Friday, August 31, 2012

And One More Special Photo

On the shore of the Salton Sea, California

Machu Picchu revisited Summer 2012

In previous issues of the Newsletter we have discussed Hiram Bingham's discovery of Machu Picchu and the return of the Inca artifacts taken from the site to the Peruvian government by Yale University. We wanted to take a look back at the history and feature some of National Geographic's photos. We urge you to visit the National Geographic site for their extraordinary efforts to take us all to distant parts of the planet.  


After nearly 100 years, a collection of antiquities from the Inca site of Machu Picchu is going home. The artifacts have been at the center of a long and bitter custody battle between the government of Peru and Yale University.

Explorer Hiram Bingham III excavated thousands of artifacts from Machu Picchu during multiple expeditions to the Inca site in the 1910s. He is pictured above in 1917.
Harris & Ewing Collection, Library of CongressHiram Bingham III excavated thousands of artifacts from Machu Picchu during multiple expeditions to the Inca site in the 1910s. He is pictured above in 1917.
Explorer Hiram Bingham III excavated thousands of artifacts from Machu Picchu during multiple expeditions to the Inca site in the 1910s. He is pictured above in 1917.
Harris & Ewing Collection, Library of Congress
Hiram Bingham III excavated thousands of artifacts from Machu Picchu during multiple expeditions to the Inca site in the 1910s. He is pictured above in 1917.

It started back in 1911, when Yale explorer Hiram Bingham III set up his base camp in Ollantaytambo, a town high in Peru's Andes mountains. From there, he set out to explore the ancient stone ruins of Machu Picchu. Bingham introduced the site to the world through his articles for National Geographic magazine. He returned twice and excavated thousands of artifacts: ceramics, tools, jewelry and human bones — all with the consent of the Peruvian government.

"Nearly a century ago, Peru set out to establish a new way of studying its artifacts and a new way of letting its artifacts move through the world," explains Christopher Heaney, author of Cradle of Gold, a book about the life of Hiram Bingham. Heaney says that as early as 1911, Peruvians were anxious to protect their cultural patrimony from looting. They passed a law forbidding artifacts from leaving the country.



Rediscovering Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

In the Wonderland of Peru                             Published 1913

The Work Accomplished by the Peruvian Expedition of 1912, under the Auspices of Yale University and the National Geographic Society.

By Hiram Bingham, Director of the Expedition
Photograph by Hiram Bingham
This article was originally published in the April 1913 National Geographic and retains the original language and spellings.
Editor's Note
Prof. Hiram Bingham's explorations in South America, 1906-1911, and particularly his discoveries in 1911, were so important that when he was seeking funds for another Peruvian expedition in 1912, the Research Committee of the National Geographic Society made him a grant of $10,000, Yale University contributing an equal amount. His preliminary report to the National Geographic Society and Yale University of the work done in 1912 is printed herewith, and forms one of the most remarkable stories of exploration in South America in the past 50 years. The members of the Society are extremely gratified at the splendid record which Dr. Bingham and all the members of the expedition have made, and as we study the 250 marvelous pictures which are printed with this report, we also are thrilled by the wonders and mystery of Machu Picchu. What an extraordinary people the builders of Machu Picchu must have been to have constructed, without steel implements, and using only stone hammers and wedges, the wonderful city of refuge on the mountain top. —Gilbert H. Grosvener, Editor
The City of Machu Picchu, the Cradle of the Inca Empire
In 1911, while engaged in a search for Vitcos, the last Inca capital, I went down the Urubamba Valley asking for reports as to the whereabouts of ruins.
The first day out from Cuzco saw us in Urubamba, the capital of a province, a modern town charmingly located a few miles below Yucay, which was famous for being the most highly prized winter resort of the Cuzco Incas. The next day brought us to Ollantaytambo, vividly described by Squier in his interesting book on Peru. Its ancient fortress, perched on a rocky eminence that commands a magnificent view up and down the valley, is still one of the most attractive ancient monuments in America.
Continuing on down the valley over a newly constructed government trail, we found ourselves in a wonderful cañon. So lofty are the peaks on either side that although the trail was frequently shadowed by dense tropical jungle, many of the mountains were capped with snow, and some of them had glaciers. There is no valley in South America that has such varied beauties and so many charms.
Not only has it snow-capped peaks, great granite precipices, some of them 2,000 feet sheer, and a dense tropical jungle; it has also many reminders of the architectural achievements of a bygone race. The roaring rapids of the Urubamba are frequently narrowed by skillfully constructed ancient retaining walls. Wherever the encroaching precipices permitted it, the land between them and the river was terraced. With painstaking care the ancient inhabitants rescued every available strip of arable land from the river. On one sightly bend in the river, where there is a particularly good view, and near a foaming waterfall, some ancient chief built a temple whose walls, still standing, only serve to tantalize the traveler, for there is no bridge within two days' journey and the intervening rapids are impassable. On a precipitous and well-nigh impregnable cliff, walls made of stones carefully fitted together had been placed in the weak spots, so that the defenders of the valley, standing on the top of the cliff, might shower rocks on an attacking force without any danger of their enemies being able to scale the cliff.
The road, following in large part an ancient footpath, is sometimes .......


