Friday, December 18, 2009

Channeling Other Worlds Exhibition


Shango Galleries is proud to announce a collaborative exhibition with Valley House Gallery, Dallas entitled: CHANNELING OTHER WORLDS: Contrasting paintings and prints by Dallas artist Valton Tyler with Tribal works from around the World at Valley House Gallery & Sculpture Garden.

Reception: Friday, January 22, 6:00-8:30.

The exhibition runs from January 22, 2010 to February 20, 2010.
Valton Tyler has had a long and distinguished career as a printer and painter. His work is engaging, occasionally whimsical, and always thought provoking. Valton's exhibition credentials which span over 40 years included 14 print shows, 49 painting exhibitions, 24 articles and citations in art publications, several awards, representation in over 13 public collections., and literally part of way too many private collections to count. In short we are excited to bring together tribal art from around the world to be exhibited in this venue with Valton Tyler's work.

"Surrealism is another of the many modern art movements in the 20th century. Its philosophical "father" was Andre Breton, a French poet and writer who published the Surrealist guidelines, called Manifesto in 1924 in Paris. Surrealism emphasizes the unconscious, the importance of dreams, the psychological aspect in arts. Surrealism became an important movement in the fine arts, literature and in films (by the Spaniard Bunuel for instance).
For the fine arts, the best-known names are Salvador Dali, the Italian Giorgio de Chirico with his strange and eerie town views, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Joan Miro, Yves Tanguy, Rene Margritte and the Russian Marc Chagall. " It should be noted that Andre Breton 's collection of almost 5000 works of art was auctioned off by CalmesCohen auction house in a series of sales in April 2003 in Paris. His extensive tribal art collection ranged from Eskimo masks to Hopi kachinas and from naturalistic to abstract works.


What we hope to do in this exhibition with Valton Tyler is to bring together the kind of objects that will hopefully excite Valton and to show the art community what has inspired surrealist artists for over the last 90 years

Antiques Roadshow - Behind the Scenes


After fifteen years on the Roadshow I can say with some confidence that I have been asked many questions about the show, the appraisers, what we look for, how do I get tickets, what do I bring etc etc.. This book answers those questions and more. While it shows the light hearted side of the show during moments of down time, it also provides a little insight how we as appraisers approach our job. I don't get a cut of the proceeds; however, I heartily recommend this as a gift for whatever the occasion.

American Indian picture of the Month


Nunivak Island Eskimo mask c. 1890

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Picture of the Month




National Endowment for the Arts

The Weekly Standard has published an article on the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) that may reveal that with the new administration a shift in priorities may be upon us that will certainly impact museums.

"The nation's arts organizations were among the countless businesses being threatened; many faced critical financial strains due in large part to a sudden plunge in private donations that followed the Wall Street crash. Salary support was one of the specific projects identified in the NEA's emergency grant guidelines. Symphonies and theater groups have employees who depend on paychecks just as much as auto companies and financial institutions.
Such controversies, however, are a reminder that the National Endowment for the Arts continually faces fundamental choices about how best to preserve the quality and seriousness of the arts and make people aware of their importance. There are today developments more worrisome and threatening to the agency's well being than any headline-grabbing "underground kinky art porno horror film." The time is rapidly approaching in which the NEA must once again consider whom it is intended to serve: the American artist or the American public. This is a central question with which it has wrestled over the entire course of its 44-year existence, and the way it responds now will determine whether it will continue to enjoy its current support in Congress and, indeed, whether it deserves that support at all.
The NEA has a new chairman, Rocco Landesman, appointed in May by the new president. Given the level of support from the arts community for Barack Obama during the 2008 campaign, it was expected that his choice to head the endowment would reflect the interests of artists more than the interests of the public at large. That in and of itself did not necessarily portend trouble. Landesman, like the NEA's first chairman, Roger Stevens, is a successful Broadway producer and a man with proven business sense. This should serve him well when he goes before Congress to defend the NEA's budget and in steering it clear of public controversies. But it's also tiresomely pointed out that Landesman is a man who prides himself on pulling no punches, and his supporters are looking for him and his "sharp elbows" and "my way or the highway" attitude to shake things up at the NEA, as though stirring the pot were always a productive thing to be doing."


What is clear is that the Obama administration intends to be involved with the management of NEA and the role the agency might play in the future. This was demonstrated in the failed attempt of NEA's former director of communication, Yosi Sergant to organize young artists to support President Obama's national service program, United We Serve. Regardless of your politics Sergant was fired at NEA under pressure from the criticism that ensued in this veiled effport to politicize art. It seems logical to assume that something wasn't right here or Sergant would have weathered the storm. But more to the point is the influence of the Executive Branch is willing to exert which concerns many. The jury is still out on this one, but I can assure you that art institutions are watching.


NEA's mission statement is as follows: "The National Endowment for the Arts is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established, bringing the arts to all Americans, and providing leadership in arts education. Established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, the Arts Endowment is the nation's largest annual funder of the arts, bringing great art to all 50 states, including rural areas, inner cities, and military bases. For more information, please visit http://www.arts.gov/"

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Tribal Art Auction Update December 2009




Sothebys Paris - Arts d'Afrique at d'Oceanie December 3, 2009
Depending on who you talk to this sale was either an unqualified success or an unpredictable mixed message for the curators, collectors, and art dealers seeking to find a sign for 2010. Out of 112 lots 44 failed to sell. But there certainly were some high flyers that far exceeded expectations. The haunting Hunstein mountains Sepik mask from the Friede collection and a Carbon 14 date between the 14th and 15th centuries sold for 324,750 euros with an estimate of 130,000 to 180,000 euros. Friede's Korowari figure in Lot 22 also exceeded the estimate by selling for 240,750 euros. The superb Korowari figure in lot 27 also from the Friede collection sold beyond the estimate at 138,750 euros. Louis Perrois called the Punu mask in lot 88 a late 19th century masterpiece and it sold in the middle of the estimate at 264,750 euros. A 15" Kongo/Vili possible mid 19th century fetish also sold for 264,750 euros with an estimate of 70,000 to 100,000. Undoubtedly the star of the show was the very well know Duperrier Bamana mask from Rubin's MOMA Primitivism exhibition in 1984. Sothebys saw the upper limit on this mask at 400,000 euros. It sold for 1,408,750 euros. So there certainly were some great successes in this sale. Too bad some great objects like the Arussi figure (Lot 112) and the Dogon figure (Lot 46) were passed and that many objects were included in the sale that probably did not belong.

Bonhams and Butterfield, Sale 17539, Native American Art, 14 Dec 2009.
This sale was a large with Bonhams offering 628 lots of Native American Indian art. Approximately 26% or 165 lots were bought in. I suspect that in a general sense Bonhams was somewhat disappointed in this sale. However, there were some great Northwest Coast pieces some of which exceeded the high estimates by a considerable margin. Even in this strange market I actually expected two of these grease dishes to do even better than they did. The Haida frontlet also exceeded the high estimate by selling for $146,000. The early Mohawk shirt illustrated in lot 4529 and estimated to sell between $200,000 and $300,000 failed to meet the reserve. There also were some very interesting historic pottery in this sale. Again some pieces did well while others either failed to meet the low estimate or sold with the estimate. The Kiua storage jar (22" in height) was estimated to sell between $30,000 and $40,000 and sold for $115,900 with the commission. In the last several Indian sales the dealers have been active and successful in picking up bargains passed by hesitant collectors. It will be interesting to see what pops up from this sale in the coming months at the shows and in the magazine advertisements.


