Marketing Exotic Art
The Western market for exotic artefacts led to a fluorescence of local art styles adapted for sale to collectors. While colonizing Europeans collected artefacts to represent exotic places and primitive peoples, colonized peoples recognized opportunities to participate in commercial exchange on terms over which they had some control. Until the 1970s, the distinction between authentically exotic artefacts and those produced for export was supported by academics, as art historians, anthropologists, and connoisseurs, who proclaimed export artefacts to be artistically inferior and aesthetically debased by Western influence. Instead, “ethnic” came into fashion, as an easy and ostensibly nonjudgmental way of saying “exotic and unsophisticated.” As the makers of export artefacts have become better acquainted with the tastes of metropolitan purchasers of exotica, so they have adopted styles from distant parts of the world that share the common values of this market.