The text and photos have all come from National Geographics website.
Urubamba River below Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu at sunrise

And my favorite

Photo Summer 2012


On September 24, 2011, over 2,200 paddlers showed up on the shores of the central Adirondack town of Inlet, New York (population, 400) to set a new Guinness World Record previously held by 1,619 boats in Pittsburgh. The official tally was 1,902 boats, forming the largest raft of canoes/kayaks in the world.
The event, called ‘the One Square Mile of Hope‘, was organized by Connie Perry, and the initiative helped raise over $80,000 towards Breast Cancer research. Not all of 1,902 boats can be seen in this incredible aerial photograph by Nancie Battaglia. See here for a more inclusive shot that is not framed as nicely as the one above.

More African Art

Waist Pendant

Benin Edo
Ht. 6 3/4"
Nigeria, West Africa
Jay Last Collection, Beverly Hills

Waist Pendant with Oba and Two Attendants
The central figure on this pendant represents the oba, or king, of Benin flanked by important court officials. The scene symbolizes support for the oba, who in turn sustains the nation. The pendant was worn by the oba on a belt around his waist at state events.
  • Beatrice Reise Collection, Brooklyn Museum, NY
  • Culture: Edo
  • Medium: Copper alloy
  • Place Made: Benin, Edo State, Nigeria
  • Dates: mid-16th-early 17th century
  • Dimensions: 8 x 6 1/4 x 2 1/4 in (20.3 x 15.9 x 5.7 cm) (show scale)

Pre-Columbian Art Summer 2012

Snuff Scoop

Atacama, Chile
Ht. 5 1/4" Bone
Snuff inhaled through tubes from small trays or tablets was common in the southern Andes where hallucinogen use was widespread. Wooden snuff trays have a shallow rectangular cavity at one end and human or animal motifs or a combination of both at the other. This snuff tablet is presumed to have come from the San Pedro de Atacama area and its overall form is consistent with Atacama works, but stylistic features relate it to more northern areas. Embellished with open latticework topped by a crouching creature known as the "moon animal," it is associated with the art of Recuay in central highland Peru. From the top of the animal's head—it has big, round eyes and a gaping mouth—descends a flowing, manelike appendage with two large curls that meet the rounded-up tail. The animal holds a trophy head in its massive front paws. Although trophy head imagery is common on Atacama snuff trays, this tray may be an import into the region rather than a local variant.
In the Atacama region of northern Chile, the highest concentration of wooden snuff trays has been found in burials in association with other paraphernalia, such as inhaling tubes, spatulas, small mortars and pestles, and snuff powder containers. The snuff, prepared from leaves, resin, and seeds of various plants dried and finely ground, was used to cure various ailments, to alleviate pain and conditions associated with high altitudes, to provide alertness in war and hunting, and to induce trances during rituals and ceremonies.
Snuff inhaled through tubes from small trays or tablets was common in the southern Andes where hallucinogen use was widespread. Wooden snuff trays have a shallow rectangular cavity at one end and human or animal motifs or a combination of both at the other. on Atacama snuff trays, this tray may be an import into the region rather than a local variant.
In the Atacama region of northern Chile, the highest concentration of wooden snuff trays has been found in burials in association with other paraphernalia, such as inhaling tubes, spatulas, small mortars and pestles, and snuff powder containers. The snuff, prepared from leaves, resin, and seeds of various plants dried and finely ground, was used to cure various ailments, to alleviate pain and conditions associated with high altitudes, to provide alertness in war and hunting, and to induce trances during rituals and ceremonies.

African Art Summer 2012


Kuba mask

This mask, which is called pwoom itok, is danced ceremonially at funerals, initiations and entertainment festivals.
Literature Comparables: 1. African Art in American Collections, 1989, Nooter and Robbins, plate 1075 2. Treasures from Africa-Museum Tervuren, 1995 p. 157
Ht. 9" C. 1900
Price on Request

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Changes At The Top Summer 2012

