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Willy Mestach

Willy Mestach - Tribute

Collector
Belgium

The fame of Willy Mestach was already well established when I moved to Brus- sels fourteen years ago and suddenly found myself his neighbor on the Grand Sablon, just next door to this living legend and his remarkable collection. It didn’t take long to get acquainted and ultimately friendly with this endearing man, whom I will always picture sitting happily at his old oak dining table, surrounded by masterpieces of primitive art and books, as well as by his own artistic creations: intriguing oil compositions and sculptures blending con- structivist and abstract concepts with a touch of Belgian surrealist humor. Although Willy was an accomplished artist whose work is widely recog- nized, his main artistic achievement was probably as a collector. He was often tagged as having an “artists’ eye,” a statement that is all but insulting with re- gard to Willy. His large collection was amassed over more than half a century of passionate attention to detail and careful selection, and if he made the “mis- takes” that every collector makes, they were seldom visible...

Charles Meur

Charles Meur - Tribute

Artist
Belgium

If the art of the Pacific reaches more than 200 years later, from the time when Captain Cook was making his ocean voyages and giving such splendid accounts of them, it is thanks to the superb drawings produced by his ship’s artist, John Webber. Some of these engravings have become universal icons that first enabled us to see the art and inhabitants of that part of the world, before photography existed. More than thirty years ago, a series of richly illustrated maps of the cultural groups of the Congo appeared in Belgium, in atlases and books in which the drawing took precedence over the photographic image, renewing ties with the first expeditions’ traditions. Monographs on the weapons of Central Africa and numerous illustrations in dozens of books, exhibition catalogs, and on posters followed. ... The list is too long to enumerate. In the beginning was The Word, to be sure. And Charles Meur had it—he was articulate and cultivated, sardonic and ironic, and a masterful writer...

Georges Meurant

Georges Meurant

Artist
Belgium

When I was fourteen, I was struggling with a strict Greco-Latin curriculum, and my father enrolled me in evening courses in art school to offer me some distraction. I began painting the following year, and I was an art instructor by the time I was twenty-one. In 1977, while visiting Joseph Henrion, a sculptor and collector of Kongo art, I saw two Shoowa embroideries and was fascinated by their power. I was driven to comprehend their geometric designs, and I would subsequently see twelve thousand of them and own several hundred. The next year, while visiting the Cairo Museum, I was able to visit its storage and see cases fi lled with piles of small, archaic tribal sculptures, cracked and crazed so fi nely that their trunks absorbed light like dark velvet. I began to think about Sub-Saharan Africa, an artproducing area I had never really considered before. Henrion introduced me to the most important players on the Brussels tribal art scene at the time, most notably Willy Mestach, Pierre Dartevelle, Marc Leo Felix, Philippe Guimiot, and Martial Bronsin.

Steven Michaan

Steven Michaan

Collector
United States

Last December, I received an email from an unfamiliar woman about reviewing a book that had been produced on a private collection of Native American art, a copy of which was in the mail to me. “I’ll keep my eye out for it,” I said. “You can’t miss it,” she said. Truer words have never been spoken. In due course, a hefty package arrived and from it emerged a three-volume slip-cased edition weighing nearly twelve pounds. What was in its pages was even more impressive. I’ve been editing this magazine for almost twenty-five years and I know most of the players in this field, at least by reputation, but how could I possibly not have heard of this Steven Michaan, who had built such an extraordinary collection of art from the Arctic, Northwest Coast, and Woodlands? I knew many of the pieces, but not the collector. This had to change...
Read the entire Steven Michaan interview by downloading the PDF below!

Werner Muensterberger

Werner Muensterberger

Author
Germany

Dr. Werner Muensterberger, who has published widely on psychoanalysis and contributed notably to the literature of tribal art, is a seminal collector of African art in our time. He bought his first piece as a young teenager, and at the time of this writing, his collection obtains its eighth decade. The trajectory of Dr. Muensterberger’s biography encompasses the fore- thought and happenstance that great minds historically have conjoined to build great collections. Born on the threshold of the marriage of the modern and primitive, he was destined to fill a role in identifying its aesthetic. His lasting contribution to the field includes a number of publications on tribal art and collecting, prominent among them Sculpture of Primitive Man, (1955, dedicated to Baron von der Heydt) and, most recently, Collecting: An Unruly Passion (1994)...

Ralph Nash

Ralph Nash - Tribute

Collector
Germany

Ralph was born in Germany in 1928 and moved with his father, mother, and brother to Cape Town, South Africa, in 1934. He had a chance to view African art collections there when he was only ten or twelve and developed a lifelong fascination with this material. After his education, he became a well-known fashion designer specializing in women’s shoes. The South African firm he worked for sent him to Europe and New York several times a year, where he could engage in his interest in African art as well and carry out his work in the fashion industry. By 1961 he had became so disenchanted with the South African political situation that he moved to London and became a fashion consultant for companies such as Lord & Taylor and Sachs Fifth Avenue. He established close relationships with major African art dealers and collectors in Europe and New York, and provided material for many New York dealers, John Klejman in particular.

