The future of the trade in ‘antique’ African ivories

Last February the US government announced that it would no longer allow commercial imports of African ivory of any age, including antiques – which were previously exempt. This ban promises far-reaching consequences for the African art market. US dealers, who previously bought ivory works of art from overseas with the intention of reselling them in America, can no longer do so. On the other hand, EU dealers will no longer find clients for their ivories in the US. Domestic and export trade will become limited to artefacts more than 100 years old. Unfortunately, it’s often very difficult to prove an object is demonstrably more than a century old. The purpose of the expanded federal ban, clearly, is to drive down the demand for African elephant ivory by making trade illegal. In fear of further, perhaps worldwide, bans, it’s a likely scenario that collectors will become more and more reluctant to acquire ivory objects. Without a free market to allow the trade of ivory objects, it could of course very negatively impact their value in the long term.

Since it is not sales of genuine antiques in the West that is fuelling the largest demand for new ivory, but the insatiable and undiscerning appetite of Chinese and South-East Asian buyers, many antique dealers and museum curators are currently attacking the prososed new legislation. They rightfully claim certain provisions in the National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking will have a drastic impact on exhibitions, scholarship and the trade in antique masterpieces, while doing nothing to stop the slaughter of an endangered species. You can read more about the issue here. More technical details can be found here. To be continued..

 

An ivory Luba mikisi mihasi pendant. Image by Paul Lois. Photo courtesy of Patrick Mestdagh. Published in: BRUNEAF,  XVII, 2006: p. 81.

An ivory Luba mikisi mihasi pendant. Image by Paul Lois. Photo courtesy of Patrick Mestdagh. Published in: BRUNEAF, XVII, 2006: p. 81.

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