Kimerly Rorschach

"Kimerly Rorschach, director of Duke University’s Nasher Museum of Art since 2004, has been named the new director of Seattle Art Museum, effective this fall. Today’s announcement comes a little over a year after Derrick Cartwright stepped down from the position to “take a break” and pursue his own projects; in that time, the museum’s board did an international search for his replacement while simultaneously naming a new modern and contemporary art curator. Lots of big changes at SAM.
Rorschach comes to Seattle from Chapel Hill, NC, where she served as the founding director of $23 million-dollar, Rafael Vinoly-designed Nasher Museum, which replaced the old Duke University Museum of Art in 2005. Under her leadership it’s become one of the more interesting on-campus art museums in the country, host to high-profile traveling exhibits such as El Greco to Velázquez: Art during the Reign of Philip III and The Record: Contemporary Art and Vinyl (currently on display at Henry Art Gallery) —with works by Talking Heads front man David Byrne, Laurie Anderson, and Christian Marclay—in addition to a modern art collection ranging from Andy Warhol to Ai Weiwei.
A Fulbright scholar with a Ph.D. from Yale in art history, Rorschach is also an adjunct professor in Duke’s department of art, art history, and visual studies, where she teaches a "Museum Theory and Practice" undergraduate course. "Her interests include 17th- and 18th-century art, particularly in England; museum history and theory; patronage and collecting; the art market; art law; and legal, economic, and political issues in museums and the history of art," according to her faculty bio. Before joining the Duke team, Rorschach served as director of the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago for 10 years. She’s currently the president of the Association of Art Museum Directors.
According to a SAM release, Rorschach will move to Seattle with her husband John F. Hart, a scholar in American Constitutional law and history who currently teaches at Duke University. Rorschach and Hart have two grown daughters."
As noted above Dr. Rorschach is the current President of the American Association of Museum Directors. This is important in that her potential input could impact AAMD's position on museum acquisition policy. It is thought that she will continue to support what has become the status quo, which is a problem of many members of AAM.

My Word Summer 2012

This summer went by in about five minutes. A good bit of it was spent driving and in fact one 3500 mile trip took me from Dallas to Rapid City, South Dakota back across the country to Chicago then down to Cincinnati and finally back to Dallas. Besides my colleagues wondering why someone who has been in business for almost 40 years would still do this and my wife seriously considering an intervention and grab for my car keys, it still remains the only way in one trip you can see many collectors and curators on their home turf. The trip was enlightening having the opportunity to visit the Blacks Hills, the Sioux Rosebud Reservation, multiple museums and curators, and many objects at the Roadshows in Rapid City and Cincinnati.

The low point of the trip was my visit to Indiana and the museum exhibition in Bloomington. What happened here and at other institutions that I have commented on in this Newsletter should give us all incentive to make sure we get our last wishes codified and as legally sound as possible. There is no such thing as an understanding that trumps a signed contract with independent lawyers on both sides.

The economy seems to still have no impact on the high end of the market. There also continues to be collectors entering the marketplace to take advantage of price corrections that have resulted from more objects coming on the market. The Santa Fe Indian market this month was mixed as it has been the past years. What was different again was well priced less expensive objects being sold successfully by dealers who priced to sell. Looking at the third and fourth level regional auctions this market seems alive and well.

The appraisal business has been extremely active for the past year. We have expanded our services to meet new market demands  and are now working with owners on the entire art and antiques collection within estates as consultants in the appraisal and disposition of the objects. So if you are facing this issue, let us earn your business. It is a tough economic climate. We would like very much to assist you  and your family in navigating through the tough challenges as you downsize or make financial plans for the future. After almost 40 years in business, 17 years with Antiques Roadshow, and more than 20 years as a member of the International Society of Appraisers, we have a great network. JB

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Auctions Summer 2012

1. LOS ANGELES (AP).- July 31, 2012 A watch worn by Steve McQueen in "Le Mans" sold for nearly $800,000 at an auction of film memorabilia.

The auction house Profiles in History said Tuesday the Heuer wrist watch sported by the actor in the 1971 action movie sold for $799,500. A signed U.S. passport belonging to McQueen fetched $46,125.

Other items that were sold included a miniature drop-ship used in "Aliens" for $225,000; Groucho Marx's wire-rim glasses from "A Night at the Opera" for $86,100; and Vivien Leigh's hat from "Gone with the Wind" for $67,650.

One bidder coughed up $98,400 for Marlon Brando's assassination jacket from "The Godfather." A personal copy of the 1971 film's script signed by Brando went for $55,000.

The buyers were not identified.

BEVERLY HILLS, CA.- The Gold Standard names of Entertainment & Music memorabilia shone brightly on July 24 at Heritage Auctions’ $878,000+ Signature® Beverly Hills event, as an Academy Special Award©®™ (realized: $98,500), the rarest Beatles promo record of them all (realized: $35,000) and a Marilyn Monroe-signed headshot (realized: $32,500) – inscribed to LAPD office Roy Garrett, who let the star off with a warning in exchange for the pic – topped the considerable offerings in Beverly Hills. All prices include Buyer’s Premium.

“The bidding was spirited and steady all day long,” said Margaret Barrett, Director of Entertainment & Music Auctions at Heritage, “with major names dominating collector attention and bids.”

The Academy Special Award©®™ was presented to Thomas Armat in 1947 for his pioneering work on inventing the first patented American film projector continued the string of impressive prices for pre-1950 Academy Awards©®™, while the rarest Beatles Promo 45 of them all, “Ask Me Why”/ “Anna” (Vee-Jay Special DJ No. 8, 1964), in realizing $35,000, demonstrated the continuing viability of The Beatles as the greatest – and most collectible – rock band of the all.

The true star of the show, however, was the greatest Hollywood starlet of all time, Marilyn Monroe, as a host of Monroe-related memorabilia was featured in the auction, garnering significant national and international press, and realizing impressive prices for the top pieces. No item got more attention or bids than a Marilyn Monroe signed black and white photograph, circa 1956, which realized an astounding $32,500 against a pre-auction estimate of $8,000+.

