The Art of the Deal
Village des Arts was a cluster of artist studios with a central gallery, a very smart concept that popped up in the former Chinese dormitory for construction workers that built their stadium. This is where we became smitten with an illustrator named Gass–who scribbled funny faces with black marks all based on his mood of the day–and first encountered the Senegalese glass paintings.
La Calebasse was an African arts and antiques gallery coupled with a dibiteria. Dibi is what they call charcoal barbeque in local Wolof, and the lamb dibi here was superb. So were the wooden African statues, benches and dancing sticks, which seemed to all have dusty price tags about half the quoted price for similar items at the more well-kept Gallery Art Africain, owned by two brothers.
What you miss at La Calebasse though — while made up in full by the dibi –was the art of negotiations – “Oh, you are my first customer in the store today, the first day of Ramadan, I will give you whatever price you call as I need to buy nice stuff for my family to take home on the first day of Ramadan…” And the suspense around — what price would he call for this little item? Is it a diamond in the rough, do I have an eye to catch it, does he know the true value or not?
This, you got in spades at Galerie D’Art Africain Galerie Abdoulaye Diop and Baol Depot d’Art, two gorgeous antique stores owned by brothers – a bit of Oscar and Felix to them – just caddy corner of each other where Rue Felix Faure and Rue Mouhamed V meet, around the French Institute (Centre Culturel Francais de Dakar). If you know the art of the negotiation, these two shops would be the only place you should buy anything in Senegal.
Just ask Oscar to polish his fares with soft cloth as he presents them to you, so the luster and patina can truly shine through. They pretended for a few minutes like they were falling on hard times, but you need to look into their cheeky smiles and their wide shoulders to see that these were two proud and wealthy second-generation brothers running treasure-rich galleries founded by their father. Art dealers are art dealers, whether they sell to tourists or locals.
Lesson number two, as you start to get your bearings, don’t fall for the sob story. These are proud people, many of whom have been keeping businesses alive for years, decades and generations.
All images courtesy of NewsWhistle. Lead-In Image (Painting by Moussa Sakho, displayed at Village des Arts)
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