Published: June 13, 2006
If Michael Rockefeller reappeared from the jungles of New Guinea and Jim Thompson from his ill-fated Malaysian walkabout, its not hard to imagine these legends turning up at the New York International Tribal & Textile Arts Show, most recently at the Seventh Regiment Armory from May 20 to 23.
In a city overpopulated with selling events, this fair is unto itself – sophisticated, original, diverse and peripatetic in content. Over the course of four days, it drew 4,200 visitors, slightly less than a year ago. A new schedule and the absence of a charity sponsor may explain the dip in attendance.
Caskey-Lees’ Saturday morning “sneak preview” featured passed finger foods, champagne and mimosas. The preview drew a serious, well-heeled crowd if not a large one. Americana collector Jerry Lauren and New York dealer Sy Rappaport were first in line, followed by journalist Stone Phillips. Also spotted over the next few days were Mary McFadden, Ali McGraw and directors and curators of more than a half dozen museums.
Both settled and adventurous, the 12-year-old New York International Tribal & Textile Arts Show – along with its 23-year-old California sibling, the San Francisco Tribal & Textile Arts Show in February – offers entree into promising new collecting categories. Together, they are Caskey-Lees’ flagships.
As Liz Lees, who co-manages the event with her husband, BillCaskey, explained, “When we first moved to Los Angeles as dealersfrom Toronto many years ago we got a small group of people togetherto do our first show, which featured folk art and ethnographicmaterial. The show blossomed but over time its focus shifted fromfolk art to textiles. We were the first to do a tribal and textilesshow with walls, the first to do a walled show of this kind withpaper, and the first to show this material in an art context.”Today, the event most resembling the New York and San Franciscoshows is the nine-year-old Hali Fair in London in June.
One dealer long at the forefront of the collecting trend is Gail Martin, whose large, corner booth fronting the show’s central court featured an ancient Coptic tunic, $125,000; a 1100-1400 AD Chancay mantle, $35,000; and a circa 1850 Uzbeki suzani, $28,000.
“When I opened my Manhattan gallery in 1972, I was traveling,buying and selling so that I could do it all again,” said Martin,who started with antique Afghan and Turkish textiles. Over the nextthree decades she built the Guido Goldman collection of CentralAsian ikats, a large portion of which was ultimately donated to theSackler Gallery, and a private collection of tribal textiles thatwill be shown at the Minneapolis Museum of Art in 2007. Her latestproject is a private collection of Pre-Columbian textiles.
Caskey-Lees packs 70 exhibitors from nine countries into this show, whose narrow aisles are sometimes souklike in feeling. Textiles, followed by sculpture, dominate work from Asia, the Americas and Africa.
“Check my website,” advised London dealer Esther Fitzgerald, whose eclectic presentation ranged from small, framed ancient Sodjian textiles, $22,000 and $26,000, to a swatch of Twentieth Century furnishing fabric, $1,800, decorated by Roger Fry of the Omega Group.
“I moved to Sag Harbor, N.Y., from Osaka in 1982. It was anadjustment,” said Noriko Miyamoto, who pairs Japanese countrytextiles with Japanese folk art, architectural fragments, lightingand tansu. Miyamoto’s sales included four sliding doors, $6,500;and an Eighteenth Century carved wooden Buddha, $2,500.
Chinalai of Shoreham, N.Y., sold Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Siamese Buddhist temple elements.
Haruko Watanabe of Gallery Tsumugi in Tokyo, who sold to a buyer from Calvin Klein, showed blue and white indigo-dyed ikat fabrics and mingei.
“This is probably the best carpet on the floor,” Cengiz Korkmaz of Nakkas Fine Rugs & Textiles boasted of the mid-Nineteenth Century Beshar, $26,000, on his left wall. Korkmaz’s shop is steps from Istanbul’s Blue Mosque, in the foundations of an ancient Justinian bath.
“There is a big opening in the Gulf countries right now,” Belgian dealer Saeed Sadraee answered when asked what he saw as the latest trend in the market for Oriental rugs. His well-edited display featured a minimalist black and white stripe Djadjim flat weave. Sadraee planned a eight-dealer show in his Brussels gallery in conjunction with the Brussels Oriental Art Fair in June.
“I’ve been traveling since I was 13,” said Linda Pastorino of Singkiang, who showed sumptuous Indonesian gold jewelry. The New Jersey dealer was assisted by Scott Laine, who makes art jackets from old Indian saris. The one Laine was wearing cost $3,000.
“The beading and proportions are extraordinary,” BrantMackley, a Pennsylvania dealer in Native American art, said of hisCrow child’s jacket, $85,000.
Another specialist in Crow beadwork, John Molloy of Santa Fe, N.M., recently opened Molloy Tribal Art at 594 Broadway in Manhattan with the exhibition “Apsaalooke Art and Tradition,” organized by Native American Ramona Medicine Crow.
Northwest Coast Indian art dealers Myers and Duncan sold 18 engravings and several rattles.
Moving south, Pre-Columbian sculpture dealer Spencer Throckmorton sold a Mayan stone jaguar, priced $25,000, and a Teotihuacan standing figure, priced $50,000.
A pair of 500-800 AD Zapotec figural urns were $18,000 at Huber Primitive Art, Dixon, Ill.
Sales of African art included Congo sculpture at Hurst Gallery of Cambridge, Mass., and Ignacio A. Villarreal of New York City. Michael Rhodes and Peter-Michael Boyd sold African masks.
Toronto, Calif., dealer William Jamieson featured graphic NewGuinea “cargo cult” shields, decorated in the 1940s by tribesmeninfluenced by Japanese and American troops. A shield painted withSuperhero figures, derived from American comic books, was $11,500.
Michael Hamson of Palos Verdes Estates, Calif.; Kirby Lewis of Seattle; and Chris Boylan of Sydney, Australia, were among exhibitors reporting good sales of Oceanic art.
Sculptor John Crawford created the sympathetic courtyard garden, planted with his forged metal forms inspired by European and African tools.
After a week’s vacation in Istanbul, Bill Caskey and Liz Lees head to London for a working holiday. Their schedule resumes on September 28 with the Los Angeles Asian & Tribal Arts Show.
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