The headshot came to auction from The Roy Garrett Collection, A Beverly Hills police officer who joined the force in 1946. Garrett would frequently stop movie stars and would occasionally ask them to send him an autographed photo.

“Most of them did,” said Barrett. “He evidently let Marilyn go without a ticket as he received this from her in the mail a few days later. It’s the star in one of her legendary glamour poses and, written in blue fountain pen it reads: ‘To Roy,/Love & Kisses and/thanks for keeping me/out of the clink!/ Marilyn Monroe.’”

Two more Monroe-associated items figured prominently in the top portion of the auction, with her likely Final Signed Check, dated Aug. 4, 1962, attracting significant media attention and surpassing its’ pre-auction estimate to finish the day at $15,000 – the check was to Pilgrim’s Furniture and was for $228.80 – while Monroe’s hot pink Pucci Blouse, circa 1962, inspired many collectors to bid to the final tune of $12,500.

Further highlights include, but are not limited to:

Johnny Cash Personally-Owned and Stage-Played Guitar Made by Danny Ferrington: A majestic black acoustic guitar played and loved by the Man in Black himself. Realized: $30,000.

A Gloria Swanson Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences 'Certificate of Nomination for Award' for “Sunset Boulevard,” Paramount, 1950: Presented to the star, text reads in part “Be it known that/Gloria Swanson/was nominated for an Academy Award of Merit/for Outstanding Achievement/Best Actress/Sunset Boulevard.” Realized: $18,750.

George Harrison original drawing (2000): George Harrison drew this for his friend Danny Ferrington, called the “Calvin Klein of guitars.” George created this drawing of Danny's workshop while the two were in Hawaii together, and signed it “Keoki,” Hawaiian for “George.” Realized: $15,000.

Carlos Santana Personally-Owned and Signed 1991 Tom Anderson Guitarworks Classic Model Guitar: A gorgeous black finish, double cutaway guitar, Serial Number 07-08-91P, signed in silver paint pen on the lower bass bout by Carlos Santana. Realized: $15,000.

Pearl Jam 1993 Favorite New Artist, Pop/ Rock American Music Award to Dave Abbruzzese: This band has always been a bit hard to categorize as illustrated by the American Music Awards in 1993. They won as Favorite New Artist in both Pop/ Rock AND Metal/ Hard Rock. Offered here is the actual pyramid-shaped crystal award statue, 4.5" x 14.25" x 4.5", given to drummer Dave Abbruzzese, from his personal collection. Realized: $11,875."
3. LONDON.- Sotheby's London presents its inaugural “Collections” auction on Thursday, 27th September 2012. Sourced from distinguished and aristocratic private collections, the sale will offer clients the opportunity to acquire a wealth of fine and decorative arts dating from the sixteenth to the twentieth Century. Assembled from a diverse array of locations ranging from the grand state rooms of a Roman Palazzo, to a Lutyens-designed manor house in England previously owned by the flamboyant American businessman Tom Perkins, the auction will offer an exciting combination of decorative and important objects, including English and Continental furniture, clocks, tapestries, rugs, silver, Chinese export porcelain, sculpture and Old Master Paintings. The sale has been carefully curated, focussing on exciting privately-owned items which are fresh to the market – and in the case of specially commissioned works – appearing for the very first time. The 306 lots which have a combined estimate in excess of £1.7 million, range in value from £500-100,000.

Mario Tavella, Deputy Chairman, Sotheby’s Europe and Henry House, Senior Director and Head of Department, English Furniture, commented: “We are delighted to present the first of our “Collections” auctions, which have been designed to offer our decorative arts and furniture clients a completely new perspective. Here, carefully curated in one auction, we have, in effect, discrete single owner sales, each offering historic, fresh to the market works, which should delight the decorator, connoisseur and collector alike.”

The auction provides a glimpse of collections within collections and also the collectors who built them – from Frederick McCarthy’s 14 exquisitely painted eighteenth century Chinese teapots (est. £4,000-6,000), offered as one lot – to the modern, with Tom Perkins’ model of a Bugatti (£4,000-6,000), a much-loved desk ornament and reminder of his legendary collection of super-charged vintage sports cars.

From the Collection of Mr and Mrs Frederick McCartney, the sale features a suite of exquisite and very rare Chinese export wallpaper panels dating from the 18th Century, estimated at £15,000-25,000. By the mid-18th century Chinese painted export wallpapers were a highly sought after commodity. Imported directly by the East India Company, similar sets to this appeared in great rooms throughout England.

An elegant pair of George III carved giltwood elbow chairs by England’s greatest cabinet maker, Thomas Chippendale, are estimated to realise £20,000-£30,000. The chairs, which relate closely to a large group in the Royal Collection, may have been part of an impressive commission by HRH Prince William Henry, 1st Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh, King George III’s younger brother. On the prince’s death it was divided between his two children and at some point in the early 19th century entered the Royal Collection.

