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."