Monday, December 26, 2011

The European Commission Plans a Huge Arts Funding Project

The debate over the whether government or the private sector is better suited to manage some problems certainly includes art funding. Traditionally government involvement means bureaucratic frustrations and political funding neither of which contribute to focusing on the problem at hand. Europe has serious financial problems, so one would think that the arts would be the first to be cut. Instead the European Commission has proposed to launch a huge arts funding program. The Art  Newspaper printed the following article  on December 21st. Nothing in this world is free and considering their failure to agree readily to an economic course, we think this will be a mess.

"As the economic crisis deepens across Europe, the European Commission plans to launch the world's largest ever cultural funding programme, with €1.8bn allocated for visual and performing arts, film, music, literature and architecture. The commission's Creative Europe project plans to release the money between 2014 and 2020. If the scheme is approved late 2012, an estimated 300,000 artists are due to receive funding.
The proposal has received a mixed response from key cultural commentators, with some saying that banking on culture and the arts to help prop up EU member states and stimulate the economy is unlikely to work.
Dexter Dalwood, the UK artist nominated for the Turner Prize in 2010, is sceptical. “If the goal is to create social cohesion isn't it going to favour obvious visible targets like classical music, the performing arts and public art?” he says. “On paper this looks fine. [But] in reality who gets the money ? Is there a hefty application process where the outcome of the work has to be clearly stated? Is there any chance it could trickle down to the most needy creative people?” Dalwood suggests the most effective form of subsidy for artists would be to make affordable studios.
Others welcome the plans, although some suggest bureaucracy may pose problems. “Overall I welcome [the initiative]: who wouldn't think that more funding for the sector in these dark times is welcome? The problem will be the usual one, which is that governments and big bureaucracies like the EU find it very difficult to engage with small- and medium- sized enterprises, let alone individuals; and that the form-filling and accountability normally demanded by the EU will be very costly to administer and hugely frustrating for applicants,” says John Holden, visiting professor at City University in London.
The commission says that, along with planned funding boosts from 2014 for the film industry (€910m over seven years) and culture programmes such as European Capitals of Culture (€490m), with Guimarães in Portugal and Maribor in Slovenia designated capitals of culture for 2012, spending on culture would rise by 35%, accounting for inflation. A new financial guarantee facility will also enable small-scale cultural organisations to access up to €1bn in bank loans. “'Creative Europe' enables the [cultural and creative] sectors to reach their potential so that they can contribute to the Europe 2020 goals for sustainable growth, jobs and social cohesion,” says the “Creative Europe” policy document.
Indeed, Jordi Balta, the project co-ordinator at Inter Arts, a Barcelona-based non-governmental organisation, noted that the “Creative Europe” scheme is very much in line with recent policies pursued by the European Commission that emphasise the economic importance of the cultural sector. “It is also important for cultural policy to be integrated into other EU policy programmes such as regional development funding,” he says.
The European Commission nonetheless aims to radically overhaul how the cultural sector is funded. “Investment readiness in the sector is extremely low, since cultural and creative entrepreneurs often lack the business skills to market their projects to financial institutions,” according to a press statement. The commission suggests turning to “banking expertise”, with an emphasis on leveraging private investment and shifting the European mentality from grants to loans.
Dalwood also raised concerns about about whether UK artists would benefit from the planned programme in light of prime minister David Cameron's decision to veto a new EU treaty earlier this month [December]. “If it provides opportunities for residencies, travel and exhibition funding then I think it could be great, but now that Cameron is leading his march away from Europe can UK-based fine artists hope to be included in the funding?”
A culture spokesman for the European Commission insisted that these developments would have no bearing on eligibility for UK artists. “The UK veto at the summit will have no consequences whatsoever for the UK's ability to obtain future funding under the “Creative Europe” programme.The UK will join the the other 26 member states, and the European Parliament, in negotiating and adopting the programme in the coming months,” he says. Meanwhile, a campaign supporting a strong cultural component in the next EU budget called “We Are More” has been launched, garnering over 22,000 signatures so far online."

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sothebys Paris African and Oceanic Art - Insanity Reigns

December 14, 2011 Sale Number PF1117
Sale Total (Including Buyers Premium) 9,306,200 EUR

With a total of 99 lots 21 were bought in and still the gross sales including the buyers premium reached almost 10 million euros. The black-faced Punu mask  sold for 1,016,750 more than doubling the high estimate. of 450,000 euros. The two sculpturally great but very strange Yoruba sculptures sold for 576,750 and 408,750 euros each which was within the range of the estimates. Marc Ginsberg must have felt brilliant when the Kikuyu ivory bracelet 6 1/8" in length and estimated at 80,000 - 120,000 euros sold for 312,750 euros. The biggest surprise may have been the Hungana ivory kneeling figure 3 1/8" in height estimated at 30,000 - 50,000 that sold for 780,750 euros. This was a very good day for Sothebys.

Kim Kolker - Art Exhibition

DALLAS TEXAS: December 2011 - Shango Galleries is proud to announce that  our Gallery Director and fine art appraiser Kim Kolker is exhibiting her artwork in a joint effort with Artistic Salon & Spa in Dallas. The exhibition will run through the end of February, and features current works by Ms. Kolker which focus in part on the dizzying speed and contradictory paces which our lives are subject to. More information  can be found at ,  on Facebook:  “Kim Kolker, Artist” or

Ms. Kolker has degrees in Fine Art (1989) and Secondary Art Education (1995) from the University of Dallas in Irving, Texas, as well as studies in the M.F.A. program for Independent Filmmaking at Ohio University, where her first film won an award at the Baltimore International Film Festival.  Her artwork is in private collections across the United States, and can also be found at Banc of America Securities locally.

At Shango Galleries we are pleased to have Ms. Kolker  as an accredited fine art appraiser with the International Society of Appraisers, specializing in appraising 19th and 20th century paintings and prints,  outsider, regional and Texas artists. She is a member of CASETA (Center for the Advancement and Study or Early Texas Art), Treasurer of the North Texas Chapter of the International Society of Appraisers, President elect for NTISA in 2012, and a member of the fine arts committee for ISA nationally.

Is Buying at Auction Always a Good Deal?

While private dealers have not had much to celebrate the past several years, the inching up of buyers' premiums and all the auction house charges associated with selling property, may be a bright spot that makes everyone a bit more competitive. We will focus on this in 2012 as an important consideration in art buying with shrinking budgets. Wouldn't it be fascinating to know what the auction houses are netting on private sales that don't have the scrutiny of public transactions.

