Published: August 31, 2021
Review and Photos by Walt Borton
SANTA FE, N.M. – Objects of Art Santa Fe arrived poised to defy the anxieties of the past few months, even while observing rigid health-safety guidelines throughout its four-day run, August 12-15.
The show’s preview party on August 12 tried a new time, from 4 to 7 pm, making post-event dinner plans possible in a city where late reservations don’t exist. The experiment was highly successful, with more than 200 attending for a contribution of $100 to Native Art New Mexico, a new website being developed to promote Native American arts and cultural events statewide.
Produced by Kim Martindale and John Morris, Objects of Art reaches beyond the Southwestern and Native American themes dominant during August in Santa Fe to create a venue for great design regardless of its era or origin. This year, for the first time, it was presented as both an in-person and virtual edition.
In all, 46 exhibitors had in-person booths in the El Museo Cultural exhibit hall, recently retrofitted with an air handling system providing additional protection from airborne infections. Surprisingly, more than half the galleries had traveled from out of state to exhibit. An additional 28 galleries took part in the virtual show, with another seven doing both. Sales in the virtual show have been reported as steady since it opened August 10. It ran through August 31.
Without question, the lingering pandemic thinned the crowds traveling to Santa Fe this August, but even so, daily attendance during regular show hours ran only slightly behind record 2019 attendance, and there are indications sales overall may have been better.
The urge to buy, pent up by Covid for nearly two years, seemed unleashed throughout Objects of Art’s run.
Three galleries specializing in unique designer attire, Chinalai Modern, Atelier Danielle and, fresh from Portland, Ore., to the Santa Fe scene, Pfau, felt busy from shows open to close.
The highest-quality textiles also had steady attention. Red Mesa/Jeff Voracek’s decision to present with three major Navajo weavings were the talk of the show floor opening night. Seldom are three weavings of such quality present at an entire show, but never in the same booth.
Caravanserai’s Casey Waller, recently relocated from Texas to Santa Fe, made a similar splash with a stunning contemporary hand embroidered Suzani caftan from Central Asia, and Chip Neschke expressed surprise at the number of first-quality weaving he sold in the show’s early days.
Blue Rain Gallery, since moving from Taos, N.M., is now firmly established as one of Santa Fe’s most important contemporary art venues. For this show, Blue Rain changed course a bit to show nothing but liturgical art rooted in the region’s Spanish Colonial heritage. Worthy of a museum exhibit, the space was filled with santos (wood carvings of saints), retablos (small oil paintings honoring saints, often used as home altars) and ex-votos (paintings on tin or canvas offering narrative thanks to a saint). Some were ancient, some by living artists, and together they created an impossible to resist spiritual moment.
For old Santa Fe hands, there was a poignant “blast from the past” with Dakota, the son of popular beadwork artist and proud Hippie, the late Susan Poe, selling his mother’s work alongside Palace Design’s James Aumell.
Duane Maktima (Laguna and Hopi), a jeweler with works in the collections of the Smithsonian’s Museum of the American Indian and the Wheelwright Museum, exhibited at Objects of Art for the first time this year, and it was clear why he is considered among the most important designers working today. Knowledgeable visitors were delighted to see an old friend, and folks new to his work seemed genuinely thrilled by it.
When Calabasa’s Jeff Hengesbaugh created his exhibit space, he combined the eye of a trader with genuine scholarship, the grit of a mountain man and genius for good storytelling. At first glance, the layout seemed almost casual, but with serious attention, the adventure began with two Seventeenth Century artifacts. The first, a horse’s metal armor face plate, caught the eye, but quickly yielded to the pair of “mitras” beside it. These elaborate stirrups were not for show, they were formidable weapons in battle. Shaped much like a bishop’s mitre, well wielded, they often proved fatal. But the story did not end there. Jeff then produced a photo of the Segressor Hide Painting showing the fierce 1720 battle where a Spanish force dispatched from Santa Fe was attacked by Pawnee and Oto warriors, allies of the French. The painting illustrates those stirrups at war, near what is now Columbus, Neb. Together, with Jeff at the helm, the stirrups not only took on a life of their own, but became fresh knowledge for a native Nebraskan, revealing the extent of Colonial Spain’s reach into the new continent.
Most exhibitors reported solid sales throughout the show. A unique story piece by Southern artist Shane Campbell, titled “A Tribute to Robert Johnson,” was sold to Sydelle Rubin-Dienstrey, director of Artemis Gallery, by the J. Compton Gallery. The firm 20th Century Design sold a collection of eight whimsical, 1950s Los Castillo’s silverplated-and-stone pitchers. Chinalai Tribal Antiques had buyers for two important textiles from South China, and their contemporary handmade clothing designs and bags were popular items with several hip young couples. The Standard Arts and Antique Company sold a set of midcentury Martz lamps to a new homeowner in Santa Fe, definitely not the only sales spurred by the booming Santa Fe real estate market.
From the opening preview through closing late Sunday afternoon, Objects of Art Santa Fe 2021 sustained the impression that it was easily triumphing over the problems inevitably encountered by shows that go dark for a year. Part of its durability, no doubt, flows from the tenacity of its producers and loyalty of its exhibitors, but there is another, equally important aspect to that durability. It has built a loyal, sophisticated, design-focused audience in Santa Fe and beyond, certain to sustain the event as a popular fixture of Santa Fe’s high season.
For information, 805-340-0384, 310-901-6805 or www.objectsofartsantafe.com.
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