Monbrison cataloged Encheres Rive Gauche sale December 2, 2009 feature Oceanic and African art from the collections of Armand Charles and Leon Folks. We will review this in next month's newsletter. There were some very interesting and unusual objects in this sale that to us seemed to have very low reserves.

African Ivories Pierre Bergé & Associés Brussels, 9 December 09 - A number of our subscribers have asked for information on this sale that included a number of important African ivories. To date we have been unable to get the catalog or price list. We were subscribers but like many European based auction houses you can be on the list today and then off tomorrow. We will pursue this.










Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Quick Takes December 2009

1. "WASHINGTON, DC.- Best known for revolutionizing the art of photography, American artist Man Ray (1890-1976) produced a prolific collection of striking black-and-white compositions inspired by the African objects they depict. The Phillips Collection showcases these works in a new exhibition that explores the pivotal role photographs played in changing the perception of African objects from artifacts to fine art. Man Ray, African Art and the Modernist Lens is on view at the Phillips from Oct. 10, 2009 to Jan. 10, 2010. ... After its presentation at the Phillips, the exhibition will be on view at the University of New Mexico Art Museum (Albuquerque, N.M.) from January 30 to May 23, 2010; the University of Virginia Museum of Art (Charlottesville, Va.) from Aug. 7 to Oct. 10, 2010; and the Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia (Vancouver, British Columbia) from Oct. 29, 2010 to Jan. 23, 2011."
artdaily.org




2. The controversial 3300 year old bust of Nefertiti that Egypt wants Germany to return has been moved to Berlin's Neuss Museum. The museum has recently completed renovations to the building damaged from World War II bombing. Nefertiti went on view October 17th bringing the story full circle as the bust has now returned to her original viewing site prior to the war. We find this story fascinating not only because of the looming repatriation question but also because some respected scholars believe this piece to be an early reproduction.


3. "The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, which will open in 2013 as part of Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island Cultural District, is being founded to fulfill an educational mission centered on the art of today. The museum will be housed in a distinctive building designed by Frank Gehry, one of the world’s most renowned contemporary architects. Like the Guggenheim in New York, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi will build a permanent collection that reflects a specific point of view about the art of our time, namely its essentially global orientation. The new museum will include not only key examples of Western art, but also the rich and diverse fields of Asian, African, South American, and Middle Eastern art in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries". ...artdaily.org

4. As a followup to the article from artdailey.org on Guggenheim Abu Dhabi there might be a little belt tightening in Gulf as Dubai wallows under a mountain of debt (for them) with estimates ranging up to 80 billion. Nobody outside of Dubai has the complete picture but projects have been suspended, contractors are not being paid, and creating financing is underway. Bond subscriptions are being offered as a stop gap to the crunch. And if you love irony some European banks may have exposure in the neighborhood of 40 billion. Bottom line question is whether Dubai will honor its outstanding contracts. With Dubai freezing all contracts and payments on 60 billion in debt that question is very much in doubt. Gulf watchers are speculating whether oil-rich neighbor Abu Dhabi will bail them out.


5. Good news for museums this month - The Metropolitan Museum will benefit from the expected legal decision that Brooke Astor's most recent wills will be found invalid and the result of her son, Anthony Marshall's coercion. Marshall was convicted by a jury recently of inducing Astor to sign new wills to his benefit even though she was determined to be incapacitated. In Texas Alfred Glassell's daughter Curry challenged his will leaving almost 500 million dollars to the Houston Museum of Fine Arts and the Glassell Family Foundation upon the death of his wife Clare. The museum was represented by super litigator, Joseph Jamail, who with the unanimous vote of the museum's board, will attempt to enforce Mr. Glassell's clause requiring a complete forfeiture of any bequests for a beneficiary challenging the will. Mr. Glassell's wife of 46 years sides with the museum. Mr. Glassell is probably most known for his comprehensive and very fine collections of African and Pre-Columbian gold which were given to the museum prior to his death.


6. Big news also for the British Museum and the BBC who are collaborating on a massive project to change the way people think about the past. One project will consist of the public bringing objects to British Museum curators who will then tell the story that will give context within the history of civilization. It is being billed as Antiques Roadshow without the cash. The second and more comprehensive project will be a 100 part radio show which will feature one object on each installment representing an important part of the history of civilization. Noting the migration of previous successful programming this too will undoubtedly come to the States.


7. In a recent article The Economist offered the following amazing sales statistics for the two big auction houses Christies and Sothebys.
"Both auction houses have also put a lot of effort into advising buyers on how to improve their collections. As Jussi Pylkkanen, Christie’s European president, says, “We’re much more than an auction house now.” The recession has made many collectors nervous about offering their treasures at auction, so they are selling them privately. In 2007 Christie’s chalked up private sales of $542m and Sotheby’s of $730m, which means the two auction houses are now among the world’s biggest private dealers. Both often get calls like the one Sotheby’s recently took from a Moscow collector with $2m to spend on an “optimistic” Chagall oil, “not too feminine” and no more than a metre in height. “We put out the word and immediately received several offers from our offices in London, Geneva and New York,” says Mikhail Kamensky, the firm’s head of CIS business.
In 2007 private deals accounted for 8.7% of Christie’s business. Mr Pylkkanen expects that figure to go up to 20% of its revenue within three years. That should put the wind up private dealers." This shift certainly conjurs up all sorts of questions about the blurring of art world roles. Is the auction house representing a client or the auction house? I think I know how most will answer that one.

Repatriation - A New Idea from China


Repatriation of antiquities has been in the news again with the aggressive posture of Egypt's Zahi Hawass, director of Egypt's Council of Antiquities in Cairo. Recently, Zahi Hawass has requested that US Customs return a Pharonic era coffin that allegedly was illicitly removed from Egypt in 1884 or some 125 years ago. Hawass has stated that he will not be encumbered by UNESCO's magic date of 1970. It is disturbing for all collectors and museums that the New York Times has reported that US Customs has been trying to get the private US owner to give up the coffin. Certainly anyone knowledgeable in these issues understands that politics and intimidation are big parts of these disputes. Here is a list of the priority items Hawass wants back: 1. Rosetta stone - British Museum 2.
elegant bust of Queen Nefertiti - Berlin's Neues Museum 3. the Dendera Temple Zodiac -Louvre, Paris 4.Bust of the pyramid builder Ankhaf -Boston's Museum of Art.

Egypt and Greece have certainly been among the most vocal in the international community. However, now China is flexing its muscles in a brand new way. The Wall Street Journal reports;"
Chan Jixiang, head of the State Cultural Artifacts Bureau, said this week that the government is considering offering payment to get some of its stolen art back, Xinhua reports (in Chinese). While China will not concede any of its original claims of rightful ownership, Chan said that China may be willing to provide “fair and reasonable” compensation to the “benevolent holders” of its looted artifacts, in accordance with international treaties and conventions. Further details on the proposed program were not available.

To date, China has refused to pay for looted art treasures, although some wealthy patriotic citizens and overseas Chinese occasionally make a big show of buying stolen works at auction and returning them to the motherland. " Certainly a good part of this is based on nationalism, a concept that is certainly not new. It is new that China plans to send a team of experts around the world to visit museums and identify objects for repatriation. Now that China has become the creditor to the west the leverage may be increased significantly. One wonders whether this might also create security concerns where literally China puts a price on objects they consider part of their patrimony. What happens to international lending for art shows? If China is successful in repatriating objects by this means, will Greece, Egypt and others follow? This certainly will be interesting.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year


While this year has brought misery to many, we also have much to be thankful for at a time when some introspection might be a good thing. During the period I served in the Navy in the 1960's and 70's whenever we found our selves in a place we did not want to be, there was beer and numerous very loud renditions of the Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil's 1965 hit song "We Gotta Get Out of This Place." It definitely made us feel better and now over 40 years later there is a message here for all of us. Life is most definitely finite....so are you where you want to be doing what you want to do? Our existence on the planet is really defined by the freedom to do what we want to do when we want to do it. For some they may take a seven figure salary... for others the perfect balance may take less than $50,000.
We all to some measure are able to look around and be grateful for what we have. Maybe this next year we will spend more time with people we care about and less time time trying to change the people in our lives that ultimately just have non compatible agendas. It is a waste of energy and time. I am unbelievably grateful that I can get up every morning and look forward to doing what I do. I intend to celebrate that situation to ensure that I won't be singing anymore 60's hits... even though in retrospect it was kind of fun.






