MATA Ancient and Tribal Art Fair Celebrates Primitive

  • NEW YORK, New York
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  • May 12, 2015

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Dan mask. African.

In the fall of 2014, a carved wood figure by a West African Senufo artist commanded $12 million at Sotheby's. (It broke the previous auction record by $5 million.) In March of 2015, the Wall Sreet Journal ran an extensive article on the Senufo exhibition at the Cleveland Museum of Art. This week, the art of Africa, Oceania, and the ancient Americas is being celebrated at the MATA Ancient and Tribal Art Fair.

The MATA fair, opening on Thursday, May 14 and running through Sunday, May 17 at the Arader Galleries townhouse on Manhattan's upper east side, is one of the few venues for vetted collections of primitive art.


Thee forms are broad, encompassing carvings, bead work, masks. They were made for ceremony, sport and beauty. There are utilitarian items as well, carved bowls from Hawaii and elaborately carved tobacco and snuff containers.

Items of spirituality, like a Janus stick and small sculptural figures meant to be wrapped in organic matter, have deeper meanings. They were created for use by those who had the power to bestow prosperity, health and success. Today, they resonate with an appeal that is nearly primordial. 

Senufo equestrian figure. West African.

Most of the works of art and design at the MATA fair were created by unknown indigenous artists of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The offerings reflect the culture of legendary African peoples such as the  the Dan, the Tsonga, and the Senufo. (Senufo is the name given artists of Ivory Coast, Mali and Burkina Faso). Carved works from the Marquesas Islands, the shared cultures of Polynesia, and the ancient Americas lend themselves to the quest for identity.  

Primitive art, once a tool of the early Cubists, was favored by Nelson Rockefeller, Helena Rubinstein, and Albert Barnes. Today prmitive art is climbing in value as pieces from single-owner collections hit the market and disappear again into private collections. 

The MATA show is a semi-annual event, hosted by the international members of the Madison Ancient and Tribal Arts alliance. Several of the participants are private dealers, accessible primarily at shows. Some members of MATA are acknowledged for advances in the scholarship of primitive art. 

Dealers exhibiting at the MATA Ancient and Tribal Art Fair include Bruce Frank (New York), Patrick Mestdagh (Brussels), Marc Assayag (Montreal), Wayne Heathcote (England), James Stephenson (New York), Michael Rhodes (New York), Kellim Brown (Brussels), Michael Oliver (New York), Jacaranda Tribal (New York), Nasser and Co (New York), and Splendors of the World-Hawaii. 

Ivory inlaid war club. Fiji,

Pace Primitive, Arte Primitivo and Hunt Fine Arts, also members of the Madison Ancient and Tribal Arts alliance, will hold exhibitions in their upper east side galleries.

The MATA Ancient and Tribal Arts Fair runs concurrent with Freize and Art Miami New York. It is worth a break in the contemporary rounds to visit the MATA Ancient and Tribal Art Fair.

The MATA fair runs at the Arader Galleries townhouse is at Madison and 78th Street. Hours for the MATA Ancient and Tribal Arts Fair are Thursday, May 14th 11am—8 pm; Friday, May 15th, 11am—8 pm; Saturday, May 16th, 11am—7 pm; Sunday, May 17th, 11am—6 pm. Admission is free.

For a preview of the offerings in the MATA Ancient and Tribal Art Fari, please visit

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Spencer Helfen Fine Arts - Special Exhibition

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