Published: March 9, 2021
ONLINE – It would be hard to imagine a more dazzling place to host the multicultural relics of American First Nation and world history than a port city that has welcomed people from around the world for nearly 200 years. For 35 and 37 years, respectively, the San Francisco Tribal & Textile Art Show and the American Indian Art Show San Francisco, have hosted an international contingent of dealers, collectors and institutional representatives in a lavish presentation on the piers of Fort Mason, the sound of seagulls and fog horns in the distance. Like everything else touched by Covid-19, the shows coexisted virtually for the first time, leaving returning visitors to supply their own jeweled memories of previous in-person editions.
A benefit preview on Wednesday, February 24, provided early access to the show for $25; proceeds benefited Blessingway, a nonprofit created in 2016 with a mission to offer aid to the Navajo Nation. This year, with the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, Blessingway has been working to provide monthly relief packages of flour, coffee, canned goods and PPE as well as feed for livestock and sheep to the Diné people. After the show, it was reported that more than $10,000 was raised for Blessingway.
The show, which was then accessible free of charge, had initially been scheduled to be open from Thursday, February 25 through midnight PST on Sunday, February 28, but an unprecedented level of traffic, which exceeded the 50,000 hits-an-hour limit of the show’s commercial grade server, caused a significant slow-down on the websites for more than five hours on Thursday morning. Within a few hours, the platform was upgraded to an industrial-grade platform, which proved capable of handling the traffic for the rest of the show but to compensate, show management decided to extend the run to midnight PST on Wednesday, March 3.
The Tribal & Textile Art show had 80 exhibitors from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany and the Netherlands. The American Indian Art Show had 45, with four from Canada and the rest from the United States. A few exhibitors had virtual booths in both shows. Many dealers participate in the Objects of Art Show in Santa Fe, which is owned and produced by Kim Martindale and John Morris, who co-owned and co-produced the San Francisco shows.
“There was a slowdown at the beginning because we had so many people look at the show online,” Martindale said when we reached him by phone halfway through the show’s run. “We extended the event to give people more time to see the show. Many dealers were making lots of sales and replacing things; we wanted to give new inventory the opportunity to sell. It’s been very positive and has gone way beyond our expectations. Nearly everyone has done the shows before but the virtual show has brought back a few dealers who had not participated recently.”
Morris was equally enthusiastic. “We’ve caught a tiger by the tail and have had a tremendous response. We’ve had hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world – by the time the show closes, we’ll have had an audience that has a much greater reach than a live show in San Francisco would. We’re getting visitors from many corners of the earth: Algeria, El Salvador, Indonesia, Morocco, Serbia, Russia, Switzerland, to name just a few. Most wouldn’t be able to come and see this show but we took it to them. It’s opened up a whole wider range of audience.”
At press time, show statistics were not available other than the show welcomed visitors from at least 35 countries.
Sales were made early, often and across all price points, reflecting the diversity of both shows.
Tribal & Textile Arts
Marie Auger-Andrews of Marie’s Amazing Asia Art, Rancho Mirage, Calif., was doing the San Francisco show for the first time and reported tremendous interest from new buyers, including European clients. She said that sales had been largely to private collectors, with works selling around $10,000. Interest in Tibetan Buddhist offering cabinets (Torgom) and other large Tibetan monastery chests was greater than she had seen previously. “It was a great opportunity to get exposure and, from a dealer’s perspective, a priceless and amazing opportunity to do such a high caliber virtual show.”
George Hegarty of Arts Tribaux, Englewood, Colo., has attended the Tribal & Textile Arts show for years but this is the first time he has participated as a dealer. He made his first sale within an hour of the opening, selling to an institutional buyer for their personal collection. He anticipated that items priced below $2,000 would sell more quickly; as would easily shippable objects. Like many, he observed the difference between the in-person shows and the virtual edition, “The show has always been a fun social event. Many feel it’s an annual reunion of collectors and dealers. Discussions. Dinners. Wine. Laughing. This year is mostly a sales show, a commercial event competing with online auctions and websites. We miss seeing the objects in person. Holding the objects in our hands.”