Friday, November 13, 2009

Some Thoughts November 2009



After being involved with tribal art for slightly over 35 years, you begin to recognize a few patterns. Bad things do happen occasionally and when they do, events sometimes cause people to take a few short cuts. Some are scrambling now to recover from an over extended financial position last fall. Whether that is an aggressive dealer buying on credit that suddenly dried up with no sales to service the line, a collector that suddenly saw liquidity in their collection vanish over night, or maybe even a museum that has pledged gifts that now are being reconsidered, we all are forced to adjust to a new fiscal reality. Opportunity now is defined as understanding the agendas of the moment. You remember in the early 1980's when we had over twenty African art dealers in New York City that suddenly when the art market dropped or "corrected" as some might say, couldn't sell their inventory for what they paid for it. This is the tribal art version of musical chairs and if you want to have a place to sit down, you do need to be alert to the times. Dealers are already become more vicious as they jockey for position. This might be damning a colleague's objects, lying about provenance, or failing to meet their obligations. It's a nasty world. This is a time when people are nervous and when they are nervous they are subject to being influenced more easily. You can use your imagination... this can come in many forms. Be careful and understand what the agendas are. Put your trust in long term performance and not the "expert" that just happens to be on your door step. Rely on the people that you have had successful dealings with in good times and in bad. Any believe me any decision you have to make immediately is probably not worth making. For many it will probably get worse before it gets better. Be careful and you will increase your chances of having a place to sit when the music stops.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tribal Art Auction Schedule Nov/Dec 09

Asian and Tribal Art Sale
Dates :20 Nov 09
Place :
Drouot-Richelieu 3 Paris , France
Event type :Auction
Topic :Tribal art
Auctioneers Aguttes will present selections from a number of ethnographic art collections––including the Asian and tribal art collection of Fernand Devèze––at the Hôtel Drouot in Paris on November 20. The offerings will include a range of Indonesian, African, and Chinese works, as well as material from Papua New Guinea, North America, and the Himalayas. Drouot Richelieu9, rue Drouot 75009 ParisTel: +33 01 48 00 20 03


African Art at Auction
Dates :23 Nov 09
Place :
Pierre Bergé & Associés Bruxelles , Belgique
Event type :Auction
Topic :Tribal art
Pierre Bergé & Associés will present a small but important selection of African tribal art objects in the midst of a much larger sale of European decorative arts on November 23 in Brussels. Three Congolese lots will be the focus of this group, including a fine Mangbetu box, an important Lega ivory in the Bibendum style, and an intriguing Kongo staff finial. Pierre Bergé & Associés 40 place du Grand Sablon 1000 - BrusselsTel: +32 (0)2 504 80 30

Sothebys, Paris
African & Oceanic Art
Sale: PF9018
DATE & TIME
Session 1: Thu, 3 Dec 09, 2:30 PM
LOCATION
Paris

Bonhams and Butterfield
Native American and Pre-Columbian ArtMonday December 14, 2009
San Francisco

Gallery Holiday Open House


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Picture of the month - November 2009


Breaking the sound barrier,
Maybe a guy thing but
regardless a great image

Health watch - a tip for 2009


This is worth just a simple reminder for all of us...

STROKE
Remember the 1st Three Letters.... S T R


S Ask the individual to SMILE.

T Ask the person to TALK and SPEAK A SIMPLE SENTENCE (Coherently)

R Ask him or her to RAISE BOTH ARMS

If he or she has trouble with ANY ONE of these tasks, call emergency number immediately and describe the symptoms to the dispatcher.
New Sign of a Stroke Stick out Your Tongue
If the tongue is 'crooked', if it goes to one side or the other, that is also an indication of a stroke.
A cardiologist says if everyone who gets this e-mail sends it to 10 people; you can bet that at least one life will be saved.
I have done my part. Will you?

