Published: March 8, 2022
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy Exhibitors
ONLINE – In its second year as an online-only event, Objects of Art Shows organizers Kim Martindale and John Morris fielded 44 exhibitors for its 36th annual San Francisco Tribal & Textile Art Show, and 25 dealers for the 38th annual American Indian Art Show, San Francisco; five vendors showed in both shows, which was held February 18-28. Two of the dealers in the American Indian Show were from abroad – France and Canada – while the remaining were based in the United States; the Tribal & Textile show fielded more international sellers, representing England, Australia, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Canada, and Belgium.
The San Francisco Tribal & Textile Art Show is considered one of the premier shows of its kind in the world. Works range from the finest textiles and rugs from North Africa, Asia, North America and India through stone and woodcarvings from Indonesia, Africa and Oceania. Works also span millennia, with carvings and pottery from prehistoric South America to contemporary garments utilizing heritage woven ikats from Ecuador, preserving a cultural tradition.
The American Indian Art Show, San Francisco, has become one of the most significant showcases of antique American Indian art on the West Coast. It brings together the passion of the country’s top dealers and artists with collectors and those interested in exploring the rich cultures of the Americas. With an emphasis on Antique American Indian art, as well as pre-Columbian, Spanish Colonial and the best contemporary American Indian art, this show offers something for everyone, including jewelry, textiles, baskets, pottery, beadwork, sculpture, paintings, photography, books and more.
Show producer and co-owner Kim Martindale was upbeat when we caught up with him by phone after the event wrapped.
“I feel really good about how the show went. It seems like most people have done well, which is exciting,” he said. “I’m glad we did the show virtually. So much of our market – particularly for the Tribal – is international, both in terms of exhibitors and buyers so, for us, virtual was the right choice.”
Martindale acknowledged that the 2022 edition was slightly smaller and had fewer vendors than the 2021 virtual show, but he is optimistic that he will see a return of sellers in future editions. He noted that several European dealers who had at one time participated in the live versions but who stopped for a myriad of reasons had returned to the virtual event.
The upcoming Objects of Art Shows in August that feature predominantly American Indian art at the El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe will offer a combination of live and virtual options, with the virtual shows taking place August 11-31 and a staggered in-person presentations of the American Indian Art Show August 8-10 and “Objects of Art Santa Fe” following, August 12-15.
“The combination of virtual and in-person will bring a much greater energy than we’ve seen in years. We have a global audience; the online component makes it possible for exhibitors to reach as many potential customers as possible, and for collectors who can’t travel to still participate in the events,” Martindale said.
The Objects of Art Shows team completely rebuilt their previous online platform; the new proprietary and bespoke website is both elegant and easy to use for both seller and potential buyer. Martindale and his designers have added features that allow dealers to mark works as sold or to replenish purchased items with ones that have not found a buyer. Showgoers have access to a “like” button to share favorite items.
“The feedback [on the site] was very positive,” he said. “We’ll be looking at the front end to see if we can make the process easier, but it has worked well with this version.”
Like most shows, visitor traffic varied, with busier times largely at the start and towards the end of the event’s run. Martindale said that while he didn’t have the metrics yet on where visitors were from, he assumed it was similar to the response to the 2021 edition, which welcomed showgoers, virtually, from 30 countries.
Like previous shows, the event hosted a benefit preview; for this edition, the beneficiary was Indegenous Celebration NM (ICNM), a marketing campaign that unites more than 40 New Mexico-based art organizations. The benefit preview raised about $3,000 during the six or seven hours it was open.
“It’s been great for me, and I made lots of new connections,” Adam Prout of Adam Ethnographic Art, from Didibrook in Gloucestershire, U.K., said. “I’ve sold mainly to new, private clients in the United States – individuals and companies.” He had several things marked sold a few days before the show closed, including a rare Futuna club, a Melekula club, a 34-inch long shark tooth knife from Papua New Guinea that relates to one at the British Museum, a Pentecost club, an Ogoni mask, a model of a Dayak longhouse, a Yoruba Ibeji, snuff bottles, a Zulu spoon bag and a group of early Twentieth Century Papua New Guinea Susap or Jaws harps.
First-time exhibitor Hubert Langmann, from Gratwein-Straßengel in Austria, was enthusiastic about the show and he was particularly pleased to offer a rare Bongo mask. “I have known of the San Francisco Tribal & Textile Art Show for years. Last year, the book, Man Who Cannot Die. Phantom Shields from the Highlands of Papua New Guinea, which I co-authored, was presented at the art fair. During the year, I had the idea to participate in this art fair as an exhibitor. The fact that the San Francisco Tribal & Textile Art Show was taking place virtually again this year was exactly fitting, as I could participate in an established art fair with manageable effort. The decision was made a few weeks before the opening. This was my first participation as an exhibitor at an art fair.”
In the Year of the Tiger, it is fitting that the first sale with Vichai and Lee J. Chinalai of Chinalai Tribal Antiques, Shoreham, N.Y., was a mid-Twentieth Century Tai hanging blanket or mat from Laos or Vietnam with tiger and baby tiger.