From an Aristocratic Italian Collection comes a wonderful group of early works of art, including a spectacular Renaissance allegorical tapestry, from the series depicting the planets after woodcuts by the German artist Georg Pencz. Flemish, dating from the mid-sixteenth century, the tapestry depicts the sun (Leo) ascending to the heavens in a chariot, and is estimated at £50,000-60,000.

Also featured is a nineteenth century oil on canvas by Rosa Bonheur, an artist renowned for her animal studies. The atmospheric Les Muletiers, depicts a pair of mule drivers urging on their small flock of sheep and cattle as dusk falls, and is estimated at £30,000-50,000. The painting was executed in 1854, a year before Bonheur’s most celebrated work, the monumental Horse Fair, which led to her international fame and recognition.

From Plumpton Place, the Lutyens manor house formerly owned by Tom Perkins, comes an eclectic offering reflecting the collecting passions of the legendary venture capitalist. “Neptun”, a solid silver, fully rigged model ship almost a metre high, dating from the early years of the twentieth century, is estimated to realise £15,000-20,000. Richly embossed and chased with mythological scenes and allegories of the Continents and Commerce, the ship was positioned before the leaded staircase window at Plumpton. The owner of many beautiful and historic yachts, Tom Perkins is most celebrated for his commission of his 289- foot super-yacht, The Maltese Falcon. This nef is a reflection of his continuing love of the sea.

Art Donations - More Orphans Now and in the Future

This New York Times article points out a serious problem in the art world that has been created as a result of the new AAM (American Association of Museums) collecting guidelines. Collectors that started after 1970 that are now downsizing as they enter their 60s are finding that they have limited options for passing on their collections. The options are pretty clearly limited for most to giving them to the family or selling them. The wealthiest collectors are creating trusts or foundations to  circumvent issues where museums could be compelled to return objects that had been donated and had become part of the museum's collections. The UNESCO convention and UNIDROIT will in my opinion in the future exert increased pressures on governments to infringe on the property rights of private citizens. The new AAM guidelines are just one manifestation of this movement that creates some problematic precedents for the future. So far no one has given me an adequate answer to the rationale for creating one standard for objects being considered for acquisition and another standard for those objects aleady in the collection. Understandably no one wants to talk about this but it really is the 10,000 pound gorilla in the room. There is no intellectual honesty in maintaining two standards.

"In the three decades since David Dewey of Minneapolis began collecting Chinese antiquities he has donated dozens to favored museums, enriching the Institute of Arts in his hometown as well as Middlebury College in Vermont, where he studied Mandarin.