Monday, November 09, 2009

African picture of the month


Bena Lulua head
Ex Collection Jay Last, Beverly Hills
c. 1900

Picasso's Collection of African and Oceanic Art- a Book Review

"A hundred years ago, in June 1907, a young Spanish artist visited the Musée d’Ethnographie du Trocadéro in Paris. His visit took place just as he had left behind the wistful mood of his blue and rose periods and was making heavy-weight nudes with blank, classical faces.
Peter Stepan’s research on the consequences of this event opens up a new window on the sources of Picasso’s inspiration. Stepan is an expert on African art and has researched the collections of Georg Baselitz and Fritz Koenig. He approaches his subject with passion and an extensive knowledge of the African art prized by European artists.
Picasso first came into contact with African and Oceanic culture when the horrors of colonialism in the Belgian Congo were hitting the news. Fellow artists and writers, such as Juan Gris, Alfred Jarry and André Salmon, were satirising European attitudes to Africa. The cultural historian Patricia Leighton has described how such modernists embraced what she terms an ‘imagined primitiveness whose authenticity they opposed to a “decadent west”’.
Three decades later Picasso was still haunted by the smell and sight of ‘that awful museum’. The African and Oceanic artefacts he saw were not simply pieces of sculpture, he later told André Malraux: ‘They were magical things. …The Negro pieces were intercesseurs, mediators… they were against everything – against unknown, threatening spirits. I always looked at fetishes. I understood; I too am against everything.
I too believe that everything is an enemy!’
Picasso turned painting inside out. As a Malagan from southern Spain, he was already an outsider in the sophisticated Parisian metropolis. He wanted to assert himself by identifying with both French culture and an ‘absolute’ Other. The most shocking way that he could do this was by introducing the unknown and feared continent of Africa into his work – which he did in the ferocious masks worn by the prostitutes in his ‘brothel’, the name Picasso gave to his aggressive depiction of five nude women which became known as the Demoiselles d’Avignon. Far from being just another stylistic stimulus confined to the making of the Demoiselles, the African and Oceanic sculptures that Picasso continued to acquire over the course of his life provided him with a constant conceptual and emotional charge. The artist would show these pieces to visitors to his studio before showing his own work. He had himself photographed in front of key African sculptures, as well as taking his own pictures of visitors in front of tribal masks and figures. Not only did his collection parlante, as Stepan describes it, supply Picasso with a source of immediate inspiration, but the figures and masks that peopled his studios offered a form of continuity with his own past, his own alter-ego. They were spokespeople for a primeval, non-European form of communication and attitude to life. Picasso initially rejected a ceremonial body mask that Matisse (who had introduced him to tribal figures) gave him in 1950 (Figs 2 and 3), ‘this thing from New Guinea scared me,’ Francoise Gilot records him as saying.
‘It will have scared Matisse too, and for that reason he so wanted to give it to me.’
Photographs of Picasso’s studios, taken by himself and others, reveal his life-long attraction to masks. Not only did he collect, paint, draw and make them, he also enjoyed clowning with them and hiding behind them. The idea of disguise, of becoming an Other, fascinated him. Stepan demonstrates that this enthusiasm was central to Picasso’s artistic evolution. He argues that it was inseparable from the artist’s fascination with mythical hybrid creatures – the Minotaur, Pan, centaurs, fauns and satyrs: ‘Fluctuating between realistic representation and abstraction, equally in contact with the worlds of man, animals and imagined spirits, metamorphosis was and is a great specialty of Africa. Natural life forms came on stage and demanded their right to be made corporeal.’
The artist’s support for the African independence movement became explicit in the 1940s when he worked with Léopold Sédar Senghor and Aimé Césaire, founders of the Négritude movement amongst black intellectuals. He offered to make a monument to celebrate the end of slavery for the island of Martinique in 1947.
Over four decades ago, John Golding’s account of the Cubist revolution analysed the way in which Picasso’s mystic shock at the Trocadéro acted like an exorcism and paved the way for his Cubist deconstruction of pictorial space. It gave him the confidence to break completely with old-style naturalism and introduce the brutal, the ugly and the unexplained.
But although the catalytic effect of Oceanic and African art upon the Cubist revolution has been thoroughly documented, it continues to provoke argument and perplexity in accounts both of Picasso’s own development and of the modernist movement.
Over the past half-century, the relation-ship between African, Oceanic art and Western art has undergone a great change. ‘Primitivism’, to use a politically-charged word, is no longer patronisingly viewed as an ethnographic curiosity but as an artistic phenomenon, encompassing varying aesthetic styles, histories and cultures. Stepan touches on these issues in his critique of the former director of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, William Rubin, whose 1984 exhibition ‘The Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern’ provided an early opportunity to study the connections between 20th-century art and tribal cultures. He accuses Rubin of elitism, and of misjudging Picasso’s assembly of art by applying the inappropriate criteria of a rich museum collector.
Christopher Green, in an essay on the Demoiselles has argued that Picasso’s view of the idea of the ‘primitive’ was offered as a counter canon to that of Europe, but in terms of ‘sameness in difference, the essentialist theme of the unity of human-kind’. Similarly, Stepan shows that Picasso’s attitude to the ‘primitive’ was anything but patronising towards his African counterparts.
The book has beautifully laid-out colour and black-and-white photographs, which include extraordinary images from the storeroom at Villa La Californie, Cannes. There is a detailed catalogue of Picasso’s entire collection of 110 objects, 96 of which are of African origin, making clear where his enthusiasm lay.
Although he pays tribute to prominent Picasso scholars, Stepan fails to provide a bibliography. The lack of a full index is infuriating and the prose can be awkward, with the odd Germanism creeping in. Nor are we told about a major exhibition, ‘Picasso and Africa’, curated by Laurence Madeline and Marilyn Martin in South Africa last year, which set 80 works by Picasso alongside African art objects.
But, nonetheless Stepan provides a comprehensive chronology detailing those aspects of the artist’s life connected with tribal art, including unpublished documents from the Picasso archives in the Musée Picasso in Paris. By giving a visual account of the artist’s collection and documenting the circumstances in which Picasso brought it together and made use of it, Stepan shows the emergence of a generous, all-encompassing and revolutionary vision of human culture. " Apollo magazine

Stolen Warhols valued at $25 million

Occasionally someone else's loss makes us in a peculiar way feel better. What if a thief broke into your home and stole $25 million dollars worth of Warhol silk-screen paintings of one set of a series called “Athletes”. These are portraits of sports icons that were commissioned by you, the collector in 1977 directly from the artist. At the time you paid $800,000 for eight sets. You are mad. The insurance company offers a reward of $1,000,000 for return of your property. Seems reasonable.. Not quite..

One month later the collector cancels his claim and the insurance company cancels the reward. The collector, Richard Weisman, won't return calls from either the media or the insurance company but did give an interview to the Seattle Times and said that the insurance company tries to turn you into a suspect and that he didn't plan on going through all that for three to five years before it settled. By the way there was no sign of a break in and no other art was touched..And one source has said Weisman has been trying to sell some or all of the Warhols for some time. Clearly there is a lot more to this story.

You wonder how often the insurance companies pay off a wealthy client who has deep pockets to fight for breach of contract if the claim is not paid.
The answer, as we say in Texas, is all about bidness and the bottom line is that fraud becomes a line item on an insurance company's budget. This is a cost that is passed to us. No surprise that insurance companies are reporting an increase in fraud during this economic downturn.

You can never stop all fraud but if the insurance companies wanted to get serious about dealing with the problem they could be as committed to solutions as they are in collecting premiums. Maybe agree that any property scheduled over $5,000 must be appraised and photographed by a qualified appraiser and the location of the property must be registered by the insurance company prior to issuing a policy. Now that the appraisal standard of USPAP (see previous blogs) has been accepted, appraisers that are in compliance could impact the fraud problem.

Masterpieces for Kansas City -


Morton and Estelle Sosland have given a significant portion of their American Indian Collection to the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City. The bulk of this collection is Northwest Coast; however, the Soslands also included several magnificent horn bowls from the Wishram of the Columbia River area (Washington/Oregon), the wooden Chugach bowl masterpiece, and a magnificent Maria plate. I did the appraisal on this collection and can personally attest that this gift is unprecedented in the history of the museum. The curator , Gaylord Torrence, completed the installation whose opening was celebrated recently during festivities at the museum.


The Nelson Atkins American Indian collection will not overtake the major collections that were built for a few museums at the turn of the century: however, I think I can speak for more than a few interested parties when I say that I would rather be in Kansas City than on the mall in Washington D.C.. If you love American Indian, KC is now a must visit and we should all be grateful to the Soslands for their generosity.

Friday, September 25, 2009

African Art - picture of the month


Lozi bowl
ex Bohlen Coll.; ex Bill Moore, Los Angeles

Friday, September 18, 2009

Picture of the Month




Stolen Art: Interpol Steps Up

The theft of cultural objects affects developed and developing countries alike. The two countries most affected by this phenomenon are France and Italy. The illicit trade in cultural objects is sustained by the demand from the arts market, the opening of borders, the improvement in transport systems and the political instability of certain countries.
It is difficult to gauge the extent of the trade for two reasons
the theft is very often not discovered until the stolen objects are found on the official arts market. Countries send very little information to INTERPOL and many do not keep statistics on this type of criminality.

In order to combat the theft of cultural property, the relevant organizations and the public need to be made more aware of the problem. This is the primary objective of these web pages.
International organizations must lead the way in this fight, and since 1947, INTERPOL has been specifically involved. The first international notice on stolen works of art was published in that same year. Since then, the techniques have evolved greatly and INTERPOL has developed a highly efficient system for circulating information in the form of a database accessible to INTERPOL member countries, as well as the more widely available INTERPOL Stolen Works of Art CD-ROM. These web pages have been created to further extend the circulation of information concerning stolen works of art, and include

1. the most recent stolen works of art reported to INTERPOL
2. works of art recovered by the police during their enquiries and for which owners have not been identified
3. works of art recorded in the INTERPOL database and CD-ROM which have been recovered
the latest INTERPOL posters showing the most sought after stolen works of art

INTERPOL would like to encourage you to make extensive use of its services, and play an active role in the pooling and exchange of information. This is one of the most important contributions you can make to help curb the erosion of our cultural heritage.
www.interpol.int/Public/WorkofArt/Default.asp

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Case for Buying Art Now

Right after the 9-11 attacks I found myself on the road visiting clients, many that I had dealt with for over three decades. For the first time in my career I received some responses to my advance email messages asking me to not even call because the client was not in the mood to think about art. That got my attention. In many cases economics were not the issue - it was an oppressive depression over the attacks that sapped any interest in art. This lasted for a good six months while the art world re-grouped and then continued doing what they do.