Sotheby's Auction House
Euros - The buyers premium is 25% of the hammer price up to and including 15,000 euros, 20% of any amount in excess of 15,000 euros  up to and including 800,000 euros, and 12% of any amount in excess of 800,000 euros.
US dollar - The buyers premium is 25% of the hammer price up to and including $50,000, 20% of any amount in excess of $50,000 up to and including $1,000,000, and 12% of any amount in excess of $1,000,000.
Christie's Auction House
United States
 25.0% - Up to $50,000
 20.0% - $50,001 - $1,000,000
 12.0% - $1,000,001 +

United Kingdom
25.0% - Up to £25,000
 20.0% - £25,001 - £500,000
 12.0% - £500,001 +
25.0% - €0 to €20,000
 20.0% - €20,001 to €800,000
 12.0% - €800,001 +
Heritage Auction House
The new Buyer's Premium structure will affect the following auction categories:
• American Indian Art
• American Art
• European Art
• Furniture & Decorative Arts
• Illustration Art
• Jewelry
• Lalique & Art Glass
• Luxury Accessories
• Modern & Contemporary Art
• Music & Entertainment
• Natural History
• Photography
• Pre-Columbian Art
• Rare Books
• Silver & Vertu
• Texas Art
• Timepieces
• Vintage Guitars
• Western Art
For auctions in these categories, buyers will pay a premium of 25% of the hammer price on the first $50,000 of each lot purchased, 20% on the portion between $50,000 to $1,000,000 and 12% on any amount more than $1,000,000. The minimum BP of $14 per lot will also continue to apply.
The Buyer's Premium for auctions in other categories will remain unchanged at either 15% or 19.5%.

Victoria Reed, the MFA’s Curator of Provenance - Great Idea

When one hears of an idea like this latest curatorial appointment by  BMFA, you wonder why it didn't happen sooner. We will follow this closely as other institutions follow their lead in addressing the critical issue of collection history.

BOSTON, MA The Boston Globe   December 11, 2011 - "This spring in the Netherlands, a curator from the Museum of Fine Arts spotted a 17th-century gold medallion at the famed Maastricht art fair and knew she had to have it. There was just one problem: Nobody could tell her how the precious piece left Germany after World War II.
Enter Victoria Reed, the MFA’s curator of provenance. Her job, which is almost as rare in the museum world as is the medallion, is to research works with questionable histories both in the collection and on the MFA’s shopping list. As a result, Reed’s other job is to break curators’ hearts.
Through months of research, Reed traced the medallion to a museum in Gotha, Germany, that she knew had been looted during the Nazi era. With that information, the MFA’s jewelry curator, Yvonne Markowitz, put the brakes on its purchase. And in September, the Art Loss Register announced that S.J. Phillips Ltd., the dealer who had offered the medallion, would be returning it to the Castle Friedenstein museum.

“It shows our system is working,’’ said Reed. “It’s much better learning the information before than after this becomes a part of the collection.’’
That’s a polite way of explaining her role, which is to make sure the MFA is not embroiled in any of the controversies that have swirled through the museum world in the last decade. In this new era, museums discovered to be holding stolen items face lawsuits and claims from foreign governments that can be costly both in legal fees and in the court of public opinion.
The MFA, which like many museums has had to return works in recent years, took special care in creating Reed’s post in 2010. She is the first and only endowed curator of provenance at an American museum.
In the past, the MFA had conducted research the same way many museums do. Individual curators with expertise in a specific area were asked to do research between their other duties, whether organizing exhibits or acquiring new works. Across the country, a handful of other museum professionals research the histories of artworks as independent consultants or as one of the tasks that make up their jobs.
“It’s something we can’t do constantly the way Victoria Reed is,’’ says Martha Wolff, the curator of European painting and sculpture at the Art Institute of Chicago. “Why is that? Time pressures.’’
Another issue is resources. What makes Reed special in the museum world is that her position, funded by MFA donor Monica S. Sadler, will not be cut from the museum’s budget when finances are tight.
“That a patron of the MFA recognized the importance of the issue makes Torie’s position unique,’’ said Nancy Yeide, the head of curatorial records at the National Gallery of Art in Washington. “That’s quite noteworthy and hopefully an impetus for others to do likewise.’’

Reed doesn’t spend all her time in libraries, scouring old auction catalogs. She also serves as the public face of the MFA’s efforts to properly vet art works.
One summer weekday, a group of college students, most of them art history majors, crowded around Reed in a gallery as she spun a fascinating, true tale involving Nazis, art dealers, and stolen paintings. It was like a mystery story, with the art detective hunting for clues.
Afterward, several approached with questions. Asked why they were so inspired, they didn’t hesitate. It wasn’t just the story. It was Reed herself.
Just 37, Reed, who goes by the first name “Torie,’’ is no dour researcher in Coke-bottle glasses. She is lively and easy to approach, an avid runner who favors colorful dresses and heels.
“You meet a lot of curators who aren’t ready to share why they’re so excited about what they do,’’ said Caitlin Costello, 21, an undergraduate majoring in art history at the University of Pennsylvania. “Just smiling and being animated, it’s amazing how much that helps get her message across.’’
The timing of Reed’s talk couldn’t have been better. Just a few days earlier, eight years of off-and-on research had culminated in the MFA’s dramatic announcement of recognition that “Portrait of a Man and Woman in an Interior,’’ an oil painting on a wood panel by the 17th-century Dutch painter Eglon van der Neer, had probably been stolen by the Nazis and passed through a New York gallery before ending up at the MFA in 1941.
The museum agreed to pay restitution to the heir of Jewish art dealer Walter Westfeld, who died in a Nazi death camp, and in exchange, the painting would remain on the MFA’s walls. The finding would give the museum a chance to show the world that it cared deeply about righting the wrongs of the past, when swashbuckling curators acquired paintings and sculptures without doing in-depth research on whether they had been stolen.
Standing in front of the painting in the MFA’s Art of Europe department, Reed told the students of her satisfaction in being able to shed light on an important era in history. Through her work, the public will now know about Westfeld, she said. A lengthy description of the painting’s path would hang on the wall next to the picture.
‘Geeky’ path to curatorship
Growing up outside Portland, Maine, Reed was an artsy and bookish kid.
Her younger sister, Mary Reed, still teases her for what she calls a geeky streak. To satisfy her physical education requirement, Torie Reed took part in a walking club. While other teenagers were out partying, Reed took language lessons at an Italian heritage center. When she was 16, she traveled to Siena, where she worked on watercolors.
“I joke that she’s always been an old lady,’’ says Mary Reed. “She’s more grown up than anybody else.’’Torie Reed’s path to the MFA started at Sarah Lawrence College, where she earned her degree before getting her master’s and a doctorate in art history at Rutgers University. After college, Reed worked as a research assistant at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and, after that, served as a researcher at the Princeton University Art Museum.
She started at the MFA in 2003, hired as a research fellow for provenance in the Art of Europe department to look entirely at Nazi-era issues. It was an opportune time. Just a few years earlier, museum leaders had met in Washington, D.C., in a groundbreaking conference, to create the first real push for restitution for World War II thefts.
The MFA, like most US museums, had followed the common acquire-now, research-later philosophy of collecting. But in 2000, it took a dramatic step to address that. The museum put a list of works from its permanent collection with questionable acquisition histories on the Internet in a quest to solicit more information. That turned heads in the museum world. It also led victimized families, including the Westfelds, to contact the MFA.
“Most museums have their collections online,’’ says James Cuno, the former director of the Harvard University Art Museums and current director of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. “What’s different in this case, and is to be commended, is that they identified some works and set them apart from others.’’
That’s where Reed’s job began. Working on Nazi-era claims, she found her knowledge of Italian, German, and French was helpful. So was her determination to pursue all leads, whether in the MFA’s archives or by traveling to Germany to scour rarely viewed auction records and newspaper articles.
During those years, Reed decided that the World War II cases were, in a way, more complicated than those involving works dating to Roman times.
“If something was looted out of the ground in Italy, it’s a pretty clear issue,’’ she said. “Some of the Nazi-era claims are accompanied by ownership questions that may not have a paper trail. Many of the key players may be deceased. You may be dealing with 10 different archives. And even if you have the pieces lined up, there may be disagreement about how to interpret those facts.’’
The facts were often undeniable. Under Reed, the MFA resolved several claims, starting in 2004 when the museum returned to a Polish woman a 15th-century Polish painting, “Virgin and Child,’’ that Reed determined had been plundered during the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 before being purchased by the MFA in 1970. Later, the MFA returned a statue stolen in Dresden, Germany, and an embroidered panel from Italy and, after making restitutions, held on to a group of 17th-century tapestries and the van der Neer.
A detective with critics
Not all of Reed’s research has resulted in guilty verdicts.
The MFA fought to keep an Oskar Kokoschka painting, “Two Nudes (Lovers),’’ after a claim was filed in 2007 by an Austrian woman. After reviewing Reed’s research, the MFA decided it had legal title to the work and even filed a lawsuit, which it won in 2009, to confirm its rights.
That led to something Reed had never faced as a behind-the-scenes player: criticism.
Raymond Dowd, a New York lawyer who has filed lawsuits over works that he maintains were taken by the Nazis, disagreed with the Kokoschka finding, particularly as it affected another case he was pursuing. On his website earlier this year, Dowd called Reed “a curator of provenance - which happens to be a synonym for a launderer of stolen artworks.’’
In an interview, Dowd refused to back down. He said the MFA and Reed should publish online the details of their investigations. He believes the MFA is, like the entire US museum community, reluctant to reach out to victims of World War II-era art looting.
“What happened in Vienna in 1938 and 1939, you either believe in the Holocaust that took place in that period and the grip that Adolph Eichmann had on those people or you’re an American museum denying that reality,’’ he said. “And she’s at the forefront of that denial.’’
Dowd’s attack bothered her deeply, Reed acknowledges, but she refuses to counterattack.
“I know that I sound defensive and I’m trying, as I get older, to sound less defensive,’’ she said. “But I think there are a lot of loud voices out there that are inaccurate.’’
The next day, Reed asks that even that mild criticism be struck from the record. She doesn’t want to come off too strong.
She does defend the MFA, which she says shares the results of all its Nazi-era provenance research on its website, on gallery labels, and in gallery talks. The only exception is when there is a legal matter that includes correspondence that is privileged.
Her understated approach is typical of Reed. She wants the evidence from her research to speak for itself without telling her boss, MFA deputy director Katherine Getchell, how to respond.
That makes perfect sense to Getchell.
“Her job is not to be a policymaker or decision maker,’’ said Getchell. “We want her focused on research and analysis and looking at the different options.’’
Reed’s job often takes her to the MFA’s off-site library at Horticultural Hall. On a recent afternoon, she sat with her notes at a table examining art history books on site. She wants to know more about a Dutch painting by Johannes Glauber, which the museum acquired from a dealer in 1979 with little knowledge of its background. She was examining a bronze from the 13th century that’s in the MFA’s Islamic art collection. There were also several works the museum was considering acquiring; she said she couldn’t reveal what those were.
“In the ’40s and ’50s, we might ask a dealer where something came from,’’ she said. “Today, we require much more information. We look at cultural property law, check stolen art databases, import and export records. If there’s a doubt, we postpone acquisition until we can clear up the question.’’
Reed shuffled through the papers on the desk as the subject of the van der Neer came up. Though the claim had been settled, many questions remained. The MFA knows the painting was probably stolen, but there’s a gap in the records from the point when it disappeared in the late 1930s to its reappearance in New York in 1941. Reed was eager to fill in the blank.
“In this work,’’ she said, “you’re never done.’’"
This is the third in a series of occasional articles on the complex issues surrounding some works in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Twa headrest, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Twa, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Width - 8 7/8"
c. Early 20th century
Maurer/Margolis Headrest Collection

