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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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BENIN OR CAMEROON TIKAR AFRICAN MASK
Apr 27, 3:00 PM PDT
BENIN OR CAMEROON TIKAR AFRICAN MASK
by Sunset Auction
Est: $300- $500
$222 Bids
Cameroon Bamileke Tribe Carved Wood Buffalo Mask
Apr 27, 3:00 PM PDT
Cameroon Bamileke Tribe Carved Wood Buffalo Mask
by Sunset Auction
Est: $0- $0
$201 Bid
African Carved Wood Mask
Apr 24, 10:00 AM EDT
African Carved Wood Mask
by Bruneau & Co. Auctioneers
Est: $40- $150
$251 Bid
African Senufo? stylized zoomorphic carved wood mask with crest. 25"H x 11"W
Apr 27, 11:00 AM EDT
African Senufo? stylized zoomorphic carved wood mask with crest. 25"H x 11"W
by Ripley Auctions
Est: $200- $400
$501 Bid
Senufo Kpelie Maske
May 03, 10:00 AM CEST
Senufo Kpelie Maske
by Kiefer Buch- und Kunstauktionen
Est: €50- €80
€501 Bid
ANTELOPE GOLI MASK.
Apr 27, 10:00 AM EDT
ANTELOPE GOLI MASK.
by Amelia Jeffers
Est: $100- $300
$501 Bid
African Carved Wood Makonde Mask
Apr 27, 10:00 AM EDT
African Carved Wood Makonde Mask
by Neue Auctions
Est: $100- $300
$501 Bid
(7) VINTAGE CARVED AFRICAN MASKS
Apr 30, 11:00 AM EDT
(7) VINTAGE CARVED AFRICAN MASKS
by Westport Auction
Est: $50- $10,000
$501 Bid
SOKOMOTU MASK. LUBA, DRC.
Apr 23, 2:00 PM CEST
SOKOMOTU MASK. LUBA, DRC.
by Bernaerts Auctioneers
Est: €400- €500
€2401 Bid
Face mask with raffia wreath, Fang, Gabon, carved wood
Apr 27, 10:30 AM CEST
Face mask with raffia wreath, Fang, Gabon, carved wood
by Henry's Auktionshaus
Est: €300- €450
€2800 Bids
Kran Liberia.
May 03, 10:00 AM CEST
Kran Liberia.
by Kiefer Buch- und Kunstauktionen
Est: €100- €150
€1000 Bids
Senufo Carved & Painted Wood Mask
May 14, 11:00 AM EDT
Senufo Carved & Painted Wood Mask
by Auctions at Showplace
Est: $200- $400
$500 Bids
African Dan Gle Carved Wood Mask
May 14, 11:00 AM EDT
African Dan Gle Carved Wood Mask
by Auctions at Showplace
Est: $200- $400
$500 Bids
African Carved Wood Songye Mask
Apr 27, 10:00 AM EDT
African Carved Wood Songye Mask
by Neue Auctions
Est: $200- $400
$1000 Bids
African Makonde Body Fertility Mask
Apr 27, 10:00 AM EDT
African Makonde Body Fertility Mask
by Neue Auctions
Est: $200- $400
$1000 Bids
Ethnographic / Native / Tribal: Two African carved wooden masks with carved
Apr 29, 9:00 AM BST
Ethnographic / Native / Tribal: Two African carved wooden masks with carved
by Claydon Auctioneers
Est: £40- £60
£400 Bids
Ethnographic / Native / Tribal : Three African carved soapstone amulets / t
Apr 29, 9:00 AM BST
Ethnographic / Native / Tribal : Three African carved soapstone amulets / t
by Claydon Auctioneers
Est: £20- £40
£200 Bids
LULUA MASK - REP.DEM.CONGO
Apr 27, 11:00 AM CEST
LULUA MASK - REP.DEM.CONGO
by Goldfield Auction
Est: €1,500- €2,500
€1,5000 Bids
PENDE MASK - REP.DEM.CONGO
Apr 27, 11:00 AM CEST
PENDE MASK - REP.DEM.CONGO
by Goldfield Auction
Est: €1,200- €1,800
€1,2000 Bids
DRC - LEGA MASK IN IVORY.
Apr 27, 11:00 AM CEST
DRC - LEGA MASK IN IVORY.
by Goldfield Auction
Est: €1,500- €2,000
€1,5000 Bids
TETELA? MASK
Apr 27, 11:00 AM CEST
TETELA? MASK
by Goldfield Auction
Est: €500- €800
€5000 Bids
African Dan tribal wood carved mask with knit textile applied. 11 3/4"H x 7"W
Apr 27, 11:00 AM EDT
African Dan tribal wood carved mask with knit textile applied. 11 3/4"H x 7"W
by Ripley Auctions
Est: $200- $300
$500 Bids

Sellers Who Sell African Masks


Ripley Auctions

Ripley Auctions

Bonhams

Bonhams

Auctions at Showplace

Auctions at Showplace

Akiba Galleries

Akiba Galleries