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

PACIFIC NORTHWEST TRIBAL MASK
Jul 25, 11:00 AM EDT
PACIFIC NORTHWEST TRIBAL MASK
by Cordier Auctions & Appraisals
Est: $200- $400
$2003 Bids
bp parity badge
2 African Mask & Figure
Jul 23, 10:00 AM EDT
2 African Mask & Figure
by Barry S. Slosberg Inc
Est: $60- $120
$302 Bids
Two African & Indonesian Carved Timber and Poly-Chrome Dance Masks
Jul 24, 6:00 PM AEST
Two African & Indonesian Carved Timber and Poly-Chrome Dance Masks
by Theodore Bruce Auctioneers & Valuers
Est: AUD30- AUD50
AUD202 Bids
AFRICAN NIGERIA EKET PEOPLE DOUBLE FACED WOODEN MASK
Jul 27, 10:00 AM EDT
AFRICAN NIGERIA EKET PEOPLE DOUBLE FACED WOODEN MASK
by Antique Arena Inc
Est: $100- $150
$101 Bid
Kifwebe Mask from the Songye Africa, Secret Society Carved Wood & Painted AFRICAN ART
Jul 26, 9:00 AM CDT
Kifwebe Mask from the Songye Africa, Secret Society Carved Wood & Painted AFRICAN ART
by Western Sportsman
Est: $0- $0
$101 Bid
Ngil-Maske der Fang, Gabun, Zentralafrika
Jul 27, 11:00 AM CEST
Ngil-Maske der Fang, Gabun, Zentralafrika
by Kunstauktionshaus Schlosser
Est: €200- €400
€2001 Bid
African Baule Carved Wood Mask with Birds
Jul 23, 11:00 AM EDT
African Baule Carved Wood Mask with Birds
by Auctions at Showplace
Est: $200- $400
$501 Bid
2 Small African Masks, Carved by Hand. Beautiful 20th Century(ONE$) AFRICAN ART
Jul 26, 9:00 AM CDT
2 Small African Masks, Carved by Hand. Beautiful 20th Century(ONE$) AFRICAN ART
by Western Sportsman
Est: $0- $0
$101 Bid
An Antique African Brass Ashanti Mask, Framed
Jul 23, 6:00 PM AEST
An Antique African Brass Ashanti Mask, Framed
by Theodore Bruce Auctioneers & Valuers
Est: AUD100- AUD200
AUD501 Bid
Group of Carved Wood and Raffia African Masks, 3
Jul 28, 12:00 PM EDT
Group of Carved Wood and Raffia African Masks, 3
by Auctions at Showplace
Est: $400- $600
$1000 Bids
Lrg 20th c. African Wooden Senufo Helmet Mask
Jul 24, 10:00 AM CDT
Lrg 20th c. African Wooden Senufo Helmet Mask
by Revere Auctions
Est: $300- $600
$1500 Bids
African Yaka Kholuka Mask
Aug 07, 11:00 AM EDT
African Yaka Kholuka Mask
by Auctions at Showplace
Est: $200- $400
$1000 Bids
African Senufo Hand-Carved Wood Mask
Aug 07, 11:00 AM EDT
African Senufo Hand-Carved Wood Mask
by Auctions at Showplace
Est: $200- $400
$1000 Bids
African Baule Goli Wood Mask
Jul 23, 11:00 AM EDT
African Baule Goli Wood Mask
by Auctions at Showplace
Est: $200- $400
$500 Bids
African Mossi Wooden Chameleon Dance Mask
Aug 07, 11:00 AM EDT
African Mossi Wooden Chameleon Dance Mask
by Auctions at Showplace
Est: $300- $500
$1000 Bids
bp parity badge
4x alte afrikanische Holzmasken, Altersspuren, Größte ca. 34 x 19cm
Aug 03, 1:45 PM CEST
4x alte afrikanische Holzmasken, Altersspuren, Größte ca. 34 x 19cm
by Auktionshalle Cuxhaven
Est: €0- €0
€400 Bids
Toma Hand-Carved Wood Mask
Aug 07, 11:00 AM EDT
Toma Hand-Carved Wood Mask
by Auctions at Showplace
Est: $200- $400
$1000 Bids
African Bete Face Mask
Jul 23, 11:00 AM EDT
African Bete Face Mask
by Auctions at Showplace
Est: $200- $400
$1000 Bids
Helmmaske ''Agbogho Mmwo'' der Ibo (Igbo), Nigeria, Westafrika
Jul 27, 11:00 AM CEST
Helmmaske ''Agbogho Mmwo'' der Ibo (Igbo), Nigeria, Westafrika
by Kunstauktionshaus Schlosser
Est: €200- €400
€2000 Bids
Blasebalg der Shira oder Punu, Gabun, Zentralafrika
Jul 27, 11:00 AM CEST
Blasebalg der Shira oder Punu, Gabun, Zentralafrika
by Kunstauktionshaus Schlosser
Est: €300- €600
€3000 Bids
Antilopenmaske, West- oder Zentralafrika
Jul 27, 11:00 AM CEST
Antilopenmaske, West- oder Zentralafrika
by Kunstauktionshaus Schlosser
Est: €100- €200
€1000 Bids
Zoomorphe Flügelmaske der Bwa, Burkina Faso, Westafrika
Jul 27, 11:00 AM CEST
Zoomorphe Flügelmaske der Bwa, Burkina Faso, Westafrika
by Kunstauktionshaus Schlosser
Est: €220- €440
€2000 Bids

Sellers Who Sell African Masks


Kunstauktionshaus Schlosser

Kunstauktionshaus Schlosser

Auctions at Showplace

Auctions at Showplace