"The Brill neckrest is one of only a handful of these rare neckrests known. See DIA (1996:91, figure 60) for a closely related neckrest from a Detroit private collection.; Dewey (1993:64) for another from the Joss collection; Gillon (1979: 118, figure 148) for one from  the MRAC, Tervuren; and Celenko (1983: 208, figure 189) for one from the Eiteljorg Collection.
The Twa are a Pygmy group, at one point estimated at about 100,000 in population, living among the Luba and Mongo peoples. The name 'Twa' is Bantu for "little people". The Twa were nomadic hunters and the only Pygmy group known to produce wood carvings. The composition of the Brill neckrest is unusual with clear Kuba influence, particularly in the incised motifs at the top. The dynamic treatment of the figures displays an individualistic physiognomy and conceptualization." Sothebys New York 11/17/06 Lot 105 describing a Twa neckrest that sold for $45,000.

Feedback on the Blog and Newsletter

We have had a number of questions asking why we have a blog and a newsletter. The answer is simply that one complements the other. All articles are written and stored permanently on the blog. The newsletter features and links some of those segments and photographs for your easy access. The newsletter also provides links to websites that are helpful as well as the listing of other Internet resources.

I wrote my first segment for the blog seven years ago this month. The  mailing has grown from several hundred to now almost twenty five hundred. We appreciate the support of Constant Contact and their good efforts to keep us heading in the right direction. We do also appreciate your feedback both good and bad. Unfortunately or fortunately depending on your perspective we have only received one very negative critique which accused me of pontificating and being both irresponsible and unprofessional. That gem will get a special response in our next newsletter when we again focus on Park West Gallery. But for 2012 tell us what you want us to cover and tell us how we are doing.  And thank you for the nice thoughts some of which are published below.

* Thanks so much for your newsletter. Yours is one of the very few (maybe only one) I read in its entirety every time it comes. As you know, tribal arts aren’t my area of specialty, but your newsletter always has information for anyone in the antiques and art business. It’s truly a news letter, and it contains your personal opinion, which I’ve always valued.  I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate it.

* Always enjoy your newsletter.  Attached is some news from us.  Feel free to share it liberally.
 *Thank you for your fine ARTTRAK Newsletter. Most likely this is the first time I have ever received it, or, perhaps as a consequence of my busy schedule, it could have been overlooked.  Regardless, please keep me on your e-mail list.

*Well, THAT was fun!  Always lively and informative..

* Great edition of the letter, John!

*Nice newsletter. Thanks for including me. 

* Thanks for getting back to me. No I don't wish to be taken off at all, the newsletter is very informative! But if possible would you amend the mailing list so that the newsletter comes to me directly as opposed to the general company address?

* We really appreciate your ArtTrak Newsletter, John.  It's really informative and we always learn so much.

*John---I loved your article on Park West Gallery---my business was next to his and we would see him make copies of works of prints in his basement....when are you coming to Detroit to see our show ???

*Thank you for including the news on your site!

As a final note, in our last Newsletter I rushed the publication and passed on the great expertise of both my assistant Kim and my wife Barbara as proofers. I am a terrible typist and a horrendous proofer, which was clearly proven in November's newsletter. Sorry about that. I will do better.

Some Thoughts December 2011

During some of my recent readings which run the gamut from politics to assassins, I recently came across a quote that was both simple and poignant and certainly appropriate for the season.  It was a question posed by a former U.S. Navy Seal, who ironically remained anonymous in providing this thought.
 If you couldn’t tell anybody about it, would you still climb Mt. Everest?