There are certainly some parallels with the malaise that has overcome much of the commercial art world in the past six months. For those dealers that enjoyed the action in 2007 and early 2008 fueled by easy credit and in many areas crazy prices, the crunch has been a shocker. Suddenly the bankers left with the buyers and now dealers have had to re-think their approach. Dealers have reported that the tribal shows have, for the most part, been well attended but that collectors have kept their hands in their pockets. Generally sales have slowed in more than one sector.
Regardless of your political persuasion the events since last November have, indeed, been maddening. It has been too easy to get caught up in all the political bickering, in-fighting, and gamesmanship. But really right now what can you do to make a difference? Basically, contact your elected officials and let them know what you think. Beyond that, down the line you can give money and support your candidates. In reality that's a ways off. As I mentioned on the blog, we may see another downturn in the market and the economy by most forecasts may be sluggish into 2011. In the interim there are going to be many opportunities in the art world, that will be fun, satisfying, and lucrative. Dealers and auction houses will get more creative to capture your dollar. Buyers like you will shake off all the distractions and will make money during this period. So if you can afford a bit now and then be wary and alert.. maybe this distraction will make you forget some of the insanity in Washington on both sides of the aisle.

Like any period like this sometimes it difficult to tell who is the victim and who is the predator. Be smart and treat your art buying like any other investment and seek opinions from experts you trust. Don't buy and sell through the same folks that are giving you buying and selling advice. Some times this works... many times it doesn't.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Quick Takes - What's Happening Now

1. Recently, the New York Times offered a piece on the mood of the market saying:"Despite reports from the auction world that a recovery is under way, Manhattan’s gallery scene feels all pins and needles as it heads into fall. Things aren’t as bad as many expected them to be, but they could get worse." If that wasn't enough Art Forum Magazine was quoted as saying; "“Fragile and hoping for business.” Ad pages in Artforum’s September issue are down to 206 from 363 a year ago, a decline of more than 40 percent." West Village dealer Ms. Maccarone is quoted as seeing “'an O.K. September until the auctions', which she predicts will once more confirm a downward trend. To be followed, she says, 'by a dry winter and a lousy spring', with things approaching normal by fall 2010."

2. On a happier note a 4000 year old skull has been found in Rajasthan, India showing the first recorded case of leprosy. The find is considered to be an important step in tracing the origins of the disease.

3. Just when you thought that the Moche site at Sipan in Northern coastal Peru had yielded all its secrets, we find that the discovery of tomb 14 in 2007 is giving scientists and archaeologists plenty to consider. . Museo de Sitio Huaca Rajada, which houses the relics from this site opened in January 2009. In 2008 160,000 visited the museum housing the artifacts from the dig that began in 1987. 80% of the visitors were Peruvian so if you are a world traveler this is obviously a great place to escape American tourists.

4. The world's oldest known mammoth ivory Venus has been discovered buried 3 meters below the floor of a cave in southwestern Germany. The Venus figures typically date between 25,000 and 30,000 years. The latest find at this point dates at least 35,000 years ago and may go back further. Previously scientists have believed "that therianthropic figures (part man, part beast) came before representations of the human figure in sculpture and cave paintings." (Archaeology Magazine September 2009).

5. Parcouts des Monde in Paris - Reports from a few of the dealers have been positive saying that the exhibition was well attended and people were buying. As we head into another fall tribal art auction season, we will get important indicators of the health of the market for 2010.

6. Tom Campbell relieved Philippe de Montebello as director of the Metropolitan Museum and was faced a burgeoning annual budget of 220 million. The Met's workforce stands now at 2200 employees after cutting 350 jobs. Planned exhibits will be cut by up to 25% in the future. The bottom line is that the Mets 2.8 billion dollar annuity took over a 25% percent hit with the recent economic downturn. Look for some creative ways where the Met will charge more for their services and shows in the future.

7. The Cleveland Museum of Art has opened part of its 335 million dollar expansion plan which will be fully complete in 2013. Losses in the endowment fund and prospects for higher operation costs for the larger building have give director Timothy Rub plenty to consider in the coming months.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The prestigious Yale University Art Gallery has been led by Director Jock Reynolds since the late 1990's. His record has set a standard that will be difficult to match in the coming decades. Reynolds, now 61, has doubled the size of the collection which now totals 190,000 objects, re-installed the entire collection in the newly renovated Building designed by Louis Kahn, and managed a 44 million dollar budget during this 12 year plan which will be completed in 2011. While he is affable, charming, and focused, I sensed in our recent interview that he doesn't suffer fools easily. I tried diligently to stay out of this category.

I did promise in a previous issue that I would follow up on some of the questions that many have asked since the Yale Guy Van Rijn Archive of African Art first surfaced as a potentially important tool for curators, collectors, scholars, dealers, and students seeking a resource for research. In emphasizing Yale University's ongoing commitment to the Archive Reynolds stated that contracts have been extended to Van Rijn hired staff members for another two years in order to maintain continuity in resolving some of the problems. Mr. Reynolds also indicated that Yale owns 100 % of the Archive having just purchased Guy Van Rijn's remaining share. Van Rijn remains committed to the Archive and will continue to consult. Reynolds and Van Rijn are addressing the synchronization problems created by trying to maintain a copy in Brussels and New Haven. Mr. Reynolds believes strongly that private funding sources must support this Archive ensuring that the access to the data remain a free resource. I am not a legal expert but I suspect this approach will to some degree insulate Yale from the copyright issue created when a user is making money from data owned and legally protected by a third party. Yale can afford the expense; however, if this data source is as good as I think it is private and public institutions will want to participate.

Mr. Reynolds did not commit himself to any date certain when you will have online access. He also didn't expound on plans to secure the data as it is being compiled from two separate sources. It should be noted that the picture changes somewhat now as Yale owns the Archive. I have no doubt that these problems are being addressed. If we are able to get a preview, I will certainly include that in a future Newsletter and blog. I am excited and hopeful that this resource will be online soon.

With permission I have re-printed from the Yale Archive a brief description of what they will offer.

"The Yale-Van Rijn Photographic Archive is the largest photographic digital database of African art, and is a division of the Department of African Art, established in 2004, at the Yale University Art Gallery. The Archive has been under development by Guy van Rijn, for several decades. In 2001, the project was acquired and funded for Yale by James J. Ross (Yale B.A. 1960). The ultimate goal is to make the Archive accessible online, but at present it is available for general research by appointment only at the Department of African Art at Yale, New Haven, Connecticut, USA, or at the Van Rijn Documentation Centre, Brussels, Belgium.
The Yale-van Rijn Photographic Archive comprises images of art from Africa south of the Sahara in collections worldwide. As such it is potentially infinite, but at the moment it includes mainly masks and sculpture and a few other forms in various media, from antiquity to the mid-20th-century and it will continue to grow as the archivist receives new images. Currently there are more than 100,000 images of African art drawn from private and museum collections, dealers, general archives, and the existing body of literature including books, articles, notices, and auction catalogues. The database may be searched by country, cultural group, and many other fields enabling the user to do a specific search. The Yale-GVR Archive may be used for research purposes only. In making these images and their related documentation available to researchers, YUAG’s Department of African Art provides an unparalleled resource for the study of African arts.
The Archivist solicits images from collectors of photographs and/or objects who would like to include their collections in the Archive. It should be noted that Yale makes no claims to authenticity of the objects illustrated (by any definition of the term, authentic), and the inclusion or exclusion of an image for any reason is at the sole discretion of Yale.
The Archive will also include opinions (including those concerning authenticity) in the Archive database submitted by third parties, at Yale's discretion. Yale takes no responsibility for these opinions, and in no way do they reflect an official position of Yale. We expect that this will provide a forum that will be useful to all researchers. In this working phase, we would ask visiting researchers who are using the Archive to exchange their own images and expertise from their fields of study in order to enlarge and refine the Archive and database for future users. "







