Published: June 29, 2004
The tenth annual New York Inter-national Tribal and Textile Arts Show: Fine Arts & Textiles of Native Cultures returned to the Seventh Regiment Armory, Park Avenue, May 15-17, with a new name, a new dealer roster and a new approach.
Approximately 83 exhibitors, up from 45 in 2003, presented artifacts and textiles of Asia, Africa, Oceania, The Americas and Native America in sprawling, sophisticated booths covering the entire floor of the armory; in the past, armory management had allowed only half the space to be used.
Producers Bill Caskey and Elizabeth Lees also enhanced the show in several other ways. Chief among their changes was a new preview beneficiary, the Byrd Hoffman Watermill Foundation, which supports The Watermill Center of Long Island. The preview was also chaired by Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller, president of the renowned Barbier-Mueller Museums of Geneva, Switzerland, and Robert Wilson, founder of the center, and was underwritten by Bacardi.
Another change that greeted patrons was a “designer’s showhouse” in the form of two booths at the entrance. These spaces were created by Alon Langotsky of Langotsky-Gamba Tribal Arts, New York City, and Linda Pastorino of SingKiang, Chester, N.J. Langotsky used contemporary furniture and carpets to complement his display of African artifacts, while Pastorino stressed the importance of thematic, scholarly unity in her display. This effort to reach the “designer” market was to pay off for several exhibitors.
An added special exhibit, “The Power of Headdress,” was curated by Tom Murray of Asiatic Ethnographica, Mill Valley, Calif., featuring some 35 examples from many cultures.
“[The exhibit] seemed very popular with the visitors and quite a few pieces sold,” said Murray. “The show…was a profound amount of work: 2,000 pounds of goods to be set up in eight hours. I credit my helpers very much.
“I sold a very important pair of ancestor figures from the Dayak tribe, Borneo; headhunter swords from Sumatra; a rare Moluccan shield; an Eskimo seal gut parka; a great group of forked pilgrim staffs from Ethiopia; a Kongo maternity figure; a rare Nias figure; plus other things I cannot recall right now,” he continued. “Half went to dealers, half to collectors. The Met is interested in several rdf_Descriptions so I must call this a great success!”
According to Walt Borton of Caskey-Lees, preview attendance was up 27 percent from last year, resulting in 735 patrons through the doors at 6 pm on May 14. Overall attendance increased by 1,023 people, up 34 percent to 4,003.
Textile dealer Gail Martin, of Gail Martin Gallery, New York City, experienced a positive preview. “[It] was very busy for me,” she told us. “Not only were interesting – and interested – people there, but several museum curators who I had really wanted to see the show were there.
“I enjoyed that preview evening and all three additional days,” Martin continued. “I was pleased by the number of people who visited my booth and I was busy virtually all the time.” Among her offerings was an early Twentieth Century “Botolo,” or chief’s hat of the Ekonda people, Democratic Republic of the Congo, of woven raffia fiber with a brass disk, for $4,000.
Bryan Reeves, of Tribal Gathering London, reported that his “sales were nearly 100 per cent better than [last] year. It started well for us [with the sale of] our two standout pieces: the male and female beaded Dinka wedding corsets from southern Sudan – in the catalog and featured in The New York Times – to a American museum opening night.”
“It was a decent enough opening, but I was disappointed by the poor attendance of members of the charity who were meant to be supporting the show,” commented textile dealer Alan Marcuson of Marcuson & Hall, London. “Very few knowledgeable textile collectors [were] in sight, as was the case for the rest of the show.”
Featured by Marcuson & Hall was a wonderful, 1932 signed and dated appliquéd American folk art quilt, painted and with whipstitch embroidery, depicting 25 Collier’s magazine covers, made by Wilda A. Rice for Clyde R. Rockriver, signed and dated 1932. Thirteen of the Collier’s covers featured in the quilt were offered with it, and everything was priced $17,500.
Willaim Siegal, a pre-Columbian specialist from Santa Fe, N.M., echoed Marcuson’s sentiments.
“The opening was a disappointment. I was expecting a very well-heeled, new group that I do not believe showed up,” said Siegal. “And I do feel the show is basically a show for objects, mostly decorative, [ranging] from 1,500 to $5,000.”
Siegal sold one pre-Columbian textile priced in the mid-teens and a Meso-American sculpture in the mid-twenties.
Textiles overall were well received, as demonstrated by Asian specialists Chinalai Tribal Antiques, Shoreham, N.Y.
“There were more designers buying from us than usual,” Vichai and Lee Chinalai told us. “It might have been because we were so thematically blue and white, or it might have been the new emphasis on textiles in this show. Besides sales of furniture, objects and jewelry, we sold almost 20 textiles and costumes to both collectors and designers, and have several requests that we are working on now for photographs and more information.”
Front and center at Chinalai was an early-to-mid-1900s Zhouzang indigo-dyed wall hanging, Guangxi China.
At James W. Blackmon Antique Textile Arts, San Francisco, Calif., a star offering was an Eighteenth Century Kaitag embroidery, Caucasus, made as a child’s cradle cover. The richly colored piece depicted “culture heroes” on horseback, with design elements borrowed from the Ottomans to underline the riders’ power and prestige. Such a totemic piece was kept by its owner throughout his or her lifetime, and Blackmon’s example is one of four extant. It was priced at $40,000.
Peter Pap Oriental Rugs, Dublin, N.H., offered a wonderful Gabbeh pictorial rug, Qashqai tribe, Persia, circa 1910, 4’10 by 9’3″, depicting a mid-Eighteenth Century Persian ruler who invaded India, for $24,000. John Collins Gallery, Newburyport, Mass., displayed a striking mid-Nineteenth Century Bakshaish for $85,000.
As a whole, however, rug exhibitors reported that Caskey-Lee’s San Francisco tribal show provided a better market for them this year.
Among American Indian offerings, William Jamieson Tribal Art, Toronto, Canada, featured Sitting Bull’s beaded moccasins from the Niagara Falls Museum, circa 1860s-70s, for $25,000. A Nineteenth Century Ute cradle, priced at $22,000, and a Navajo baby wrap, circa 1870s, for $7,700, could be seen at Molly/Blitz Tribal Art, New York City. Brant Mackley Gallery, Hummelstown, Penn., displayed a wonderful Comanche paint-decorated shield depicting buffalo with two original painted muslin medicine covers, circa 1800, for $55,000.
Eclipsing the pre-Columbian offerings of Arte Primitivo, Howard S. Rose Gallery, Inc, New York City, was a Roman marble head of Alexander the Great, priced at $165,000. The imposing piece came from an estate collection and dated from the third century BC to the Second Century AD.
Outsider art gallery Cavin-Morris, New York City, was a welcome presence at the show, and owner Randall Morris enjoyed his time there. “We were very satisfied with our sales. We were coming in at a new angle to cultural art and it was very well received.” A circa 1945-48 oil on board by Hector Hyppolite, “Mounted Ogua,” was priced $65,000.
Bill Caskey and Elizabeth Lees are well known for tweaking the details every year, and the next Tribal Show will reflect that. “We would hope to have fewer but larger stands and have back some of the Europeans who were not with us this year,” says Borton. “I suspect that [the dealer roster] will shift to African/Oceanic dealers from France and Belgium. We do want to develop the textile component.”
According to the Caskey-Lees website, the show is slated to return May 21-23, 2005, at The Seventh Regiment Armory.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm