogelmaske der Senufo.
by Kiefer Buch- und Kunstauktionen
Est: €200- €300
€2000 Bids
Kongo.
Dec 16, 10:00 AM CET
Kongo.
by Kiefer Buch- und Kunstauktionen
Est: €120- €180
€1200 Bids
Ibo Nigeria Tanzaufsatz.
Dec 16, 10:00 AM CET
Ibo Nigeria Tanzaufsatz.
by Kiefer Buch- und Kunstauktionen
Est: €240- €360
€2400 Bids
Maske idiok ekpu/ deformation mask
Dec 07, 2:00 PM CET
Maske idiok ekpu/ deformation mask
by Kunstauktionshaus Günther
Est: €0- €0
€8000 Bids

Sellers Who Sell African Masks


Kunstauktionshaus Günther

Kunstauktionshaus Günther

DuMouchelles

DuMouchelles

Kiefer Buch- und Kunstauktionen

Kiefer Buch- und Kunstauktionen

Veilinghuis Van Spengen

Veilinghuis Van Spengen