Folk Art - Part 2 - Kim Kolker

As part of the larger anti academic trend of the European avante garde which was gaining more appeal, self taught artists were found in almost every country after WWI. In the US there was the Pittsburg housepainter John Kane, admitted in 1927 to the Carnegie International Exhibition. In 1932, the MOMA in NYC held a landmark exhibition “American Folk Art: The Art of the Common Man in America 1750-1900”, which looked admiringly to the self taught artists of the pre-industrial past for their ingenuity, innocence and simplicity of expression. There was of course Grandma Moses, one of the most successful and famous artists in America, who had her first one woman show in NYC in 1940. Completely untrained, Grandma Moses became hugely popular through American radio, tv and heavily marketed publications, even having successful shows in Europe and Japan. Self taught art waned in popularity thru the mid-20th century, as art critics and dealers became more attracted to the burgeoning movements of the Abstract Expressionists. However it should be noted that in 1982, the Corcoran Gallery in D.C. held the exhibition “Black Folk Art in America: 1930-1980”.
Over the years, the definitions of folk art in twentieth century America have been wide ranging, including everything from tin men advertising a sheet metal store to weather vanes and ceramic jugs to painters like Grandma Moses to quirky outdoor environments made by singular individuals in their own backyards,(of which many still exist).
So where did the term “Outsider Art” come from? In 1972, British art historian Roger Cardinal in his survey of Art Brut or “raw art”, coined the term as the title for his book of the same name. For the British and other Europeans with their strong art academies and art traditions, coining the terms art brut, naive art, and outsider art made sense, separating these new recognized art forms from the past. However, here in the United States, with no art schools in existence until the late 19th century, the dividing lines between academic and non-academic art, and Art Brut (Outsider) and naïve art have not been so distinct nor appreciated. Similarly, although Dubuffet’s Art Brut is now housed in its own museum in Lausanne Switzerland, the art of the mentally challenged has never gained much appeal in the US.

In the US, self taught art, outsider art and folk art have a tendency to be lumped together as products of individuals with their own aesthetic tastes. This lack of defined terminology can be quite confusing to the American collector who wants to set perimeters for his collection. Where does one go for clarity? Self taught art is still a relatively new field in art. It is not listed in too many art history books. It isn’t listed with the other “ Isms” in art—Impressionsism, Abstract Expressionism, Fauvism, Minimalism, Surrealism, etc. The history of self taught art is being written as we speak.
If you are interested in finding out more, the US has a number of museums dedicated to self taught art and it’s past, current and evolving future role in the history of art. You may also call us at the gallery with questions.

American Folk Art Museum
45 West 53rd Street
NY, NY 10019
http://www.folkartmuseum.org/

American Visionary Art Museum
800 Key Highway
Inner Harbor
Baltimore, MD 21230
http://www.avam.org/

Smithsonian American Art Museum
8th and G Streets, NW
Washington DC 20560
http://www.si.edu/
Has permanent holdings of 20th century self taught art

High Museum of Art
1280 Peachtree Street NE
Atlanta, GA 30309
http://www.high.org/
Has a permanent exhibition, as well as a curator for self taught art

Saturday, September 12, 2009


This has been a busy summer with seven trips, 6 Roadshow cities, and one visit to San Diego for a fund raiser. In Raleigh the Roadshow found the most expensive object in the history of the show and our first pieces appraised at over a million dollars. The Chinese jades will be seen when the show airs in January 2010. While we all found interesting things at the ethnographic table, the highlight had to be the very early Tlingit bowl found by first time appraiser Ted Trotta in San Jose and the end of the season.

While we hear doom and gloom all over the art world ethnographic art seems to be holding its own. Considering economic pressures the auction markets performed pretty well in the U.S. and Europe this summer. Gneerally the private medium markets did suffer while high end pieces continue to find interested buyers. There was much complaining after Santa Fe and the Ethnographic show and the American Indian show at the newly renovated Sweeney center. For those dealers that were buying on letters of credit in 2008, there is a problem now servicing the note and obtaining new credit. Expect to see more vultures circling both the dealers and the sales in 2010. There is not much reason to believe the economic scene will improve in the next 18 months. And in fact investors like Buffet are pulling back from stocks in anticipation of another major dip in the stock market. As a dealer you better be providing value in whatever you offer whether it be art or services. As a collector, selling quietly is certainly a safer bet than the auctions which could become more of a gamble as the worldwide recession deepens. I do know of some major objects that are scheduled to be auctioned in both Europe and U.S in the next 18 months; so it will be interesting.

Whatever you as a collector or dealer need to do, it is prudent to seek some outside opinions before executing a plan. This time like many in past, can be a great opportunity to both make money and expand your holdings. The cost of professional advice is cheap compared to the potential loss or gain.




Thursday, July 30, 2009

Who is This Green Man?

Image courtesy of www.tribalmania.com

What exactly is “Outsider” Art? (Part I)


It is art created on the fringes of society without regard for traditional genres—certainly a nebulous definition. To bring more clarity to the issue, we have to go back to the artist and collector who was one of the first champions of “outsider art.” Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985) famous French artist from the 20th century, was disillusioned with the established, mainstream art world and found great creative energy within the art of the mentally challenged and those who created art on the fringes of culture and society. In 1945, he coined the term “Art Brut”, (or “raw art”) for these artists who were not conditioned by academic training, museums, and society about what art should look like. Dubuffet noted: “It may be that artistic creation, with all that it calls for in the way of free inventiveness, takes place at a higher pitch of tension in the nameless crowd of ordinary people than in the circles that think they have the monopoly of it. It may even be that art thrives in its healthiest form among these ordinary people, because practiced without applause or profit, for the maker’s own delight; and that the over-publicized activity of professionals produces merely a specious form of art, all too often watered down and doctored.”1

It should be noted that Jean Dubuffet was only one of many European avant-garde artists who looked for forms of expression outside of the academic tradition. His interest in self-taught painters was echoed by the Cubist interests in tribal art, and the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist interest in Japanese prints. Many of you may not be aware that Henri Rousseau, whose paintings you are most likely familiar with, was a self taught painter who caught the eye of the avant-garde, specifically Picasso. Henri Rousseau worked as a toll booth collector to earn a living. His coworkers, knowing his passion for art, and believing in the power of his work, used to let him leave work early so that he could work on a painting.

Now Rousseau is best considered as a naive painter, as opposed to brut. Naive painters are self-taught, but live within the bounds of culture and society. Brut painters know nothing of society, nor are they concerned with it. They simply paint their inner world.

Here at the gallery, it is our pleasure to present you with both naive and brut painters. We hope the worlds these artists create will both intrigue and delight you.

Thevoz, Michel Art Brut, Editions d’Art Albert Skira S.A., Geneva, 1995, p. 5.

(I will continue the discussion on European and American “Outsider” art in our next blog.)

