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Tribal art is the visual arts and material culture of indigenous peoples. Also known as Ethnographic art, or, controversially, Primitive Art, tribal arts have historically been collected by Western anthropologists, private collectors, and museums, particularly ethnographic and natural history museums. The term "primitive" is criticized as being Eurocentric and pejorative.
In museum collections, tribal art has three primary categories.
- African art, especially arts of Sub-Saharan Africa
- Art of the Americas
- Oceanic art, originating notably from Australia, Melanesia, New Zealand, and Polynesia)
Collection of tribal arts has been historically been inspired by the Western myth of the "noble savage", and lack of cultural context has been a challenge with the Western mainstream public's perception of tribal arts. In the 19th century, non-western art was not seen by mainstream Western art professional as being as art at all. The art world perception of tribal arts is becoming less paternalistic, as indigenous and non-indigenous advocates have struggled for more objective scholarship of tribal art. Before Post-Modernism emerged in the 1960s, art critics approached tribal arts from a purely formalist approach, that is, responding only to the visual elements of the work and disregarding historical context, symbolism, or the artist's intention.
Influence on Modernism
Major exhibitions of tribal arts in the late 19th through mid-20th centuries exposed the Western art world to non-Western art. Major exhibitions included the Museum of Modern Art's 1935 Africa Negro Art and 1941 Indian Art of the United States. Exposure to tribal arts provide inspiration to many modern artists, notably Expressionists, Cubists, and Surrealists, notably Surrealist Max Ernst. Cubist painter, Pablo Picasso stated that "primitive sculpture has never been surpassed."
- Antique Tribal Art Dealers Association
- Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979
- Australian aboriginal art
- Folk art
- John Young Museum of Art, Honolulu, including a tribal art gallery
- List of indigenous peoples
- Musée du quai Branly in Paris
- Museum of Primitive Art
- Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act
- Old media
- The Tribal Eye, a 1975 British television David Attenborough documentary
- Museum Rietberg www.rietberg.ch
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