Published: November 20, 2007
“Trade Routes, Trade Goods&†Seeking ‘Treasures!’ From The Silk Road&†the ancient trade route that connected the people and traditions of Asia with those of Europe&†To The Santa Fe Trail&†the historic Mexican-American commercial highway that connected Missouri and Santa Fe, N.M., from 1821‱880.” It was a roundabout way for goods to have traveled, as show managers Bill Caskey and Elizabeth Lees allude to in their slogan for the show, but in the Nineteenth Century passage across those well-beaten paths was the only means of travel.
Similarly, a well-beaten path was formed over the weekend of October 26, this one leading up to the entrance of “Treasures &†From The Silk Road To The Santa Fe Trail.” Local buyers were out in force, seeking the treasures that traveled those very same roads centuries ago.
Now in its third season, this Caskey/Lees managed show continues to evolve, and this year it presented a broader selection of materials that seem to be friendlier and more in tune with the local crowd. This show is unique in many ways; it is another one of those quirky, but pleasing, events that takes place within the confines of a museum. This one taking place at, and a benefit for, the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology.
The show got off to a grand start with a gala preview party on Thursday evening, October 25, and this heavily attended, chic event is well on its way to becoming one of “the” social events of the year in the City of Brotherly Love. Easily surpassing the crowd of 600 patrons that attended the gala last year, the preview is presented by the ambitious Women’s Committee to benefit educational programs at the museum. Equally important, enthusiasm has also grown by leaps and bounds with a group of serious buyers in attendance.
This show is one of a handful of events that take place inside a museum, yet it is the only one at which the museum leaves many of the larger instillations undisturbed and commingled with the antiques that are offered for sale. Standing tall amid an area set aside as a social court, with a bar on one side and tables for patrons to relax and chat on the other, was a monumental stone carving of the seated king Ramesses II, circa 1897‱843 BC. Several booths had their wall space interrupted with an occasional sarcophagus or carved stone blocks that were once part of Roman city walls.
The floor plan was altered for this year’s event, although still remaining within the same footprint. It utilized three spacious hallways, lined on both sides with dealers, two of which extended from a central circular rotunda that has a host of uniquely shaped areas carved into displays.
The international roster of dealers comprised 39 dealers that were in attendance from as far as Belgium, Turkey, Paris and London. The fresh and invigorating mix of international dealers is buoyed by a strong contingent of Americans, many from Philadelphia and New York, but also from as far away, fittingly, as Santa Fe.
Tribal arts and Orientalia make up a large portion of the show, although the addition of some American folk art, jewelry, traditional silver, English and American porcelains, and a stand filled with prints, went a long way toward rounding out the event.
Tribal representations are widespread, with the Americas represented in several booths, including New York City dealer Molloy Tribal Arts. Brightly colored blankets adorned the walls, as did rare objects, including several Native American pipe bags. Highlighting the assortment of pipe bags was an early Cheyenne beaded bag with fringe, circa 1830, $95,000. A Crow pipe bag, ex-collection of Drew Bax, was stickered at $32,000, and a colorful Yankton Sioux pipe bag, circa 1860, was offered at $12,000.
Molloy associate Ramona Medicine Crow was quick to point out a finely woven and colorful Mexican Saltillo serape, circa 1800‱850, $65,000.
An interesting mix of tribal materials were offered by Acquisition, Inc, Maple Shade, N.J., with items ranging from masks and helmets from the continent of Africa to Native American objects. Highlights included a rare set of Cheyenne pony beads, circa 1830, that had been discovered in an attic in France. The early beads had been collected many decades ago, reasoned the dealer, and relegated to the attic over the years. They were termed extremely rare, with the dealer commenting that they are “one of less than ten known from the period.”
Also offered was a Yankton Sioux beaded hide rifle sleeve, an exquisite example in pristine condition.
Santa Fe dealer Susan Swift featured several Germantown “eye-dazzlers” in her booth that ranged in price from $4,800 to $7,800, a selection of Native American pottery by Hopi makers such as Nampeyo, and a nice Zia olla, circa 1900, that was priced at $8,800. A large selection of silver and turquoise jewelry was also featured, as was a rare Apache cloth and hide doll with extensive beadwork on both the front and the back.
Orientalia was represented in numerous booths in several different mediums. Concentrating on furniture, Philadelphia dealer David Salkin brought an appealing selection that included a pair of Nineteenth Century demilune tables from the Fujian province that were considered to be among the best examples of the furniture making tradition on China’s southeast coast. In the original finish and embellished with abstract dragon carvings on the aprons, the pair was priced at $12,995.
A stellar assortment of Eighteenth Century Chinese Export porcelains was offered by Wilton, Conn., dealer Vallin Galleries. Items attracting attention included a large pair of Eighteenth Century “export to Europe” polychrome chargers with the unusual crenellated rims adding to the desirability of the already rare forms. An unusually large blue and white Eighteenth Century temple jar was also catching the eye of collectors.
Atlanta, Ga., dealer Jon Eric Riis was at the show with a prime selection of Oriental textiles and costumes that included a woman’s sleeveless vest, circa 1850, embroidered in a floral pattern in a counted stitch on silk gauze. Other period couture included a man’s formal court robe along with several less formal robes.
Not all that is at this show is old; Caskey/Lees encourages dealers to exhibit the best merchandise possible, even when that distinction crosses the line into contemporary items. The items in Riis’s booth that were attracting the most attention were handmade “coats,” created by Riis himself. The extraordinary tapestry “coats,” as Riis refers to them, were influenced stylistically by Asian culture, although his detailed pieces depict contemporary artistic themes that ranged from a human heart to animals. The coats start at $18,000. One example of a Riis coat is in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art and is currently on display in the exhibition “One of a Kind: The Studio Craft Movement,” on view through December 2.
Masks, effigies, totems, baskets, jewelry and beads from the African continent were prevalent around the floor of the show. Michael Cacloppo, Cassiopeia, Chicago, had one item in his booth that many considered a show-stopper. A large beaded gown with colorful and intricate beadwork covering almost the entire surface. The dealer explained that it had been made for the ruler of Ipokiya, a town among the Anaho-Yoruba, and was probably used in a wedding ceremony or some other important cultural event.
This show is as interesting as the museum that houses it. Penn Museum, founded in 1887, not only houses substantial collections, but it is also considered to be a research center of the highest renown. Currently on view is “River of Gold: Pre-Columbian Treasures from Sitio”; select items from the “Treasures from the Royal Tombs of Ur” are also on display. The museum’s website is www.museum.upenn.edu.
For further information regarding the show, contact Caskey-Lees, POB 1409, Topanga CA 90290, 310-455-2866 or www.caskeylees.com. The next event for Caskey-Lees is the New York Ceramics Fair, January 16′0.
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