I hope I would.

Some Humor - Dumb Art Thieves

Dumb Madrid Art Thieves Tried to Sell Multimillion-Dollar Stolen Sculpture for Scrap

Considering that a small sculpture by Eduardo Chillida fetched €1.5 million ($2 million) at Sotheby's in 2006, three thieves' asking price of €30 ($39) for one of the artist's iron sculptures was certainly a bargain. This tip from a Madrid scrap merchant led police to recover 34 of 35 artworks stolen in a truck heist last month — a haul estimated at €5 million ($6.5 million) that also included pieces by Picasso and Botero.
On November 27, three men broke into a warehouse in Getafe, near Madrid, and drove off with a truck that was still loaded with artwork en route from an exhibition at the Stefan Röpke Gallery in Cologne, Germany. The thieves, who found the keys conveniently stowed in truck's glove compartment, were caught on security cameras as they entered the vehicle. The artworks were discovered yesterday in a different truck parked in the nearby town of Leganés. Police have not yet made any arrests, the Guardian reports.
A government representative in Madrid, Amparo Valcarce, said that the works are in "good condition." Only one piece was damaged when the glass over a picture was broken. Police did not publicly identify the one artwork that is still missing. The Spanish galleries that had loaned the art must be breathing a sigh of relief, especially since many of the pieces were not insured.

What's Happening in the Middle East

In the coming months we will focus on the private and public art markets and institutions in the Middle East. Having lived there for almost four years I can attest that only the past is certain. Inshalla is a word meaning Allah willing and is the ultimate disclaimer tacked on to any promise. If the promise wasn't kept,  the deal wasn't concluded, or the contract wasn't fulfilled, then clearly Allah didn't will it. The past five years indicate that the markets in China, Russia, and the Middle East are important to sustaining growth that is not happening in Europe and the United States.

abu dhabi. “The Guggenheim is certainly not cancelled,” the US ambassador, Michael Corbin, told me. “It’s just delayed due to cash flow problems and the Arab Spring”. This was at an exhibition of Middle Eastern artists hosted in the residence to show his general support for the role that art is playing in Abu Dhabi policy. There were more signs of official approval for the idea of art. A huge red ball is appearing in surprising places, such as the Zaha Hadid-designed bridge, and in shopping malls. This is an installation by Kurt Perschke to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the founding of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Sheikha Salama, wife of the powerful Crown Prince, and her sister-in-law, Sheikha Shamsa, gave parties worthy of The Arabian Nights in their palaces for artists, dealers, journalists and assorted panjandrums, and Zaki Nusseibeh, adviser to the president of the UAE, invited lecturers at Abu Dhabi Art and artists to his house in the oasis of Al Ain. The Sorbonne Abu Dhabi has joined forces with the Louvre and Ecole du Louvre for a curatorial training programme.

So why the general feeling of uncertainty about the future for art in Abu Dhabi? Much of it can be put down to the chronic secrecy with which public affairs are conducted, fed by uncertainty about where the focus of power is at any moment. What is certain is that central government (that is, Abu Dhabi, the energy-richest emirate and the capital of the UAE) has been pouring money into the four, poor, northern emirates for infrastructure projects over the past year. This is an indirect response to the unrest in other countries in the region, which has not occurred in the UAE but has changed the priorities in the Executive Council, and led to the increased influence of Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan, ­national security adviser and deputy chairman of the council, a relative conservative who believes that housing and hospitals come before museums.

The cash flow problems are real. Hundreds of expatriate staff have been let go from government offices; the British architects Austin-Smith: Lord (see facing page) have not been paid; the staff at Jean Nouvel and Foster & Partners, architects of the Louvre Abu Dhabi and Zayed National Museum respectively, are barely working, and the tendering process for the Guggenheim, a complex design by Frank Gehry considerably bigger than his Bilbao museum, has been cancelled, which may well mean that in the process of moving from concept to detailed design stage it has turned out to be simply more expensive than Abu Dhabi will accept and the design is being renegotiated. The Guggenheim director and curatorial team, who were much in evidence at Abu Dhabi Art 2010, did not come down this year due to “an unusually intense concentration of commitments”, as they told The Art Newspaper. This was interpreted by many at the fair as showing an undiplomatic lack of commitment on their part, and that top-notch acquisitions for the future museum would not be made this year; after all, who was to advise the buyers?

Bill Siegmann Memorial Services Set

This is reprnted from an email we received from Kevin Dumouchelle.

Dear Friends,
A memorial service for Bill Siegmann has been scheduled in New York at St. Luke in the Fields, 487 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014 at 3:30 PM on Sunday, January 8. 
For those in the area, there is also a service scheduled in Minneapolis at 1:30 on Wednesday, Dec. 28 at Lakewood Cemetery, 3600 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55408.

Bill was one of the leading experts on the arts of Liberia and Sierra Leone. He wrote extensively on the arts of masquerades and age grades in this region, and on issues in museology, collecting, and interpretation. Bill also shared his skills in collections development broadly, conducting frequent seminars on museum management and curatorial training in Europe, Africa, and South America through grants from UNESCO and the U.S. Department of State. He also taught at numerous universities in Africa and the U.S.
I know that Bill's considerable generosity and openness of spirit has touched many in our field over the years. He has been a gracious friend and mentor to a great number, myself included. He was an invaluable resource, whose guidance and intellect was treasured. That strength, warmth, and wit remained unbowed, until the end.
I share my deepest condolences with his family and his many friends around the world.


 Kevin D. Dumouchelle
Assistant Curator
Arts of Africa and the Pacific Islands
Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Parkway
Brooklyn, NY 11238
tel: (718) 501-6281
fax: (718) 501-6140

Happy Holidays 2011

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Crosscurrents - Art of the Southeastern Congo

September 30, 2011–January 8, 2012

Inspired by the Museum’s three finest works of African sculpture, Crosscurrents explores the art of three neighboring peoples whose territories are located in the river systems of the southeastern Congo. The Luba, Songye, and Hemba peoples have a long history of contact, while maintaining differences in language, social and political systems, cultural memory, and artistic expression. The exhibition is composed of works that are distinctive artistic representations of these peoples, and those that demonstrate a fluidity of cultural exchange and cross-influences.
The Museum’s superb Luba ceremonial axe exemplifies the stylistic elegance of Luba art and the importance of the image of woman as the source of political and religious authority. The ancestral figures of the socially engaged art of the Hemba people share a similar elegance of form but are primarily male figures. Songye art is marked by a more geometrical style and an emphasis on spiritual power. The Museum’s male and female prestige stools were first attributed to the hand of a Luba artist and are now identified as two of only fifteen such works known to have been produced by a Songye workshop near the intersection of Luba and Songye territories. This pair inspired the cross-cultural theme of the exhibition.
Lenders to the exhibition include the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution; the Yale University Art Gallery; the Mead Art Museum, Amherst College; and a number of private collectors. John Pemberton III, Consulting Curator for African Art, SCMA, is the guest curator of Crosscurrents and the author of its accompanying catalogue. The exhibition is supported, in part, by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Maxine Weil Kunstadter, class of 1924, Fund, and the Edith Stenhouse Bingham, class of 1955, Art Museum Fund. Additional support is provided by Members of the Museum, as well as the Publications and Research Fund of SCMA.