“I picked up a few new customers on Wednesday,” Matthew Brody of Tiger Tiger said. “I have made a little money, without the huge expenses of a physical show. All sales were to new clients, averaging $500.” Amyas Naegele of Amyas Naegele Fine Art, New York, has been doing the San Francisco show for about 14 years and sold to existing clients in Europe.
Robert Sommers at Blue Heron Gallery was making his debut at the Tribal show; it was also his first virtual show. Having done the Indian and ethnographic shows in Santa Fe for about 26 years, as well as many more general shows, he said he was “happy with the show, I have had good sales to a variety of clients and dealers and am reaching people that I could never touch in a single geographic locale. I have not as yet had any sales to institutional buyers but the show is still young. Had a nice sale to London yesterday, to a client I would probably never encounter in a ‘normal’ day.”
When asked about trends among sales, Sommers said, “For me, pottery, from a variety of cultures, is selling well, beadwork not so much. I am so happy that I took advantage of the invitation to exhibit here. In this new Covid era we live in, I finally see the advantage of having the huge inventory I possess. I think that even if I had no sales, the advertising benefits of doing this show would be worth it. These sorts of shows make sense, no hotels or expensive restaurants, no driving or pack in. I miss the conviviality of hanging with fellow dealers in the ‘before Covid’ show that can’t ever be replaced over the internet. But we are making due and making money and I am very happy.”
Hawaii-based Mark Blackburn had a busy start to the show, selling nearly 20 pieces before the event had been open for 3 days. He said that prices ranged from $1,000 to $16,500 and he had made sales to several international dealers as well as three new collectors, with Native American and pre-Columbian areas getting the most interest. He said the most expensive piece he sold was an African Baule figure with “incredible provenance; pieces with extensive provenance are the most sought-after and that appears to be a trend.”
“It’s fascinating to see the ‘reach’ of a virtual show and we have already met new customers. Sales so far exceed expectations,” was the initial reaction of Chinalai Tribal Antiques, Shoreham, N.Y. They reported selling to both new and existing clients as well as institutional buyers and appreciated the extra days added.
“I have sold about the same as in person, for a lot less work and expense,” Thomas Murray said. The Mill Valley, Calif., textile dealer reported fielding interest and inquiries on all levels, making sales equally to both new and existing clients, with multiple sales of pieces priced at or below $5,000.
Lawrence Hultberg, who started exhibiting in tribal art shows in the 1980s, stopped doing them about 15 years ago after relocating from the West Coast to the East Coast and then to Oklahoma City. “I was especially interested in participating in this virtual show as it is more conducive to my current lifestyle. It also doesn’t require the expense of travel, or the necessity of lugging a bunch of stuff across country, setting up and breaking down, and standing on my feet all weekend. Sales were pretty good for me, and they were all new clients. I had things available for purchase for as low as $750 and nothing higher than $7,500. There are collectors who can obviously afford higher-end objects, but the $2,500 range seems to have been a sweet spot for me that appealed to both seasoned and new collectors.”
Anthropos Gallery, Beverly Hills, Calif., transacted several sales, including a large late Nineteenth Century Eskimo model Umiak, a Tlingit arrow with bone arrowhead and shaft, Anasazi and Tusayan ceramics, a late pre-Classic Mezcala stone temple model dating to 300-100 BCE, a Moche copper Tumi and a group of 13 Nineteenth Century Spanish Colonial silver cups from Peru.
Masks proved popular items among buyers with several sales at Alain Naoum Antique African Art as well as Cavin-Morris and David Malik.
A ceremonial axe kilonda and an Ilwoon or Ilondo parade sword from the Democratic Republic of the Congo left the booth of ER Tribal, as well as a replica of a Sudanese Mahdist throwing knife.
Other various and sundry sales throughout the show were a carved figure and Hawaiian fan with Galerie Punchinello of Paris; James Barker Asian Art and Design of Santa Fe closed the deal on a D. Batak house guardian, two Philippines headcloths, a wood Buddha and a pair of Q. Shan harvest charms. Cologne, Germany-based textile dealer Rudolf Smend sold five pieces and Raccanello Tribal Art of the United Kingdom sold a Brumer Island comb.