Care and Feeding of Your Collection


On the Antiques Roadshow we are constantly frustrated by the lack of documentation in the objects we see. As viewers you hear the appraisers often discussing how a little documentation could mean a great deal in the ultimate value of the object. When Don Ellis appraised the Ute 1st phase chiefs blanket in Tucson we were told that the blanket had been handed down through the family from Kit Carson. Both Don and I believed this oral history but we had nothing to prove it. Had we been able to document this history we both agreed at a minimum this would have added another $100,000 to the estimate of $350,000 to $500,000. The point to all this is that the care and feeding of your collection is important and now easier than ever with the available technology. I have listed below a few simple things you can do that will pay big dividends for you and your family in the future.


1. If you don't have a digital camera, buy an inexpensive Canon or Sony ($200 and under) and photograph every object in the house. Take group shots of each room.


2. If you are computer savy, download these images to your computer and make some disks that you will store outside the house. If you are not computer savy, take your camera to a Kinkos and have them make a disk or put it on a USB thumb drive. The new thumb drives work great and make it very easy to add or delete data.


3. On this blog I have provided lots of information on finding an appraiser. Buy a few hours of time from a recognized appraiser and have them walk through the house to point out important objects, fakes, conservation issues, and range of values. Record it or take notes.


4. You probably won't do this one.. but sit down and write a short paragraph on all your important objects that were identified by the appraiser. Also put this info on your disk or thumb drive. In the event of a house fire, you do not want to store this data in the house.


5. Economic times are tough so insurance is an issue that each collector must address individually. I will say that major collections that are covered where premiums are based on appraised value should be re-assessed during economic downturns.


6. The greatest probability for loss is undoubtedly fire and breakage. Most good security systems have a fire alarm component; however, a great deal of damage can be done before the fire department is on scene. If the budget can handle it, a policy covering this type of loss is important.

Featured Folk Artist - Blacktop


Blacktop (Ken Gentle)
Alabama native Ken Gentle is a self-taught artist who began painting as a way of sharing his experiences of growing up in the South. In his multi-media paintings he uses water colors, chimney soot, enamels, and acrylics which typically start with a base of "black tar" on wood or cardboard (hence the moniker “Blacktop"). His style of using a mixture of found objects further complements the stories he tells.

My paintings and drawings are a process of storytelling - bringing and invoking the past and spirits into people and environments. They are also about a way of life, about the struggle of life and the events that have changed our lives. I focus on contemporary social and political issues which include the complexities of relationships. Rural southern scenes of people at work, old houses, churches, baptisms and the struggles of everyday life are my favorite subjects. I have a passion for telling the stories of growing up in the south where the simple pleasures of life are important and cherished."

My Process:

The process begins with a wood panel or cardboard; next I apply a thin layer of a tar mixture to the surface; a color tinted sealer (my mixture) is then applied next I apply the background color. When the surface has dried for a period of time I rough in the subject matter with several homemade tools. Next I apply the various levels of paint to surface; then remove some paint by scratching the color away so the black tar will show through. Once the painting is completed I apply a clear sealer. (The process has been heat tested to several hundred degrees with no affect on the painting.) For obvious reasons I cannot share the chemical combinations that I use to obtain my end product.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Charitable Donations - Who Will Keep Giving ?


United Jewish Communities differed with President Obama when they were quoted last spring as saying: “During the current economic downturn, which has forced nonprofits to do more with less, any proposal which would result in a decrease in private giving will be a disaster for America’s charities, and for those who depend upon them.” Specifically this umbrella organization for Jewish service charities is concerned that changes in the benefits donors currently receive will impact negatively on giving. Families in the 33% and 35% and making over $250,000 would only receive benefits currently enjoyed by those in the 28% bracket. In real numbers this means a reduction of taxes of $28,000 for every $100,000 donated instead of $35,000. Or to put it another way if a collector has paid more than $28,000 for a donated object that is appraised for $100,000, then he or she is losing money. While these changes wouldn't take effect until 2011 many non-profits are already getting hammered by reduced support due to the economic downturn. Previous blog entries have cited numerous institutions that have made significant staff cuts, delayed projects, cancelled projects, and generally tried to do more with less. Ironically President Obama has enjoyed significant support in the arts community in the past. These new measures could, regardless of an economic rebound ensure that funding problems continue far beyond any good news in general for the economy. With other proposed programs aimed at seeking additional taxes from the wealthy many non-profit fund raisers are nervous. Considering that many collectors who still have money are staying on the sidelines with many dealers and auction house reporting anywhere from 20 to 40 percent reduction in sales, it is logical to assume that the sidelines might be a bit more crowded for the next several years when it comes to giving as well.

What is it?

This object came in to the gallery for an appraisal. It appears to me to originate somewhere in Central or South America. The stone is similar to that found in the Atlantic Watershed area of Coast Rica. It is approximately 10" in height. Your comments would be welcome.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Quick Takes July 2009

Antiques Roadshow has been wild as in late June and July we have traveled through Raleigh, North Carolina, Madison, Wisconsin, and Denver, Colorado. In Raleigh the Asian appraisers found the most expensive objects ever appraised on the show. The Chinese jade collection, which was appraised by Jimmy Callaghan of Skinner's, Boston was estimated at $700,000 and $1,700,000. Raleigh will be featured as the lead off show for Season's 14's schedule in early January of 2010.


In the June Newsletter we published the article "Whose Data Is It?" which was a description of two Guy Van Rijn databases that now are operated by the Yale Archive and Danster Research. I promised an update and some interviews. We contacted James Ross who is a major collector of African art and was responsible for much of the funding for the Yale Archive. Mr. Ross referred me to Jock Reynolds who is the director of the Yale University Art Gallery. We haven't heard back from Mr. Reynolds. The blog also contacted Guy Van Rijn, who indicated that there were some changes in the works at the Yale Archive but that he expected to continue in an advisory position. We will continue to pursue this.



August is almost upon us and it is the season of Indian market in Santa Fe. Dealers are excited and upbeat but wary about what this important two weeks will mean for business. It is all about whether people will stay away or if they do come will they keep their hands in their pockets. The Sweeney Covention Center has been remodeled, renamed and is ready to go for both the Ethnographic and Antique American Indian exhibitions. The schedule is as follows: The Ethnographic Art Show, the 26th annual staging, will run Saturday and Sunday, August 15 and 16, 2009 from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, with a preview opening on Friday, August 14, 2009 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM.The 31st annual Antique Indian Art Show will have a preview opening on Monday, August 17, 2009 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM, followed by shows on Tuesday and Wednesday, August 18 and 19, 2009 from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. There will also be auctions, local dealers, and collectors coming in for the contemporary Indian show August 22nd and 23rd. We will let you know how it goes.




ATADA (American tribal Art Dealers Association) does a very good job in listing stolen and recovered art objects. To ensure that you don't buy anything that doesn't have clear title periodically check this site: http://www.atada.org/theft.html . Remember in the US being a good faith purchaser is not enough to protect you from losing the object and your money.






Recently another site was discovered in Northern Peru revealing the 1500 year old tomb of the the Lord of Ucupe. The figure was wearing two funerary masks, a necklace of silver medallions, and a tunic and train of metallic plates. In the tomb archaeologists also found 19 headdresses, on a bed of war clubs.