Pre-Columbian Art - November 2011

Remojadas Figure
Veracruz, East Mexico
c. AD 500 - 1000


Pokot Girl
Kenya East Africa

American Indian Art

Acquired August 29, 1890
Sarah Hatch Webster
Pineridge Reservation
Complete Documentation Available

JB - My Word November 2011

For many appraisers November is an insane time when you almost dread the ringing of the phone knowing that more work is on the way. Clients are planning their year end financial strategy that in the past included charitable donations. Understandably often the client wanted to know the values before the gift was promised to the museum. So it would be a scramble to get all this done in time for the appraiser, client, and museum all to sign the 8283 to complete the deal. Of course often a great of time goes into making that moment happen. This year with a struggling economy the gifts are still there but not to the degree as in the past. Not surprisingly, though, pledges made when times were better are still being met by some benefactors.

But we are very busy with clients and friends that want to know where they stand financially. This sort of work has continued all year and there is no end in sight to these assignments. With bad economies some collectors must sell, bringing some nice things to both the private and public markets. It is a great time to buy; and the vultures will do well in this climate. Let's hope this process is not witnessed close to home. As always we try to keep a close eye on the markets, so if we can be of assistance, let us know.. JB

Christmas Issue of the Newsletter

This next issue which will be out by mid December will not contain anything negative. If we need to report something it can wait until January. So if you have something to share send me at email at We need some positive stories. And we hope you and your family have a great holiday.

Auction Sales Still Strong for High End

1. Bonhams achieves new auction highs for Chinese art sales in Hong Kong
HONG KONG.- At a time of serious economic instability around the world, the art market is often vulnerable to the wider financial pressures. Bonhams’ auctions of Chinese art in Hong Kong sent a strong message that the market for top-quality Chinese objects and paintings remains stable, and fine-quality objects presented with attractive estimates can still generate a global enthusiasm from buyers. Bonhams’ four auctions today, variously comprising snuff bottles, ceramics, jades, works of art and paintings, achieved sold percentages by value respectively of 100%, 96%, 89% and 78%, with exceptional prices paid by buyers from mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Europe and America for the best objects in the four auctions. Overall, Bonhams’ Autumn Auctions in Hong Kong achieved a new record high sold total for the company of over HK$240 million, representing an increase of nearly 15% over the record sale in ...

2. DALLAS, TEXAS Heritage Auction house  auctions Ty Cobb Detroit Tigers uniform for $358,500 in USThe Detroit Tigers uniform worn by Hall of Fame outfielder Ty Cobb during the 1922 season sold for $358,500 on November 11 in's (Heritage Auctions) Vintage Sports Collectibles Signature® Auction, notching the fourth six-figure price commanded by the category for a game worn jersey in 2011. A rare "Shoeless Joe" Jackson signed baseball topped all autograph results at a price of $77,675, bringing the auction total to just more than $5.3 million. All of's prices include 19.5% Buyer's Premium. The $358,000 bid for Cobb uniform earned ownership of one of just two Detroit Tigers uniforms worn by Ty Cobb known to survive to present. "This is the type of piece that top collectors dream about, and the type made me want to get into this business in the first place," said Ivy.

3. GENEVA.- Sotheby’s Geneva this evening set a world auction record for yellow diamond when it sold the Sun‐Drop Diamond for CHF 11,282,500 ($12,361,558). Weighing 110.03 carats, this exceptional stone ranks as the largest known pear‐shaped fancy vivid yellow diamond in the world. Tonight’s sale concluded with a total of CHF 64,048,000 ($70,173,551), against the pre‐sale estimate of CHF 65‐93 million ($72‐102 million). Throughout the day the sale room was packed and there was very active bidding which contributed to an extremely high sell‐through rate of 82% by lot and one of Sotheby’s highest totals ever for a sale of Jewellery.
Commenting on the results of tonight’s sale, David Bennett, Chairman of Sotheby’s Jewellery Department in Europe and the Middle East and Co‐Chairman of Sotheby’s Switzerland, said: “We are thrilled with the price achieved by this spectacular daffodil yellow diamond; it is one of the most impressive I have had the pleasure of selling. The Sun‐Drop Diamond has immense presence and is truly stunning. The Sun‐Drop Diamond is only the fourth diamond over 100 carats in size ever to be sold at auction and all of them have been sold at Sotheby’s in Geneva. We are absolutely delighted that Cora International trusted Sotheby’s to present this stone to the international market. Today’s strong sell‐through rates are a reflection of the continued strength and resilience of the international Jewellery market”.

4. NEW YORK, NY.- Tonight at Sotheby’s New York, the Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale achieved a strong $199,804,500, well within the overall pre-sale estimate of $167.6/229.9 million and eclipsing the total for the same sale in May 2011. The auction was 81.4% sold by lot, and saw a total of 39 works sell for over $1 million. Gustav Klimt’s Litzlberg am Attersee (Litzlberg on the Attersee) was the top lot of the sale, achieving $40,402,500 after a prolonged bidding battle (est. in excess of $25 million*), and auction records were set for Gustave Caillebotte, Tamara de Lempicka and Maxime Maufra.´”I have rarely felt a room as energetic as tonight” said Tobias Meyer, auctioneer of the evening sale. “The art market was alive and well at Sotheby’s tonight” said Simon Shaw, Head of Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Department in New York. “We put the sale together with discipline ... More

5. NEW YORK, N.Y.- Christie’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale achieved $140,773,500 (£88,687,305/ €102,764,655), with three works of art selling above the $10 million mark. Despite spots of selective bidding throughout the sale, Surrealist works and modern sculpture performed well overall, and buyers competed aggressively for rare works and those offered fresh to the market from private and museum collections. Christie’s offered the three top private collections this season, including the Property From the Collection of Lew and Edie Wasserman, which totaled $8.5 million; The Collection of John W. Kluge, sold to benefit Columbia University, which achieved $4.9 million; and A Distinguished West Coast Collection, which realized $10.5 million. The top lot of the sale was Max Ernst’s The Stolen Mirror, a Surrealist tour-de-force ... More