Allen Brisson-Smith for The New York Times
David Dewey bought these Yuan dynasty artifacts from a dealer 15 years ago, but many museums now seek a more extensive provenance for gifts. 
Stefano Buonamici for The New York Times
“Antiquities collecting destroys far more than it saves,” said Ricardo J. Elia, a Boston University archaeology professor on a field study in Spain.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
This Olmec-era statuette owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art has a provenance dating to 1972 — not early enough for current guidelines for donations.
Ralph Toporoff, Courtesy of Jensen Fine Arts
Amid the artifacts with undisputed provenance in the home of Alan M. Dershowitz, there is a sarcophagus for which there is no proof of when and how it left Egypt.
But his giving days are largely over, he said, pre-empted by guidelines that most museums now follow on what objects they can accept.
“They just won’t take them — can’t take them,” Mr. Dewey said.
Alan M. Dershowitz, the Harvard law professor, is in a similar bind. An antiquities collector, he is eager to sell an Egyptian sarcophagus he bought from Sotheby’s in the early 1990s. But he is stymied, he said, because auction houses are applying tighter policies to the items they accept for consignment.
“I can’t get proof of when it came out of Egypt,” Mr. Dershowitz said.
Across the country measures taken to curb the trade in looted artifacts are making it more difficult for collectors of antiquities to donate, or sell, the cultural treasures that fill their homes, display cases and storage units.
Museums typically no longer want artifacts that do not have a documented history stretching back past 1970, a date set by the Association of Art Museum Directors, whose guidelines most institutions have adopted. Drawn up in 2008, the rules have been applauded by countries seeking to recover their artifacts and by archaeologists looking to study objects in their natural settings.
But the sweeping shift in attitudes has left collectors stuck with items they say they purchased in good faith many years ago from reputable dealers. One study found that as many as 100,000 privately owned ancient Greek, Roman and related Classical objects in the United States would be unable to pass muster with most museums.
“Objects are guilty until proven innocent,” said James J. Lally, a Manhattan dealer in Chinese art and antiquities.
Collectors and their advocates predict that museums, cultural scholarship and the items themselves will suffer as important gifts are disallowed. Kate Fitz Gibbon, a lawyer with the Cultural Policy Research Institute, warned at a March forum that museums, long reliant on the generosity of collectors, may come to regard the guidelines as a “self-administered slow poison.” “This may sound like an exaggeration,” she said. “But if we continue on this path, there may not be a next generation of collectors, donors and patrons of ancient art, not in the United States of America anyway.” There are many on the other side of the question who view Ms. Fitz Gibbon’s perspective as hyperbolic.
“Antiquities collecting destroys far more than it saves,” said Ricardo J. Elia, an archaeology professor at Boston University who specializes in the global art market. “Looting is driven by the art market, by supply and demand.”
For centuries collectors have helped define artistic taste, and their collections, whether assembled for vanity, beauty, profit or some combination thereof, have been the backbone of museums. But the antiquities trade begins, at its source, with an act of appropriation: the removal of artifacts from a native site to one where, in the case of museums, they can be more accessible to scholars and the public.
Whatever air of nobility once attached to that effort has dissipated recently as antiquities collectors are increasingly depicted as the beneficiaries of a villainous trade.
Collectors and their advocates insist the depiction is unfair, particularly when it recasts acquisitions made decades ago, when cultural sensibilities were different, as the illicit booty of indifferent rascals.
“Even objects that entirely lack history are also not necessarily smuggled or looted,” said William G. Pearlstein, a New York lawyer who advises collectors and dealers in the antiquities trade. “Many owners simply failed to keep records of their objects, which they treated like other household possessions.”
Archaeologists scoff at the suggestion of naïveté, since collectors are typically educated, wealthy people who understand the relationship between provenance and value and are not likely to let important documents fall behind the couch.
“Collectors know that without provenance it is impossible to know whether an object was first acquired by illegal or destructive means,” said Neil J. Brodie, an archaeologist and former director of the Illicit Antiquities Research Centre at the University of Cambridge.
Momentum for stricter guidelines has been building since a United Nations convention on looted antiquities in 1970 led to international protocols. It accelerated several years ago in the aftermath of major acquisition scandals at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and other institutions that ultimately led to the new policies drawn up by the museum directors. They strongly discourage museums from buying or accepting objects that cannot pass the 1970 test or lack an export permit from the country of origin.
On the auction side collectors and their advocates say the nation’s two largest houses, Sotheby’s and Christie’s, have tightened their policies in recent years, though Sotheby’s is currently embroiled in a dispute with Cambodia over a 10th-century Khmer statue.
Antiquities dealers say their clients feel boxed in. Randall Hixenbaugh, a Manhattan gallery owner and appraiser, said he knew a donor with good paperwork who was turned away by a museum because his dossier lacked a pre-1970 photograph showing the item in the United States. “The intention is good,” he said. “Museums are not buying objects of dubious provenance. But there are unintended consequences for objects that were here for 150 years but not documented as such.”
Several years ago the Cultural Policy Research Institute, based in Santa Fe, N.M., surveyed American collectors and museums and estimated that as many as 111,900 ancient objects from Greek, Roman, Etruscan and related cultures are in private American hands and “unprovenanced.”
Arthur A. Houghton III, president of the institute, said that if rejected by museums, these “orphaned” items will likely end up in private hands outside the country.
Mr. Houghton is a former acting curator of the Getty who resigned his post there in 1986 after accusing the museum of willfully accepting illegally excavated antiquities. Now he says the pendulum has swung too far back in a way that places significant objects “at risk of damage or destruction.”
Professor Elia dismisses talk of “orphaning” as patronizing “mythology.”
“It ignores the fact that dealing and collecting are causing looting in the first place,” he said from Spain, where he is overseeing a field study. “For every object ‘rescued’ by looters, dealers and collectors, there is a trail of destroyed sites, lost knowledge, broken artifacts and broken laws.”
Lawrence Rothfield, founder of the Cultural Policy Center at the University of Chicago and a member of Saving Antiquities for Everyone, said the study wrongly suggests the entire lot of privately owned, unprovenanced artifacts are museum worthy. “Even if the objects in question were not excluded from acquisition,” he said, “most of them would not be acquired anyway.”
What is clear is that collectors are uneasy. They worry that placing undocumented items for auction exposes them to litigation from foreign nations or perhaps a seizure effort from United States authorities acting as their agent. Many expressed their concerns at a forum in March, hosted by the Asia Society in New York and titled “The Future of the Past: Collecting Ancient Art in the 21st Century,” where collectors spoke of a “climate of fear.”
Mr. Dewey, the antiquities collector, said in an interview that he contemplated giving the Minneapolis museum an eighth-century ceramic horse from the Tang dynasty that he had bought from a Hong Kong dealer 20 years ago. But he decided not to do it because even with the paperwork from the sale, he said, he knew he would run up against the museum directors’ guidelines. “Everybody just got scared,” he said of the museum world.
One former museum director suggested that when a museum declines a gift, it can strain relations with a longstanding benefactor. Marc F. Wilson, who oversaw the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo., from 1982 to 2010, said museums must be more careful but ought not leave benefactors feeling, in effect: “You can’t take my items? So you can’t take my $30 million either?”
Dougald O’Reilly, founder and director of Heritage Watch, a nonprofit that focuses on preserving Southeast Asian cultural heritage, sees it differently.
“In many cases collectors donate antiquities to museums for a tax break, hardly a completely altruistic act,” he said. “Why would it be objectionable to return the items to their country of origin? The oft-quoted reason is the ‘inability’ of developing countries to care for their antiquities. Surely it is time people stopped using this condescending argument.”
Despite the rhetoric, professionals on both sides are exploring ways to bridge the gulf. At the Asia Society forum Julian Raby, director of the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, urged a system under which American museums might provide funds for archaeological excavations and benefit by sharing the discoveries with host nations.
Mr. Houghton suggests creating an amnesty of sorts for collectors who post facts and photos about potentially contested artifacts on a “credible and neutral” database. If the item is not claimed after some number of years, he said, its ownership could no longer be contested.
The museum directors’ association actually hosts such a Web site and asks that museums taking in an undocumented artifact post photos and other data that can be reviewed around the world.
Patty Gerstenblith, director of the Center for Art, Museum and Cultural Heritage Law at DePaul University in Chicago, said that four years after the Web site went up the number of items posted, more than 550 this week, seems small. (Two museums account for 418 of the items.) “This raises a serious question as to whether museums are failing to post their acquisitions on the registry,” she said.
Mr. O’Reilly said he did not believe that heightened scrutiny by museums or dealers threatens to orphan a large set of objects that were lovingly collected by people with a passion for antiquity. “That implies the collectors no longer want them if they can’t give them away, which surely is not the case,” he said.
Mr. Dershowitz said that while he is disappointed, he is not distraught about his inability to sell the wooden Egyptian sarcophagus he purchased from Sotheby’s. He had sent it to Christie’s several months ago for auction, but Christie’s demurred.
“They told me it was perfectly legal to keep or sell it,” he said, “but it was not their policy to sell it unless it was absolutely documented that it left Egypt before 1970,” something he and both auction houses are unable to establish. So for now it’s in limbo.
Meanwhile, he said, he had another Egyptian sarcophagus at home in Cambridge, this one of granite, that he bought for about $35,000 from Christie’s about the same time. He isn’t even trying to sell that one. “I’m keeping that in the house,” he said, “in the hall.”