Ronald Noorman

Ronald Noorman - Tribute

Artist
Undisclosed country

RONALD NOORMAN and his companion, Rijkje Dekker, have been familiar faces to the tribal art scene for decades now, frequently visiting shows and events in Brussels, Paris, and, of course, Amsterdam, where I visited their large and varied collection of tribal art. The sophisticated collection of fi ne combs, spoons, small charm figures, and a host of other treasures, all carefully arranged in tidy and aesthetically pleasing groups, was a real testimony to a passionate and ever-curious eye. Aside from being a talented collector, Ronald’s artistic talent was best known to all for his being an accomplished and strong-willed artist. After an education at the Rietveld Academie, where he learned to paint, he devoted himself exclusively to drawing throughout a long and accomplished career. In the words of Suzanna Héman, assistant conservator at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam: “The intimacy of the art of drawing, in which the thought, through the hand, immediately touches the paper and which hardly leaves space for corrections, was Noorman’s ‘metier pur sang.’ His drawings are characterized by simple forms and move between abstraction and fi guration. In some drawings, elements of landscapes can be recognized, others are completely abstract. With charcoal, crayon, pastel, and gouache, Noorman searches for a balance between powerful and tender movements.” About the rather small format of most of his works, he himself wrote: “As an artist I am not easily impressed by big works. I prefer to stick to the human format. On small format I have to concentrate on power, monumentality, tension, spaciousness, and flow”—words that ring true and resounded in all his choices. Ronald Noorman passed away in March last year and is survived by his partner, Rijkje Dekker, and daughter, Romee. Alex Arthur

Mary (Polly) Nooter Roberts

Mary (Polly) Nooter Roberts - Tribute

Professor
United States

The field of African art lost a major scholar with the passing of Mary Nooter Roberts in September of 2018. She managed to pack remarkable life experiences and accomplishments into her fifty-eight years. Dr. Roberts, most often known as “Polly,” worked doggedly to bring a deeper understanding of the art of Africa to wider audiences through her teaching, most recently as Professor of World Arts and Cultures at UCLA, her many publications (often working jointly with her husband, Dr. Allen F. Roberts), and her museum work at multiple institutions. She had an early introduction to Africa, living in Liberia with her parents. Her father, Robert, worked for the Foreign Service and later the World Bank in different parts of Africa, and her mother, Nancy Ingram Nooter, was an anthropologist and visual artist. Both parents became active collectors of African art and continue to reside in Washington, D.C. Polly studied at Scripps College, majoring in philosophy and French literature, but began graduate studies in art history at Columbia University after visiting her parents in Tanzania. She completed her doctorate in 1991, spending two years of extensive dissertation fi eld research among the Luba people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. During that time, she underwent a rigorous Luba initiation, working in consultation with a woman diviner to access deeper levels of traditional knowledge. Later, she also conducted fi eld research in Senegal, focusing on the arts of a local Sufi movement. While at Columbia, Polly met her husband, Allen, as well as Susan Vogel, who later hired her to be the first staff member at the nascent Museum for African Art. Her first major exhibition, Secrecy: African Art That Conceals and Reveals, was mounted in 1993. A second groundbreaking exhibition there, Memory: Luba Art and the Making of History, was a collaboration with her husband in 1996. (...) Find the entire article in the Winter Issue of Tribal Art magazine (T90).

George  Ortiz

George Ortiz - Tribute

Collector
France

“Marvelous!” George Ortiz, enfant terrible and collector extraordinaire, would exclaim as he held a new treasure, his radiant expression infused with delight. A private scholar with unbounded passion, he built a superb collection and magnificent library mostly on the art of the ancient world and Middle East, but also elsewhere if a special object attracted his attention. His father was posted to Paris as a diplomat, so George was born in a house on Avenue Foch. His mother was the daughter of Simón Iturri Patino, known as the “tin king” of Bolivia. He first visited Bolivia when he was ten and had fond memories of horse rides in the Andes. An English nanny taught him excellent English, augmented by a few years at Downside, a Jesuit school in the UK...

Alessandro Passarè

Alessandro Passarè

Collector
Italy

Alessandro Passarè (1927–2006) was one of those individuals for whom daily connection with art is an essential and primary need. Son of an orthopedic equipment retailer, he wasn’t introduced to the concept of aesthetics during his time in school, but discovered it during the course of a number of trips that, propelled by a vivid curiosity, he began to take at an early age. He was barely twenty when he became aware of his compelling attraction to art — especially contemporary art — an unusual trait for a young man who had grown up in the bland middle class of Milan. Immediately after completing his medical studies, he started a practice in Brera, Milan’s art district, and in his spare time he hung around Bar Jamaica, a meeting place for artists, writers, and intellectuals, and center of the cultural fermentation that the city was experiencing at that time.