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Primitive-Art Market Is Small But Thriving

WHY is Paris a world center for dealers of primitive African art? It is partly a matter of history, say the dealers.

France was a colonial power in Africa. "So, of course, was Britain," Pierre Amrouche says. But he believes there are only one or two dealers in primitive art left in London, and the same in New York.

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One of those (Hne and Philippe Leloup) also has a gallery in Paris. The advantage in Paris, where Amrouche reckons there are "around 20 or 30 dealing with primitive art, also a large group in Brussels" is that rents for small gallery spaces in the French capital are comparatively low. "So [in Paris] you can live quietly on this business, which is a very small market."

An added feature of the Parisian primitive-art gallery scene is that most of them are in the same small area on the Left Bank, on or near the Rue de Seine.

Alain de Monbrison says, "We try to be all together. It's easier for foreign collectors who come to see everybody at the same time."

In addition to African art, there are also Parisian galleries dealing in Pre-Columbian and Oceanic art.

There are two outstanding museums of primitive art in Paris: Musee de L'Homme, Place Trocadero, and Musee des Arts Africains et Oceaniens on Avenue Daumesnil.

And near the main clutch of commercial galleries is a bookshop specializing in "Livres d'Art Primitif and Ancien": that's Fischbacher, 33, Rue de Seine. This shop publishes a catalog of books on primitive art. There are hundreds.

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