The Art Market July 2012

1. "The top end of the art market appears to keep climbing, despite fresh crises in the currency and banking markets and ongoing turmoil in the Eurozone. The reportedly strong sales at Art Basel (13-17 June) indicate a buoyancy bearing little relationship to the problems in the global economy and the fact that major financial institutions are still struggling with risk management—J.P. Morgan was one of several banks to be downgraded by the credit agencies in June after losing $2bn in trades of illiquid credit derivatives. Meanwhile, according to a report in the New York Times, the growth of the art market is outstripping GDP (gross domestic product).
The $78m price tag for Untitled, 1954, a large orange canvas by the late Mark Rothko offered by Marlborough Gallery at Art Basel, was both a statement of intent and an indicator of confidence, at least at the very top level of the market. Works of this quality are rarely offered so openly by dealers, but the piece had been coaxed out of a private Swiss collection after the record-breaking $86.9m sale of another work by Rothko, Orange, Red, Yellow, 1961, at Christie’s a month earlier. “The best art has proved resilient.

Art Basel, and the quality it purveys, proves rather reassuring in such turbulent times,” says Andrew Renton, the director of Marlborough Contemporary. The 1954 Rothko was yet to find a buyer as we went to press, though Renton says that there are “very serious offers under discussion”.

Remarkably, 11 of the top 20 works ever sold at auction have hammered down since 2008, including the top three lots, which have all sold for more than $100m since 2010. New records have also been consistently set for individual artists. There was excitement at Christie’s sale of contemporary art in London on 27 June when a record £12.9m ($20.2m) was paid for Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled, 1981, breaking the previous record of $16.3m, set in May at Phillips de Pury in New York. This came 22 lots after a new record was set for a work by Yves Klein, when Le Rose du bleu (RE 22), 1960, sold for £23.6m ($36.8m), edging past the $36.5m record paid at Christie’s New York—again, just a month before.

According to Benjamin Mandel, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York who has been studying the art trade, comparing the overall economy and the art market is misguided: it is the fortunes of the super-rich that should be used as the measure at the highest end. “The historical relationship between the global economy and art purchases is pretty normal at present,” he says. “The fraction of income that the super-rich are spending [on art] remains consistent—they just happen to have more money.”

Changes in wealth distribution since 2008 mean that the number of high-net-worth individuals (commonly defined as having at least $1m in divestible assets) reached its highest ever level of 11 million last year, holding an estimated $42 trillion in net wealth, according to a report by Capgemini/RBC Wealth Management. Following in the footsteps of wider economic changes, the very top of the art market is enjoying rude health while the middle is struggling. At the recent London sales of impressionist and modern art, Joan Miró’s Peinture (Etoile Bleue), 1927, made a record £23.6m, but works of lesser quality were shunned.

