“People who are on this kind of budget are thinking more carefully about their purchases,” he says. “It’s forced us to work more on major pieces from important collections.” Indeed, Monbrison’s stand, where prices range from €8,000 to €500,000, is littered with pieces with excellent provenance, including objects once owned by Charles Ratton, a pioneering Parisian dealer in the field.
As with other sectors of the market, art fairs play an increasingly important role for tribal art dealers, as they seek to develop new and younger collector bases. While Brussels and Paris are currently the established centers for tribal art in Europe, if not worldwide, fairs in Asia are giving dealers a chance to connect with potential collectors there. In a bid to expand its Asian collector base, Monbrison’s gallery took part in the International Antiques Fair in Hong Kong for the first time last May—with mixed results.
“Asia would be a great market to crack, but it will take time,” Monbrison says. Dealers say drawing in new collectors can pose a challenge, since tribal art prices escalate less rapidly than in other sectors of the market. “Tribal art takes more than a decade to see a return—not two to three years like contemporary art. It’s such a small market, you have to be patient.”