Published: August 24, 2021
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Catalog Photos Courtesy Santa Fe Art Auction
SANTA FE, N.M. – “We had extremely robust online bidding activity as well as a lot of phone bidders. By the end of the sale, we still had 700 active online bidders. In three days, we sold almost 650 lots for $800,000, with a sell-through rate of just more than 92 percent,” reported Gillian Blitch, president and chief executive officer at Santa Fe Art Auctions. She was commenting on the firm’s three-day American Indian and Tribal auction that took place August 13-15.
“It was a phenomenal sale and we were really pleased with the activity and interest. It was the largest focused American Indian sale we’ve ever had in terms of lots, which translated into more bidders and buyers, with nearly 3,000 registered bidders from 30 countries and 230 individual buyers. It continues a trend we’ve noticed over the past several sales, in which we’re seeing nearly 50 percent of our bidders who have never bid with us before, which is very encouraging.”
The first day of sale offered woven textiles, tribal carvings, Pre-Columbian works and Kachina figures with fine art of all vintages and media crossing the block on the second day of the sale. The largest session came last and featured ceramics, jewelry, beaded textiles and artifacts and clothing, with baskets closing out the offerings. Blitch noted that categories throughout the sale attracted more consistently strong interest than she’d seen before.
Fine art brought the biggest money, and new auction records, too. Since 1997, Santa Fe Art Auction had held the record for a work by Frank Howell (American, 1937-1997) at $21,010 but they beat their own record when “Red Feathers in a Salmon Sky,” done in 1986 in oil on canvas, brought $28,800. It had provenance to a private New Mexico collection as well as an exhibition at the Singleton Biss Museum of Fine Art in Santa Fe; after heated bidding, it sold to a New Mexico private collector.
Blitch was very pleased with the result, noting that the painting had a few phone bidders in competition for it, as well as several interested parties bidding online.
Inupiat/Inupiak painter James Kivetoruk Moses’ 1969 watercolor and ink on paper “Polar Bear Hunt” roared past its estimate and went out at $11,400, more than five times its high estimate, while an acrylic on canvas landscape done in 1978 by Dan Namingha (Hopi-Tewa, b 1950) brought $10,200.
Contemporary Native American artists dominated offerings, reflecting the strength in that particular area of the market.
Among woven textiles, a Toadlena/Two Grey Hills rug topped the category with a price of $9,600. The rug had been featured in The Masters Weavers: Celebrating 100 Years of Navajo Textiles from the Toadlena/Two Grey Hills Weaving Region by Mark Winter. According to the research, it was noted that the turquoise accents in the rug were included to satisfy Willard Leighton, a trader at the Two Grey Hills Post from 1946 to 1959.
Two Oceanic works – a carved Tino Aitu ancestor figure from Nukuoro Atoll, Caroline Islands, early Twentieth Century, stood 18 inches tall and also went out at $9,600; it was followed at $9,000 by an early Nineteenth Century Maori Waka Huia feather box from New Zealand.
Small things brought big prices. A Hopi Polacca polychrome canteen, circa 1885, measured just 3-5/8 by 3-3/8 by 2-1/8 inches and saw competitive bidding, with a private collector from New Mexico taking it from a $1,2/1,800 estimate to $7,200. Another buyer paid $4,560 for a Santa Clara blackware sgraffito seed pot by Joseph Lonewolf, circa 1982.
Buyer’s premium is included in the prices quoted.
Santa Fe Art Auction’s next sale will take place on Saturday, September 11, and will focus on Twentieth Century art, design and photography.
For information, 505-954-5858 or www.santafeartauction.com.
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