Loading Spinner

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

See all items

BRAZILIAN TAPIRAPE 'CARA GRANDE' FEATHER MASK
Oct 22, 10:00 AM CDT
BRAZILIAN TAPIRAPE 'CARA GRANDE' FEATHER MASK
by Austin Auction Gallery
Est: $300- $500
$2254 Bids
WEST AFRICAN BAGA PEOPLES CARVED WOOD BIRD MASK
Oct 22, 10:00 AM CDT
WEST AFRICAN BAGA PEOPLES CARVED WOOD BIRD MASK
by Austin Auction Gallery
Est: $150- $300
$1503 Bids
Mexican Chantolo Dance Mask, Hidalgo, Early-Mid 20th C.
Nov 14, 10:00 AM EST
Mexican Chantolo Dance Mask, Hidalgo, Early-Mid 20th C.
by Material Culture
Est: $200- $400
$1002 Bids
Mexican Dance Mask, Mid-20th Century
Nov 14, 10:00 AM EST
Mexican Dance Mask, Mid-20th Century
by Material Culture
Est: $200- $400
$1002 Bids
Five West African Carved and Polychromed Masks
Oct 22, 9:00 AM EDT
Five West African Carved and Polychromed Masks
by Brunk Auctions
Est: $300- $500
$1501 Bid
Four West African Carved Wood and Fiber Masks
Oct 22, 9:00 AM EDT
Four West African Carved Wood and Fiber Masks
by Brunk Auctions
Est: $100- $200
$501 Bid
West African Mali Bamana Carved Wood Antelope Mask
Oct 27, 12:00 PM EDT
West African Mali Bamana Carved Wood Antelope Mask
by Hill Auction Gallery
Est: $100- $1,000
$501 Bid
CENTRAL AFRICAN KUBA PEOPLES PWOOM ITOK MASK
Oct 22, 10:00 AM CDT
CENTRAL AFRICAN KUBA PEOPLES PWOOM ITOK MASK
by Austin Auction Gallery
Est: $200- $400
$1501 Bid
WEST AFRICAN MALI METAL-MOUNTED NTOMO MASK
Oct 22, 10:00 AM CDT
WEST AFRICAN MALI METAL-MOUNTED NTOMO MASK
by Austin Auction Gallery
Est: $100- $200
$801 Bid
(2) WEST AFRICAN DAN PEOPLES CARVED FACE MASKS
Oct 22, 10:00 AM CDT
(2) WEST AFRICAN DAN PEOPLES CARVED FACE MASKS
by Austin Auction Gallery
Est: $100- $300
$801 Bid
African Gabon Bi Lobed Punu Mukudj Mask
Oct 23, 10:00 AM EDT
African Gabon Bi Lobed Punu Mukudj Mask
by Atlanta Auction Gallery, ltd
Est: $100- $200
$501 Bid
African Cote DIvoire Senufo Bird Helmet Mask
Oct 23, 10:00 AM EDT
African Cote DIvoire Senufo Bird Helmet Mask
by Atlanta Auction Gallery, ltd
Est: $100- $200
$501 Bid
African Gabon Punu Mukudj Mask
Oct 23, 10:00 AM EDT
African Gabon Punu Mukudj Mask
by Atlanta Auction Gallery, ltd
Est: $100- $200
$501 Bid
(5) VINTAGE AFRICAN CARVED & PAINTED MASKS, ETC.
Oct 26, 11:00 AM EDT
(5) VINTAGE AFRICAN CARVED & PAINTED MASKS, ETC.
by Westport Auction
Est: $50- $1,000
$501 Bid
PAIR GHANA HAND CARVED MASKS
Oct 24, 1:00 PM EDT
PAIR GHANA HAND CARVED MASKS
by Charleston Estate Auctions
Est: $125- $200
$51 Bid
Lot of Two Carved Wood and Polychrome African Tribal Masks
Nov 07, 3:00 PM PDT
Lot of Two Carved Wood and Polychrome African Tribal Masks
by Clark's Auction Company
Est: $100- $300
$501 Bid
Mexican Chantolo Dance Mask, Hidalgo, Early-Mid 20th C.
Nov 14, 10:00 AM EST
Mexican Chantolo Dance Mask, Hidalgo, Early-Mid 20th C.
by Material Culture
Est: $300- $500
$1501 Bid
Mexican Negrito Dance Mask, Early/Mid 20th C.
Nov 14, 10:00 AM EST
Mexican Negrito Dance Mask, Early/Mid 20th C.
by Material Culture
Est: $200- $400
$1001 Bid
LARGE AFRICAN SENUFO FIRESPITTER HORN MASK, 37.5"L
Oct 22, 10:00 AM CDT
LARGE AFRICAN SENUFO FIRESPITTER HORN MASK, 37.5"L
by Austin Auction Gallery
Est: $150- $250
$1001 Bid
Igbo Culture Nigeria Carved Wood Mask on Museum Stand Agbogho Mmuo "Spirit Mask"
Oct 30, 9:00 AM MST
Igbo Culture Nigeria Carved Wood Mask on Museum Stand Agbogho Mmuo "Spirit Mask"
by Fidelity Estate Services
Est: $0- $0
$51 Bid
Guro Ivory Coast Red Horn Mask
Oct 30, 9:00 AM MST
Guro Ivory Coast Red Horn Mask
by Fidelity Estate Services
Est: $0- $0
$51 Bid
Pwo African Angola Hand Carved Chokwe Mask
Oct 30, 9:00 AM MST
Pwo African Angola Hand Carved Chokwe Mask
by Fidelity Estate Services
Est: $0- $0
$51 Bid
African Songye Congo Mask
Oct 30, 9:00 AM MST
African Songye Congo Mask
by Fidelity Estate Services
Est: $0- $0
$51 Bid
Guro Ivory Coast Wood Carved Mask
Oct 30, 9:00 AM MST
Guro Ivory Coast Wood Carved Mask
by Fidelity Estate Services
Est: $0- $0
$51 Bid

Sellers Who Sell African Masks


Zemanek-Muenster

Zemanek-Muenster

Material Culture

Material Culture

Austin Auction Gallery

Austin Auction Gallery

RB Fine Arts

RB Fine Arts