African Art in Transit is an absorbing account of the commodification and circulation of African art objects in the international art market. Christopher Steiner's analysis of the role of the African middleman in linking those who produce and supply works of art in Africa with those who buy and collect so-called 'primitive' art in Europe and America is based on extensive field research among the art traders in Côte d'Ivoire. Steiner provides a lucid interpretation which reveals not only a complex economic network with its own internal logic and rules, but also an elaborate process of transcultural valuation and exchange. By focusing directly on the intermediaries in the African art trade, he unveils a critical new perspective on how symbolic codes and economic values are mediated in the context of shifting geographic and cultural domains. He questions conventional definitions of authenticity in African art by demonstrating how the categories 'authentic' and 'traditional' are continually redefined.
• Only book available which examines how art objects achieve meaning and value as they travel across cultural and international boundaries • Unique in its study of the traders and middlemen in the art trade • Clear writing; solid field documentation; timely; fascinating read
Introduction: the anthropology of African art in a transnational market; 1. Commodity outlets and the classification of goods; 2. The division of labor and the management of capital; 3. An economy of words: bargaining and the social production of value; 4. The political economy of ethnicity in a plural market; 5. The quest for authenticity and the invention of African art; 6. Cultural brokerage and the mediation of knowledge; Conclusion: African art and the discourses of value.