The Easel

How Auction Houses Can Improve the Ways They Describe Non-Western Art

A persuasive, uncomfortable argument. Christie’s and Sotheby’s are called out for “Eurocentric” descriptions of African artifacts. Marketing descriptions tend to be “ahistorical … suspended in some imaginary, pure realm.” These works thus acquire edited biographies, without “messiness [meaning] in many cases, the very people who created the object. Perhaps this is what sells.”