1000 Year Old Asian artifacts in Alaska?

ANCHORAGE (AP).- A research team is attempting to discover the origin of a cast bronze artifact excavated from an Inupiat Eskimo home site believed to be about 1,000 years old.
The artifact resembles a small buckle, researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder said in an announcement. How it got to Alaska remains a mystery.
"The object appears to be older than the house we were excavating by at least a few hundred years," research assistant John Hoffecker said in the release. Hoffecker led excavating at Cape Espenberg on Alaska's Seward Peninsula.
The object has a rectangular bar connected to a broken circular ring. It's about 2 inches long and 1 inch wide. It was found in August at a home site dug into a beach ridge.
The excavations are part of a project paid for by the National Science Foundation to study human response to climate change at Cape Espenberg from A.D. 800 to A.D. 1400. Archaeologist Owen Mason, a research affiliate with the university based in Anchorage, says six or seven home sites were excavated.
"The whole plan was to look at how subsistence and social practices changed over about 500 years in time," he told The Associated Press.
The work in summer 2011 was the third and final complete season for the project. Analysis of animal bones and wood objects including boat parts will follow.
"We're trying to figure out if the people were whaling," Mason said Monday. "That's a big topic. The wood is a big story. We have to get more radiocarbon dates, more tree ring dates. We're going to figure out the climate story from the wood."
The bronze artifact was found in 3 feet of sediment near the entryway to the house by a University of California, Davis, doctoral student, Jeremy Foin, as he used a sifting screen. Beveling on one side of the bronze and the concave shape of its other side indicated the item had been cast in a mold.
A copper needle was found at another Cape Espenberg house. Early Alaskans were known to hammer copper into tools but there is no known metal casting in Alaska, Mason said.
"It would be incredibly significant if there were metallurgy in Alaska, but I just don't see that being here," Mason said.
The house site is within the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve and the origin of the piece more likely was Korea, China, Manchuria or southern Siberia. Early Inupiat Eskimos in northwest Alaska might have brought the object from the other side of the Bering Strait about 1,500 years ago, the researchers said, and passed it down through generations.
A piece of leather wrapped around the rectangular bar gave a radiocarbon date of about A.D. 600.
"That seems early based on what we know presently about the house, but we haven't dated the house well enough to be confident that our previous thoughts about the house are correct," Mason said.
One Asia archaeologist suggested the piece may have been part of a harness or horse ornament. The researchers are looking for an East Asia expert to confer with on the bronze piece.
Mason said it's not likely the bronze piece was washed ashore after being dropped by a Russian explorer or a whaler.
"That's totally unlikely, in fact nearly impossible, considering where it is," he said.
The excavated home was an inauspicious mound that was part of a marsh in a sand dune away from the current coast.
Purdue University Assistant Professor H. Kory Cooper, prehistoric metallurgical expert, will study the bronze piece, Mason said.
Researchers recovered several thousand artifacts at Cape Espenberg, including harpoons used to kill seals, fishing spears and fishing lures.

William Siegmann, Curator Emeritus, Brooklyn Museum

It is with deep sadness that I write to inform you that William Siegmann, Curator Emeritus of the Arts of Africa and the Pacific Islands at the Brooklyn Museum, passed away peacefully on November 29, 2011.
Bill had a long-standing and deeply personal connection to Liberia, which began with service in the Peace Corps in the late 1960s and continued throughout his life. He taught at Cuttington University, where he also founded the Africana Museum. Bill returned to Liberia to pursue research between 1974 and 1976, which was supported by a Fulbright-Hays fellowship. Upon his return to the U.S., he served as a curator, first at the Museum of the Society of African Missions, in Tenafly, N.J., and then at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco from 1979-84. Upon being awarded another Fulbright fellowship in 1984, Bill once again returned to Liberia. In conjunction with the West African Museums Programme, he served as Director of the National Museum of Liberia, in Monrovia, where he oversaw the renovation of the museum's nineteenth-century building and the expansion and re-installation of its collections.
During his tenure at Brooklyn from 1987 to 2007, Bill acquired over 1600 objects for the museum, a prolific record of considered connoisseurship that is unmatched in the history of Brooklyn's African and Pacific collections. He also organized at least eight major exhibitions at Brooklyn, including "African Art and Leadership," "Image and Reflection: Adolph Gottlieb's Pictographs and African Sculpture," "In Pursuit of the Spiritual: Oceanic Art Given by Mr. and Mrs. John A. Friede and Mrs. Melville W. Hall," "African Furniture," and "Masterworks of African Art from the Collection of Beatrice Riese," as well as four separate re-installations of the African and Pacific Islands collections. He authored African Art: A Century at the Brooklyn Museum (Prestel, 2009), the first catalogue on the museum's collection. Most recently, Bill served as a consultant to the Saint Louis Art Museum.
Bill was one of the leading experts on the arts of Liberia and Sierra Leone. He wrote extensively on the arts of masquerades and age grades in this region, and on issues in museology, collecting, and interpretation. Bill also shared his skills in collections development broadly, conducting frequent seminars on museum management and curatorial training in Europe, Africa, and South America through grants from UNESCO and the U.S. Department of State. He also taught at numerous universities in Africa and the U.S.
I know that Bill's considerable generosity and openness of spirit has touched many in our field over the years. He has been a gracious friend and mentor to a great number, myself included. He was an invaluable resource, whose guidance and intellect was treasured. That strength, warmth, and wit remained unbowed, until the end.
A memorial service will be announced in the coming months. In the meantime, I share my deepest condolences with his family and his many friends around the world.
Kevin D. Dumouchelle
Assistant Curator
Arts of Africa and the Pacific Islands
Brooklyn Museum

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Can a Headrest Identify Your Sleeping Partner?

The Maurer headrest collection which the gallery is now offering was assembled by Evan Maurer with great care over almost four decades. Evan's criteria for acquisition was aesthetic merit, sculptural quality, rarity, and finally condition. His discerning eye was honed by more than fifty years in the arts. Concentrating on the fine arts and art history, Maurer earned his B. A. at Amherst College in 1966, his M.A. at the University of Minnesota in 1968, and his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania in 1974.  His ties to The Minneapolis Institute of Arts date to 1967 when he served as a curatorial intern and then in 1971 when he became assistant to the director and curator.  In 1973, he served as curator of African, Oceanic and Modern Art at the Institute and then moved to the Art Institute of Chicago, where we was curator of the Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas and an assistant professor for eight years at the School of the Art Institute.
Maurer was director of the University of Michigan Museum of Art in Ann Arbor from 1981 until he rejoined The Minneapolis Institute of Arts in 1988 as director.  While at Michigan, he became a tenured professor of art history and also chaired the Graduate Program in Museum Practice.
Headrests have been considered by many to be utilitarian or ethnographic, as some art collectors marginalize them with  this descriptive category. But markets do mature and come to understand as Marc Ginzberg and Bill Dewey have taught us that not all great works are figurative.  I have selected below 3 headrests all from the southern regions of Africa that are to some degree related by geographical style and function. To the African, this small object can become imbued with the spirit of the owner. They can be prestige items and they can be objects through which an ancestor can be contacted.  They certainly indicated status of the owner and as such were a reflection of  wealth, power, and influence. Functionally they did help keep the coiffure off the ground during sleep.