Lee said “We are pleased with sales to old and new customers. One advantage of a virtual show is that it reaches the world, so we’ve not only added new customers but between last year’s show and this year’s, new continents. The other advantage is that pieces of interest can be saved – in fact we were still selling from the 2021 show even a few weeks ago.”
George Hegarty, Arts Tribaux, noted that he sold three objects in the first few days, compared to the previous year when he sold in the second half. He recommended that visitors look at dealer’s booths frequently as sold works are replaced with unsold items and said “the quality of objects has increased.”
Brooklyn, N.Y.-based James Stephenson is fluent in Swahili and has written several books about his experiences. He was having a good show and by Saturday afternoon, February 26, ten of the 14 items in his virtual booth were marked as sold.
“I’m based in Paris and doing live shows in California had been time consuming, with a lot of paperwork and associated costs, so I stopped doing them about ten years ago,” Julien Flak said. “But I started doing them again during Covid and the virtual show is the perfect solution for me at the moment. It makes things fantastically easy and efficient.”
The owner of Galerie Flak, which offered material in both shows with an emphasis on Oceanic and North American objects, had positive things to say about the 2022 edition. “This show has proven to be very good; surprisingly good. I don’t have huge expectations because you just don’t know how it will go, but I’ve made lots of sales and have three new clients. For me, the goal of these shows is reconnecting with old clients. I sold an Eskimo mask to a client I’ve known for 20 years, but who hasn’t bought anything from me in a while.”
Flak said he sold two pieces to customers in Europe and another eight or nine works to buyers in the United States. He brought a selection of things across a broad range of prices because “it’s important to show what I work with, but I always try to show that it’s possible to have great things in all price brackets.” He acknowledged that most of his sales were of things priced between $5,000 and $15,000.
Mark Blackburn, Art Blackburn, participated in both shows and reported that he had “mixed results but did pick up two new major clients. The largest sale was $2,500 and the lowest sale was $1,000. Native American as always was the major area of interest, although this show we did sell a beautiful pre-Columbian miniature Teo maskette. Most sales were in the United States, although we did have a sale to France and Canada.” The maskette in question had provenance to John Arietta, Ted Few and Donald Simmons, all in London.
Founding members of the Antique Tribal Art Dealers Association, Ted Trotta and Anna Bono, have specialized in antique American Indian art for more than 40 years. One of the works with the heftiest price tag in the show at $125,000 was a “Box and Border” woman’s robe, Northern Plains/Lakota Sioux that dated to circa 1830-40. It was noted to be exceptionally well-painted and had provenance to Mr and Mrs Richard Stiles of Oxford, Maine, an auction in 1988 at George Morrill, Marvin Sadik and the collection of Helene Sage, who authored Native American Horse Gear (2012). Additionally, the robe had been published no fewer than three times.
“I can report that I had a successful show with more than half a dozen sales, mostly to new clients, some of whom are of a younger generation than most of my current clients. [I] also sold a variety of objects, both sculpture as well as beadwork,” confirmed New York City American Indian art dealer, John Molloy.
Barry Walsh, who sells under the name Buffalo Barry Indian Art, also had favorable comments on the show. “I found the virtual show to be reasonably successful, selling to both old friends and new customers. I offered 60 items ranging from Hopi katsinam to Apache beaded bags, to Navajo jewelry.”
One of Walsh’s sales was a turned and painted rouleau maple vessel decorated with traditional Northwest Coast designs by Steve Smith (Kwagiulth, aka Kwakiutl, b 1968), which measured 9½ inches high by 9½ inches diameter. Smith apprenticed with his late father, Harris Smith, before branching out on his own. His works are signed “Dla’kwagila” which means “Made to be Copper.”
The only Canadian dealer in the American Indian Show was Westwillow Antiques, from North Vancouver. Jane and Jeff Harris, who have worked with Native and Tribal art for more than 40 years, had several sales, including a 16½-inch-tall Northwest Coast Tlingit/Tsimshian model totem pole with three main figures, a thunderbird, bear and frog that had probably been made for the steamship trade off the coast of Alaska. The show was their third virtual event with Objects of Art Shows and Jane observed that “it is going to be business of the future. We have attended a few live show events in the past, and always wanted to participate, the virtual show has made that happen. We both feel connected to this group of fellow collectors and dealers and enjoy rekindling old friendships. This is a way to share and to join from Vancouver BC Canada. The knowledge and interest that is obtained by telling stories between people, brings out good energy and endorphins.”
SavvyCollector in Phoenix, Ariz., was doing its second virtual show with Objects of Arts, with artwork vetted by Corinne Cain and jewelry judged by Kateri Weiss. Among the works that was still available for purchase was a pastel and graphite drawing by Rick Bartow (1946 -2016) titled “Coyote Forgetting,” from 1989, which measured 40 by 26 inches.
Martindale said he was as confident as one can be during this period of uncertainty that the 2023 San Francisco Tribal & Textile Art Show, and the American Indian Art Show San Francisco, would be a combination of both virtual and live in-person. Mark your calendars for the online event to take place February 18-28, with the live show running February 24-26.
For additional information, www.objectsofartshows.com.
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