American Indian Art Show
One of the most impressive pieces in the lineup of works on offer in the American Indian Art Show – which would no doubt have been even more striking in person – was a full-sized Sioux painted muslin summer tipi from North Dakota, circa 1915-20, which was with James Flury and Bill Henderson of Santa Fe. Standing 15½ feet tall and measuring 16 feet in diameter and with most of the paint decoration by Joseph No Two Horns, the rare survivor was priced at $125,000.
Local San Franciscan Carole Schurch, Rooster Rose Gallery, has participated in the American Indian Art Show for more than five years. She reported sales to both new and returning clients, and even sold a piece that was not on the show website. “Kim Martindale and his group were really helpful with how to upload and take pictures and did a tremendous amount of work to make the show happen. Which was good for a novice like me. I think the show could go virtual as well as be live in the future.”
Andrea Esty of AE Tribal Antiques, Laguna Nigel, Calif., has been doing the American Indian Art Show on and off for 15 years and before the show had reported better sales than the previous year. She characterized making “good” sales, one to a past client, the rest to new ones, most of which were in the $1/2,000 range. She particularly appreciated that the show drove a lot of people to her website, giving her “ten times the normal traffic; it was fantastic publicity!”
Dallas-based Mark Mckissick, Water Bird Traders, who has been doing the American Indian Art Show since 1984, said, “The client interest is huge, the sales not so much. Covid has decimated the shows and has hurt the business terribly. This online show is really a god-send to keep the business afloat. I’m glad to see the effort John and Kim have gone to make this work for the Ethnographic and Native American Art community.”
By the middle of the weekend, Phoenix, Ariz.,-based Corinne Cain, SavvyCollector.com, had written slips for four sales out of 15 items posted in her booth, one of which went to an institution; all of her sales were to new clients. Prices ranged from less than $600 to $20,000 and one of the items was purchased on the paid-access preview day.
Don Phelps of Todos Santos Trading Post said that he had enough sales to cover his cost and make a little but said clients had commented that the selection could be larger and prices were mostly high. The Alamo, Calif., dealer sees an online show as a good trend as an add-on to the live show.
Dave DeRoche has been exhibiting at both shows for about 30 years. “I’m delighted to report that I have noticed wonderful enthusiasm and responses. Excellent sales and introductory conversations, with both new collectors and old getting in touch with me. One collector whom I never knew nor even knew of called me, bought a piece, is considering several more that I immediately sent him photos of from my home, and has called me already a dozen times to chat about our art loves and interests. Making a new phone friend with remarkably similar interests is such a treat.” The Oakland, Calif., dealer noted a sale to a museum was in the works.
“I have actually noticed and been surprised by how similar this show has been to my own past experiences of 30 years of in-person/actual/physical shows. Equal enthusiasm for the art, equal friendliness and sociability, equal buyers’ lust, equal learners’ questions from young collectors, art-lovers, students, researchers, historians, ethnographers, artists…People do hugely miss the traditional in-person shows at Fort Mason, both for the eye-dazzling and almost spiritual displays of art and cultures and for the camaraderie, but they are seeing the virtual glass as more than half-full and a darn good adaptation and art experience.”
A quick scan of the digital booths prior to the show’s closure revealed several sales. Clear Sky American Indian Art, Sonoma, Calif., sold a pair of Blackfeet beaded moccasins and a Panamint coiled basket by Maggie Bellas. New York City’s John Molloy Gallery sold a Hopi kachina doll, a Kiowa Strike-a-Lite Pouch, a Navajo Double saddle blanket, a Blackfeet pipe bag, a pair of Lakota turtle fetishes, circa 1893; Santa Fe, Morning Star Gallery wrote receipts up for two ledger drawings. Jason Baldwin of Terra Incognita, Inc., of Chicago, Ill., sold a beaded blue sash and had reduced prices on several pieces.
The dates for the next San Francisco Tribal & Textile Show and American Indian Art Show San Francisco have not yet been set but the shows are anticipated to take place in February 2022.
September 28, 2022
September 27, 2022
September 20, 2022
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