This first headrest was used by the Tsonga, who are located primarily in Zimbabwe and Mozambique to the northeast of the Zulu and Shona.  On many Tsonga headrests there are lugs suspended from either end of the horizontal element of the headrest. In most cases this is diagnostic for a Tsonga identification. Some believe that the headrest is an abstract female form where these elements represent earrings. "A headrest that has been owned and used by a particular ancestor has a value beyond anything indicated by its physical appearance. In other cases, as the headrest was consistently used and handled, it would become personalized to such a degree that upon the owner's death, he would be buried along with the headrest and other personal items. Headrests have also been described as mhamba, a Tsonga term used to describe any object, act, or even person that is used to establish a bond between the gods and people. For example, the headrest is conceived to serve as a communicating vehicle through which to contact ancestors and spirits in dreams." Metropolitan Museum website. On November 18, 2000 Sothebys sold a Shona headrest  that I would say is slightly superior to this example for  $32,375. In 2006  Gary Van Wyck of Axis gallery estimated the value of this headrest to be  $18,000 to $25,000. We are asking $12,500.
The Shona are located slightly to the west and south of the Tsonga and are also located in Zimbawqe and Mozambique as well as South Africa.  Rand tribal Art developed the following data on the Shona headrests.. "Among the Shona headrests that have survived intact are some with intensely personal designs. It is thought that these elaborately carved and embellished pieces were used only by adult men, and that each of them may have been custom-made for its individual owner. The style of headrest shown here has come to be regarded as typically Shona. There seems to be a consensus that headrests of this type have an essentially female quality, whether through the triangular notch on the base (which may refer to female genitals), or through the designs on the support (called nyora, the same name used for the scarification that Shona women used to have on their torsos). These headrests often feature different designs on the front and back of their supports, possibly referring to the front and back of a female body. Such a headrest might have been used by a man in the past by placing it outside the dwelling of one of his wives to indicate that he intended to sleep with her that night. Common on the oval or circular elements of the support are concentric circle motifs, which, in some examples are replaced by three-dimensional breast forms, but which may well refer to the ends of the conus shell (ndoro), worn as signs of status by adult Shona men and women. Because of the intensely personal character of a headrest, it is therefore not surprising that they were usually buried with their owners, to support their heads in death as they had in sleep, but they might also be passed onto their heirs after their owners died and may have become part of a collection of ancestral relics."
Klopper, 1986) as quoted in Sleeping beauties, Dewey, 1993, p. 82. This particular example is very finely carved with metal wire decorations. In 2006 Gary Van Wyck of Axis Gallery estimated the value at $25,000 to $30,000 of this Zulu headrest.  We are asking  $20,000 for this object.
We can see that the Shona, Zulu, and Tsonga all had a tradition of burying some headrests with their original owners. Through use, burying, normal wear and tear and museum acquisitions, there are fewer and fewer quality headrests on the market.  The Joss and Maurer collections are already unique in their focus and quality.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Common Sense in Your Art World

Associating common sense with the passionate pursuit of art may seem to many to be an oxymoron that can never be rationalized. The results of decisions made in haste can easily be seen to be not very prudent. But that is Monday morning quarterbacking and a talent that many in our society such as TV pundits, stock analysts, doctors etc display with exuberance. I have spoken in many articles about the importance of not being afraid to ask questions of  anyone in authority. You don't need to be an expert to have common sense.
Recently I ran into an announcement from Peter Hermann Galleries in Berlin advertising an exhibition opening on November 20th of 27 bronzes from the Paul Gran collection. At the outset in the interest of full disclosure I don't know Peter Hermann, Paul Garn or really have any knowledge of the German tribal art market.  And for the all the reasons stated above it seemed to me that the silence on the internet was deafening. If someone had found a documented fully tested collection of 27 early Benin and Ife bronzes, why isn't it news all over the internet? Why aren't people excited? But wait this is the second collection Mr. Hermann has found. His website states that in 2007 " The Gallery Peter Herrmann is showing 75 bronze objects from 11th till 19th centuries, among them heads and figures from Ife, as well as reliefs, statues, heads and animals from Benin. All objects, which came onto the market in the 20th century are certified by TL-Expertises. Opening: 28th February 2007."
The TL testing was done by Kotalla Labs which must have received clay core samples from all 75 pieces. What are the odds of having clay cores that could be tested on every object in the exhibition?
What are the odds of over 100 authentic early Ife and Benin bronzes would be found by one gallery owner in Berlin. I would say Las Vegas would be betting large against. But I am getting ahead of myself.
With 37 years in the business as a gallery owner and appraiser let's say Peter Hermann has decided to hire me as his independent consultant to advise him on the selling of his collection worldwide.  And let's say I accept with the stipulation that I have complete control and a sufficient budget to test, authenticate, and market the collection.
Step one -  test and authenticate the collection. My vetting process would answer any question posed by any potential buyer before it was asked. The authentication process includes a stylistic analysis, metallurgical and core (if present) testing, conservation analysis to determine surface conditions, production methodology, and restoration etc., and finally thorough research of the collection history. All the above would be accomplished by independent sources with no contact to Peter Hermann, the gallery, or anyone involved in the acquisition or selling of the collection. I would have two independent testing labs supervising the data sample collection and doing the actual testing.
And you say that's economically not very practical. With more than one Benin head being sold recently in the millions of dollars and with the current market for top material reaching unparalleled heights, you can't afford not to do your homework.
If the collection passes this process, it is time to market and sell the collection. I would  hire  Alain Monbrison, Paris dealer and auctioneer of the Goldet and Verite collections to sell the collection at auction. Previously unknown, authentic, early-but-well documented Benin and Ife material properly marketed worldwide to include China and the Middle East could potentially net Mr. Hermann an enormous amount of money.
Instead Mr. Hermann has chosen to not fully explore independent sources for testing and stylistic analysis and decided to become his own expert and source of authentication preferring to argue his own case (see: . Why waste the time and effort, just let the objects speak for themselves after they have been independently verified. If he has what he says, his response makes no sense. And it is not logical.

I have not reviewed Hermann's data, so I certainly can't say whether the material is authentic. Common sense says you, as a buyer, should certainly be asking questions. As an authenticator and an appraiser, there are certainly a number of red flags that need to be resolved. Maybe Peter Hermann is the luckiest guy in the world. And then again maybe he is not.

Ray Wielgus , His Guns, and Some Thoughts About Last Wishes

This month I was invited to speak at the Phoenix Museum of Art in celebration of the exhibition of the embellished gun collection of Ray Wielgus. For those of us that have admired Ray Wielgus, his extraordinary eye, and his knowledge of tribal art, we forget that he had other interests. Few people know that Ray had a world class collection of  rare books and scientific instruments. Some know that he was an amazing restorer and could make repairs to anything tribal that had a problem. It would delight Ray to know that experts will undoubtedly be discovering his work for decades to come.  There was a Bena Lulua figure covered with black paint that Ray was trying to acquire from Alan Frumpkin in Chicago. Ray didn't hesitate to drop the piece in acetone and see what was really going on under that horrible surface. At just the right moment he retrieved the figure and found that beautiful highly patinated surface with red camwood. It was a masterpiece that he acquired for $4,000. During our interview he deadpanned: "Most conservators just wouldn't do what I do." For some these actions seem reckless; but Ray knew exactly what he was doing and how aggressive he could be. He was, indeed, just a bit smarter than everyone else.
The story of the guns also reflects the talent, patience, and dedication of Ray Wielgus. After selling his company, Wielgus Product Models in 1967, Ray and Laura moved to Tucson in the early 70's. Ray no longer had the constant challenges of working at the Field Museum, or matching wits with Chicago and New York's tribal art dealers. He needed something to do. Without any training Wielgus decided that he would take old guns and fix them up and then embellish them with gold. As you might expect he had no desire to copy the artists that had gone before him. Instead Ray was inspired by Art Noveau,  Art Deco, and archaic Chinese designs. By 1974 his first gun was completed and he was on his way to creating an extraordinary collection of totally original creations. The gun folks, however, shunned him because he was an iconoclast. The gun collectors demanded that their embellished weapons be able to be fired. Ray could care less and often removed the firing pins. The gun world wanted the guns to be untouched and in their original form except for the embellishment. On occasions Ray used reproductions. The embellished gun collectors wanted curvilinear designs with animal or human figurative elements. Wielgus had no interest in pleasing an audience that was completely irrelevant in  his world.  For him the gun was a canvas and the creation was a journey that was every bit as important as the destination. He kept copious notes on each  gun and its journey. One gun near completion at the very end of the bluing process became pitted. Even though Ray had logged 700 hours in that one project he salvaged the ivory handles and sawed the rest up into tiny pieces.
Before his death Ray asked his very close friend Jim Cook and I to find a home for the second half of his gun collection which comprised in total 40 guns. Previously Ray had donated his first 26 guns to the Art Institute of Chicago. We had a number of institutions including the President of Indiana University that wanted this collection. Jim and I decided with some careful consideration that the Firearems Museum in Cody Wyoming at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center was uniquely suited to showcase the Wielgus collection. We are very hopeful that Cody will be able to work with the Art Institute to unite this collection in perpetuity. Soon the guns will leave the great installation at the Phoenix Art Museum for its permanent home in Wyoming. No word yet when the official opening will be, but certainly I will keep you informed. BBHC Director Bruce Eldredge  and their curator Warren Newman have promised that this will be a major addition to what is already an extraordinary collection.

