Published: October 3, 2006
Promoter Barry M. Cohen’s fifth annual Historic Indian & World Tribal Arts show, held August 10–13, was “the best show ever,” according to several dealers who exhibited at this and other Santa Fe events in years past. In addition to what one dealer described as “the finest selection of Native American arts being offered for sale in a single room,” the well-balanced show featured ethnographic arts from Africa, Asia and Oceania, as well as pre-Columbian and Spanish Colonial art and classical antiquities. A steady stream of collectors from the United States and abroad perused a stunning array of baskets and beadwork, pottery and sculpture, textiles and clothing, weaponry, religious arts, jewelry and more.
Many of the 85 dealers, up from the 35 at the first year’s show, reported strong sales. Dealer Brant Mackley, of Hummelstown, Penn., said he had made “dozens of sales” by early Saturday afternoon; back in 1991, this dealer of Native American, Oceanic and African material urged Cohen to launch a high-end show in Santa Fe. “The most sophisticated collector base for American Indian art attends this show,” Mackley said, “since the most discerning dealers in the business are all here.”
Well-known American Indian art dealer Marcy Burns, of New York City, who has been exhibiting at leading shows since 1983, said this year’s Santa Fe show was “in the top two” of her experience. Natalie Linn and Elaine Tucker, of Linn-Tucker Indian Baskets, long-time dealers noted for the quality, selection, and price of their inventory at their two locations, Portland, Ore., and St Louis, Mo., reported “phenomenal” success. “We’ve seen strong sales in both high-end baskets, $10,000 and above, and low-end items,” Tucker said.
Tribal, or ethnographic, material was well represented by highly regarded galleries such as Andres Moraga, of Berkeley, Calif.; TAD Tribal Art, of Santa Fe, N.M.; and newcomer Matthew Hickey Ethnographic Art, of Marietta, Penn. Participating for the first time this year were three top Belgian ethnographic dealers: Jo De Buck Tribal Arts, Gallery J. Visser, and Patrick and Ondine Mestdagh, all from Brussels.
Patrick Mestdagh is the president of Bruneaf, the annual Brussels Non European Art Fair, a leading international sales exhibition of African, Indonesian, Asian, Oceanic, Pre-Columbian and Australian Aboriginal objets d’art and antiques.
“Barry’s show is very good looking and the merchandise is well balanced,” he enthused. “I have been pleased to meet knowledgeable customers here who know what they want and what they’re looking at.” Mestdagh said visitors to his booth were particularly intrigued by a Nineteenth-Century Luzambo fetish from the Congo, priced at $60,000.
Ethnographic arts dealer Joel Cooner, of Dallas, Texas, agreed the show was of high caliber. “It’s as good a tribal and ethnographic show as any in America, and I do them all,” he said. Attracting much attention in his spacious corner booth was a stunning Losa ceremonial headdress with buffalo horns and long strings of cowrie shell and glass beads, priced at $9,000.
London tribal arts dealer Owen Hargreaves said he came to check out the “American aesthetic” and observe how ethnographic arts were displayed; he expressed interest in exhibiting at the show in the future, if there is space for him.
Dealers of Asian arts and antiques included Vicki Shiba, of Mill Valley, Calif., a first-time exhibitor at this show; Shirley Day, Asian Rare Art, of New York City; and Scott S. Gordon Asian Arts, of Santa Fe, N.M.
In an attempt to help collectors of American Indian material to make the bridge into Asian art, Shiba exhibited pieces that resonate with Native American color palettes and materials, such as a silk patchwork Tibetan altar cloth whose earth tones and abstract pattern recall American landscapes and American Indian iconography. On Friday, Shiba sold a late Eighteenth Century Japanese silk and linen traveling jacket with a floating weft that gave it an ethereal, watery look.
The well-attended opening reception Thursday evening was a benefit, in part, for El Rancho de Las Golondrinas, a living history museum outside Santa Fe that dates to the early 1700s and was once an important stop along El Camino Real.
Cohen said attendance was strong, “on a par with last year’s,” with more international buyers in attendance, and many who had flown into Santa Fe just to shop at his event. On Sunday, both dealers and customers voted by applauding to keep the show open an additional 30 minutes at closing time, due to a last minute rush at the gate. “More than $75,000 of merchandise was reported sold during that period,” said Cohen.
The 2007 show is scheduled for August 9 through 12. Visit www.tribalantiqueshow.com for information.
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