There some amazing museum exhibitions in the U.S. and and U.K this summer and fall. 1. British Museum, London Moctezuma: Aztec Ruler 24 September 2009 - 24 January 2010 2. Metropolitan Museum, New York: Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul 23 June 2009 - 20 September 2009 3. Metropolitan Museum, New York: A Legacy of Collecting: African and Oceanic Art (Barbier Mueller Coll, Geneva) 4.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Featured Folk Artist: Howard Finster


Howard Finster, 1989, "DaVinci"
"The Reverend Howard Finster had art showings across the world, including the Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian Institute. He has taught many students in college workshops across the nation. He has been on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, and featured in many magazines and newspapers including Time, Life, Southern Living, NY and Chicago Times. He was on the Johnny Carson Show, Good Morning America and has been interviewed by several TV broadcasts including Canada, England, and Japan. The Coca Cola Company is one of Howard Finster's greatest fans and Howard is one of their greatest fans. They commissioned him to paint an eight foot Olympic Coke Bottle to represent the United States art exhibit for the Olympics in 1996.Howard's art and messages have inspired people all over the world including children that visit him and learn about his folk art. He was honored with the Governor's Award and chosen to paint the Easter Egg for the annual Easter Egg Hunt at the White House. He is recognized with letters from leaders all over the country for his astounding works of folk art. Turner Publishing commissioned Howard to paint illustrations for the "Night Before Christmas" in 1996 and is available at the Finster Folk Art Gallery. This assignment brought this now 84 year old artist back in touch with his childhood. The illustrations are visions of a previous time filled with wonder from an eccentric world renown folk artist. he dedicated the illustrations to all the children of the world including the "Big Ones" and his dreams of restoring his Paradise Gardens. he painted a wooden box symbolizing the C.A.R.E. package for the programs 50th anniversary. It was presented to president Clinton on May 9th of 1996. He completed a painting to raise funds for the Habitat of Humanity and attended the annual convention in Atlanta where he signed many prints made from the painting. After the NY trip, Howard took Pneumonia and thereafter he had a lot of sickness. Howard's traveling was over except for the events at Paradise Gardens. He went from doing twenty to thirty pieces of art a week to three to five pieces until he left us to be with Jesus on October 23, 2001." Beverly Finster, daughter of Howard Finster 2009

Featured African Art Object June 2009


Ivory figure, Lega, Democratic Republic of te Congo. Ht. 5" Ex Jay Last,Beverly Hills, CA
Who's Data is It?

As we watch the social network Twitter.com playing an important role in a revolution, we can begin to appreciate how much we have underestimated the power of the internet. You certainly have heard how various banks, credit card companies, government agencies etc etc have cataloged and stored your information to do who-knows-what down line. Do we really know or rather can we really know the impact of our decision to give up data. In some cases you can't control it, so just go with the flow. In my mind there are two critical questions. 1. What are you going to do with my data and 2. who has access?

In the field of tribal art some obviously bright guys have figured out the importance of cataloging your data which is primarily comprised of photographic and descriptive information of your collections. The most important man in this effort is undoubtedly Guy Van Rijn, who is now the archivist of the Yale Art Gallery-van Rijn Archive of African Art. "The Yale Art Gallery-van Rijn Archive of African Art is a collaborative project based in Brussels. Currently, a copy resides at the Yale University Art Gallery. Yale University has plans for a future on-line version, when and how it will be accessible is, due to legal issues such as copyrights, not yet known." (http://users.telenet.be/african-shop/yale_university_art_gallery.htm). The Yale website describes the database in the following manner: "The Yale-Van Rijn Photographic Archive is the largest photographic digital database of African art, and is a division of the Department of African Art, established in 2004, at the Yale University Art Gallery. The Archive has been under development by Guy van Rijn, for several decades. In 2001, the project was acquired and funded for Yale by James J. Ross (Yale B.A. 1960). The ultimate goal is to make the Archive accessible online, but at present it is available for general research by appointment only at the Department of African Art at Yale, New Haven, Connecticut, USA, or at the Van Rijn Documentation Centre, Brussels, Belgium.
The Yale-van Rijn Photographic Archive comprises images of art from Africa south of the Sahara in collections worldwide. As such it is potentially infinite, but at the moment it includes mainly masks and sculpture and a few other forms in various media, from antiquity to the mid-20th-century and it will continue to grow as the archivist receives new images. Currently there are more than 100,000 images of African art drawn from private and museum collections, dealers, general archives, and the existing body of literature including books, articles, notices, and auction catalogues. The database may be searched by country, cultural group, and many other fields enabling the user to do a specific search. The Yale-GVR Archive may be used for research purposes only. In making these images and their related documentation available to researchers, YUAG’s Department of African Art provides an unparalleled resource for the study of African arts.
The Archivist solicits images from collectors of photographs and/or objects who would like to include their collections in the Archive. It should be noted that Yale makes no claims to authenticity of the objects illustrated (by any definition of the term, authentic), and the inclusion or exclusion of an image for any reason is at the sole discretion of Yale.
The Archive will also include opinions (including those concerning authenticity) in the Archive database submitted by third parties, at Yale's discretion. Yale takes no responsibility for these opinions, and in no way do they reflect an official position of Yale. We expect that this will provide a forum that will be useful to all researchers. In this working phase, we would ask visiting researchers who are using the Archive to exchange their own images and expertise from their fields of study in order to enlarge and refine the Archive and database for future users." In addition Van Rijn has also compiled the database, "Who's Who in African Art.".

Van Rijn is now a principal of and the archivist for Danster Research Center which is described in the following manner:
"About us Danster Research is a newly established independent non-profit institute directed towards the research of traditional Arts and Crafts of Africa. Its aim is to foster and boost research as an independent institute and to provide support as well as infrastructure to those whose research is deemed to be invaluable to create a more comprehensive picture of the Arts and Crafts of Africa. We at Danster feel that such an independent research institute could fill in some of the lacunae and help the more institutionalized research institutes to complement their findings.
As we all know there always has been a bit of an uneasy relationship between the scholarly and the more mundane world of those commercially active in African Arts. Our independent position, however, allows us to support research in those fields we feel are somewhat neglected but where knowledge can be harvested, crucial to a better understanding of the African Arts and Crafts. Danster Research feels that there is a void to fill. Although research will be carried out on a completely independent base, Danster feels that cooperation with existing institutionalized research facilities is necessary and even indispensable if one wishes to grasp a broad and in depth comprehension of the Arts and Crafts of Africa.
Research
Danster Research feels that there are multiple ways to foster different kinds of research projects, benefiting scholars of different disciplines e.g. ethnographers, anthropologists and scholars from the sculpture of Africa. Financing and supporting projects will take up a large part of the funding but forgotten areas of research that need attention can and will also be focused upon and even coordinated and instigated by Danster Research e.g. collection of private documents, photographs; the acquisition of files and in general mapping out areas that deserve extra attention."

Pretty impressive by any standards and what a resource of information! Once you recover from the immediate flights of fantasy about what a difference this sort of data might make in your life as a curator, appraiser, dealer, or collector, the question always come down to who has access to the data and what do they do with it. One would think that this question is pretty straight forward and easy to answer. But it is not. Let's first dispense with Who's Who in African Art. That one is easy… you pay 80 euros and you get a copy.

The primary complication with the Yale Archive and Danster Research is that you have a mixture of non profit and for profit intertwined in both projects. Do commercial entities pay thousands of euros to sponsor projects that they can't access until various copyright issues are resolved? Are some very high end dealers participating because they are being told where all the masterpieces are now located? Can pieces that might otherwise not meet institutional provenance requirements be vetted by dealers by providing false data in the databases? Are some people being blocked from access to data while others are given access? Data providers are guaranteed to have their privacy respected. How is that done?. Are there layers of access? Why is there one copy of the Yale Archive in New Haven and one in Brussels. Are there different access protocols for both? I don't know the answers to any of these questions. I do know that several of the folks are involved in all three projects. The only one of the principals that I do know is Jim Ross, whom I respect as both a collector and as someone who has had the vision and resources to fund something as important as the Yale archive.

I hope to have some interviews in the coming months with the principals to answer some of these question. Now and in the future, data is a very valuable commodity that must respected and secured.