Published: June 27, 2000
By Liza Montgomery
NEW YORK CITY – The sixth annual edition of , conducted for the second year uptown at the Seventh Regiment Armory, recently enjoyed its strongest presentation to date.
The May 21 to 24 event opened a week earlier than 1999’s venue on May 20 with an elegant and well-attended preview benefiting the Gay Men’s Health Crisis. Organizers Caskey-Lees reported the date change in positive terms; certainly it was a vastly better than last year’s Memorial Day weekend schedule, which felt the infamous holiday exodus from the Big Apple. At that time, however, the move to Park Avenue as widely regarded as an important enough improvement in location to accept the only dates the Armory could then provide.
And improvement seems to be what Caskey-Lees does best. Since 1994 the Topanga, Calif. management team has endeavored to make New York the site of the finest tribal antiques show in the world. Their efforts have included whittling the number of dealers by nearly half (to encompass only the most respected names in the business), incorporating a stringent vetting process, and matching the show’s dates to the city’s big tribal auctions.
Bill Caskey reported a 20 percent per day increase in attendance – the event was shortened by a day this year – to a total of 3,300 people. “It was a good show,” he commented. “A lot of dealers came to check us out. I would like to enlarge by seven to ten exhibitors next year, but we’ll go gradually. I’m really interested in keeping a high standard with dealers.”
Participating were 53 prominent tribal specialists from around the world, including 14 exhibitors new to the event. A total of 13 galleries hailed from outside the US: three from Belgium, two from Canada, two from England, two from France, two from Italy, one from Morocco and one from Senegal.
Not unlike this spring’s International Asian Art Fair, textiles were a forceful and popular presence, as specialists Andres Moraga of Berkeley, Calif.; Hazara Gallery of Oakland, Calif.; Achdjian Gallery of Paris, France; and Alberto Levi of Milan, Italy became first-time Tribal Show dealers.
In addition, returning exhibitors offering everything from South American, Pre-Columbian, and African textiles to Asian and Middle Eastern rugs and weavings were Arte Textile, James Blackmon Gallery and Tony Kitz Oriental Carpets, all of San Francisco, Calif.; Berber and Islamic Art, Essaouira, Morocco; Conlon Siegal Galleries, Santa Fe, N.M.; and New York City’s Joan Barist Primitive Art and Sam Coad.
Excellent offerings in many areas abounded. Among American Indian rdf_Descriptions, H. Malcolm Grimmer, Santa Fe, N.M., featured a Blackfoot war shirt, circa 1880, for $38,500. Representing the Northwest coast, Judith Small Nash, Woodstock, N.Y., offered an astonishing orator’s figure from a potlatch ceremony, Kwakiutl, Nineteenth Century. The cedar figure, with replaced arms, measured approximately 6’4″ and was reportedly offered for six figues. According to Caskey-Lees press agent, the orator quickly found a buyer.
Latin and South American tribal highlights included Arte Texile’s Peruvian sleeveless tunic, Wari/Nazca, South Coast. The alpaca/tie-dye garment, circa 500-800 A.D., was $65,000. Achdjian Gallery, Paris, France, showed a circa 1750-1825 Governor’s serape of saltillo wool, Classical Mexico. In the booth of Stendahl Galleries, Los Angeles, Calif. was a male and female pair of pottery figures, Nayarit, Western Mexico, circa 2,000 B.C. to 200 A.D. Their encircled arms joined them together and made the figures an unusual find.
Conlon Siegal Galleries exhibited an early Nazca textile, South Coast Peru, 200 to 600 A.D. priced at $42,000. “We did well, and I think [the show] will only get better,” commented Bill Siegal. “I’m much happier being uptown than at Lexington.”
Fine pieces among African and Oceanic works included Steven G. Alpert’s willowy funerary statue of a woman dancing – ” or saying goodbye to the dead,” Alpert related – from Western Borneo. Alpert also featured the only complete royal spinning wheel from Sumba, Indonesia. The wheel was created solely to make cotton for a king’s burial blanket.
“I sold 40 percent of my exhibition,” Alpert told us later, “more pieces than I have ever sold [at the Tribal show]. Attendance was excellent, and a few well-known, important collectors were there, who I don’t think had been there before.” (According to one Paris dealer, Arman, a renowned French artist and collector of African artifacts, also shopped the event.)
“The show looked good,” he continued. “The overall appeal [was the result of] dealers who carefully crafted their booths. And the general quality of objects was very good, with a level of consistency that was better than it has been in the past.”
James Willis Tribal Art, San Francisco, Calif., offered a wonderful Kota figure hailing from Gabon. “My sales were fairly substantial,” Willis reported. “It was the most successful show I’ve had outside of California.”
A delightful turtle funerary ornament from New Guinea and a small, carved boat with a dolphin riding its prow, discovered in the rafters of a Humboldt Bay meeting house, decorated the booth of Mirabilia Mundi, Ltd./Wayne Heathcoate, London, England. Among African textiles was a myriad of women’s beadwork aprons created by the Bana Guili people, Northern Cameroon, mid-Twentieth Century, at Andres Moraga, Berkeley, Calif.
Marvelous Asian artifacts included Chinalai Tribal Antiques’ priest’s dragon vestments, Dao Quan Chet (Kim Mien) of northern Vietnam, early 1900s. Marc Richards, Los Angeles, Calif., offered a Han Dynasty Hu atop a mythical animal, 206 B.C. to 220 A.D., for $32,000. Guarding the entrance to the booth of Joan Barist Primitive Art, New York City, were charming, jointed temple guardian figures from the Ming Dynasty, soon snapped up by appreciative buyers.
Rugs, carpets and related textiles were well represented by several dealers. Richard Purdon Antique Carpets, Oxfordshire, England, featured an Afshar, Kerman Province, South Persia, circa 1875, and a Hamadan, Northwest Persia, circa 1875. The latter displayed a “Bid Majar” design, probably of Kurdish origin, featuring willows and cypress. A 5’7″ Suzani was offered for $23,000 at Tony Kitz Oriental Carpets, and hard to miss at Albert Levi Gallery, Milano, Italy, was a pile carpet with flatweave design, Shahsavan tribe, circa 1880. Mark Shilen Gallery, New York City, offered a Central Asian Ikat, Bokhara, circa 1825, for $35,000.
Perhaps the only glitch for dealers was an exhausting, 24-hour set-up on Saturday due to the Armory’s busy spring schedule. But Bill Caskey has no intention of moving. “We are getting more comfortable with staff at the Armory,” he remarked. “I hope we’re set there forever.”
The next New York Tribal Antiques Show will be conducted May 20-23, 2001, with a preview on Saturday May 19. No fan of this collecting genre should miss it.
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