Ray and Laura Wielgus were in my opinion generous to a fault in supporting the institutions they cherished all their lives. This couple donated art to several institutions to include both the Art Institute of Chicago and the Metropolitan Museum in New York. As a consequence of the almost five decade long friendship with Roy Sieber the entire tribal collection was donated to Indiana University.  It is in my judgment a travesty that now almost two years since his death, the University has failed to publicly acknowledge his death. You can as of this date still read the following line in their website: "In 1970, they retired and moved to Tucson. Though Laura died in 2003, Raymond remains there, where other private collectors, museums, and dealers continue to call upon his legendary connoisseurship skills and expertise." I appraised the collection, so I am certainly aware that the collection was valued in the millions of dollars. Ray and Laura have done their part. Now it's up to the institutions that he supported to do their part in giving him the respect he is due. Ray's executors and me were told well before his death that re-installation plans for the collection at the IU Museum were well underway. We have heard nothing to indicate that there are any plans to re-install either the objects transferred prior to his death or those donated in 2010 after his death.  This apparent failure to honor Ray's last wishes is upsetting but unfortunately seemingly just one more example as Ray joins the company of Albert Barnes and George Gustav Heye. I hope I am proven wrong.

End of the World?

MEXICO CITY (AP).- Mexico's archaeology institute downplays theories that the ancient Mayas predicted some sort of apocalypse would occur in 2012, but on Thursday it acknowledged that a second reference to the date exists on a carved fragment found at a southern Mexico ruin site. Most experts had cited only one surviving reference to the date in Mayan glyphs, a stone tablet from the Tortuguero site in the Gulf coast state of Tabasco.
But the National Institute of Anthropology and History said in a statement that there is in fact another apparent reference to the date at the nearby Comalcalco ruin. The inscription is on the carved or molded face of a brick. Comalcalco is unusual among Mayan temples in that it was constructed of bricks. Arturo Mendez, a spokesman for the institute, said the fragment of inscription had been discovered years ago and has been subject to thorough study. It is not on display and is being kept in storage at the institute.
The "Comalcalco Brick," as the second fragment is known, has been discussed by experts in some online forums. Many still doubt that it is a definite reference to Dec. 21, 2012 or Dec. 23, 2012, the dates cited by proponents of the theory as the possible end of the world. "Some have proposed it as another reference to 2012, but I remain rather unconvinced," David Stuart, a specialist in Mayan epigraphy at the University of Texas at Austin, said in a message to The Associated Press. Stuart said the date inscribed on the brick "'is a Calendar Round,' a combination of a day and month position that will repeat every 52 years."
The brick date does coincide with the end of the 13th Baktun; Baktuns were roughly 394-year periods and 13 was a significant, sacred number for the Mayas. The Mayan Long Count calendar begins in 3114 B.C., and the 13th Baktun ends around Dec. 21, 2012. But the date on the brick could also correspond to similar dates in the past, Stuart said. "There's no reason it couldn't be also a date in ancient times, describing some important historical event in the Classic period. In fact, the third glyph on the brick seems to read as the verb huli, "he/she/it arrives." "There's no future tense marking (unlike the Tortuguero phrase), which in my mind points more to the Comalcalco date being more historical that prophetic," Stuart wrote. Both inscriptions — the Tortuguero tablet and the Comalcalco brick — were probably carved about 1,300 years ago and both are cryptic in some ways. The Tortuguero inscription describes something that is supposed to occur in 2012 involving Bolon Yokte, a mysterious Mayan god associated with both war and creation.
However, erosion and a crack in the stone make the end of the passage almost illegible, though some read the last eroded glyphs as perhaps saying, "He will descend from the sky." The Comalcalco brick is also odd in that the molded or inscribed faces of the bricks were probably laid facing inward or covered with stucco, suggesting they were not meant to be seen. The Institute of Anthropology and History has long said rumors of a world-ending or world-changing event in late December 2012 are a Westernized misinterpretation of Mayan calendars. The institute repeated Thursday that "western messianic thought has twisted the cosmovision of ancient civilizations like the Maya." The institute's experts say the Mayas saw time as a series of cycles that began and ended with regularity, but with nothing apocalyptic at the end of a given cycle. Given the strength of Internet rumors about impending disaster in 2012, the institute is organizing a special round table of 60 Mayan experts next week at the archaeological site of Palenque, in southern Mexico, to "dispel some of the doubts about the end of one era and the beginning of another, in the Mayan Long Count calendar."

Zoot Suit Anyone?

I really enjoyed this story and my good friend "Lee" Dunbar's part in making a little history. This is repinted from

"Our November 2 fashion sale in New York City was filled with surprises but none quieted the crowd in attendance as much as the bidding for one of our featured lots, the World War II era zoot suit discovered at an estate sale in New Jersey.

     The bidding moved rapidly back and forth between bidders on the floor and those on multiple phone lines before settling in on two serious phone bidders. And the bids kept on coming.

     Auctioneer Leila Dunbar kept the crowd entranced as the rare striped wool zoot suit rose from its $500 opening bid to settle at $65,000 ($78,000 including the buyer's premium).

      The spectacular sale price sets a new world auction record for a 20th Century gentleman's garment and was also an Augusta Auctions sale record. We are pleased to share with you that this rare suit was purchased for a major American museum costume collection and it will be displayed to the public.

     During a brief time in history, 1938-1942, zoot suits were worn by hep cats of the early jazz age. The extreme design appealed to urban minorities, primarily Hispanics and African Americans. As America entered the war, restrictions on excess use of fabric were instituted and those who wore zoot suits were seen as unpatriotic.

     What made this object so desirable went far beyond it's rarity as a garment fad. We had never seen one outside of movies and newsreel clips and know of only one other in an American Museum collection - at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

      This zoot suit was made of two contrasting striped woolens, one a red & grey stripe on cream and the other a blue stripe on oatmeal. The trousers boast an extremely high waistline, a 17" zippered fly, and balloon legs tightly pegged at the cuffs. The knee length jacket has exaggerated padded shoulders, wide notched revers fashioned from the two different striped fabrics, and floppy oversized external pockets.

     A similar, though not as dramatic, example was featured in a 1942 Dorothy Dandridge and Paul White film clip that extolled the virtues of the zoot suit style in a musical soundie, the precusor to music videos."