The geographic concentration of wealth has expanded, too, and this is having an impact on traditional investments. In newer econ­omies with more volatile, or less mature, financial markets, the rich spend more on luxury assets, including art, jewellery, wine and cars. According to a recent survey of 2,000 of the world’s super-rich individuals by Barclays Wealth, respondents in the United Arab Emirates hold 18% of their wealth in such assets, closely followed by the Chinese and Saudi Arabians (both 17%) and the Brazilians (15%)—compared with 9% of Americans, who tend to focus on more traditional investments.

Buyers from China and Qatar are entering the trade at this luxury level: they account for at least a quarter of the top 20 works sold at auction. There has been a parallel boom in private sales, including the reported $250m acquisition of Cézanne’s The Card Players, around 1893, by Qatar last year. The expansion is not without problems, however. One of the most expensive works to sell at auction, an 18th-century Qianlong-dynasty porcelain vase that went for £51.6m ($83m) in 2010 at Bainbridges Auctions in England, is a record only on paper—the buyers have yet to pay for it.

Although many of the buyers might be new, they are largely ­adhering to the traditional tenets of the trade: provenance, rarity, condition, supply and demand. Ten of the 11 record works sold since 2008 came from a named, established seller. “In the previous boom, between 2006 and 2008, people were more risky about what they were buying, but now they are looking for things with a historical footprint,” says the art economist Clare McAndrew. “Art at that level is an infrequent purchase, and an easy way to reduce your risk is to rely on established patterns set by other people. This is why people tend to be influenced by what others are buying, which reinforces the idea that some artists are the best.”

Sotheby’s 2007 auction of Rothko’s White Centre (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose), 1950, is a testament to the power of provenance. The work belonged to David and the late Peggy Rockefeller. Because the proceeds were going to charity, David Rockefeller agreed to be photographed on the cover of Art + Auction magazine: the work sold for a then-record $72.8m. The next evening, Christie’s sold a Rothko comparable in size and date, albeit with less dramatic colouring and a less impressive provenance, which went for $29.9m. This is noted in the recent book The Value of Art by Michael Findlay, a director of Acquavella Galleries and former head of Christie’s impressionist and modern department. Pointing out that such prestigious pedigree is unusual, he argues that “if something is great, provenance isn’t actually necessary—it lends more value to works of secondary quality, because the buyer will boast about the name if it is of note.”

Unique works are not always the record-breakers; the top three works sold at auction so far are serial pieces. Giacometti’s Walking Man I, 1960, which was briefly the world’s most expensive work at auction when it sold for £65m ($104.3m) in February 2010, was cast in an edition of eight. It was overtaken three months later by the $106.5m paid for Picasso’s 1932 Nude, Green Leaves and Bust. The painting is part of a celebrated series that includes Le Rêve, 1932, which sold to the hedge-fund manager Steve Cohen in 2006 for $139m (before its owner, Steve Wynn, called off the deal after accidentally sticking his elbow through the canvas). Edvard Munch’s The Scream, 1895, took the top slot in May when it sold for $120m—the work is one of four versions.

The serial context provides reassurance for buyers and an associated value. It also indicates a conflation of rarity with supply: although there are four versions of The Scream, the others are in public museums and unlikely to come to the market. “Supply is what drives buyers to go higher,” Findlay says. “There are lots of Monet Haystacks, but the opportunity to buy one would be unique because they are all in institutions.” Such limited supply fuels demand. “It takes at least 30 years, on average, for a work to come onto the market if it is in private hands, and these supply dynamics have worked in the market’s favour,” McAndrew says. “Art is a level above luxury goods: prices can catapult with the knowledge of a work’s scarcity because the super-rich compete to buy one piece.”

While condition is key, the definition of “good” varies according to the work. A Donald Judd in great condition means something quite different to a top-notch work by Rembrandt. “It’s all relative. An impressionist painting from 1880 in great condition may be relined, it may have frame abrasion on the edges—but those things are normal,” Findlay says.

The pursuit of blue-chip works has gained momentum because of the turmoil in other markets. “Art is portable and liquid, and can be traded in different currencies,” said Andrew Fabricant, a director at the Richard Gray Gallery, speaking during Art Basel. However, although blue-chip works are seen as safe havens, “the longer-term trend is that they tend to underperform compared with the rest of the market,” Benjamin Mandel warns.

The investment value of art is difficult to track: the art market comprises a series of mini-markets, each performing differently. The trade is lightly legislated, largely private and lacks the underpinning structure of, for example, a stock exchange. Nonetheless, using publicly available auction data, Mandel found that “the patterns of long-run returns for works of art don’t really conform to the definition of a good investment—the average return is very low, around 2% to 3%, and the volatility of those returns is very high.” He believes that the market can be better understood with the introduction of a “conspicuous consumption” model. “Art acquisitions are not only about the quality of a work and the price,” he says. “If a work hangs on a wall, then the buyer gets a ‘consumption flow’. They also get some benefits as a signal of the price they paid, so if you formalise that in a quantitative sense, it helps explain the financial sums.”

Mandel is reluctant to make predictions, but says that “if income inequality continues to increase, then you might expect to turn a profit at the top end of the market. But, on the other hand, if you’re buying a work as an insurance against losing money in other assets, it’s not clear whether the trend might reverse itself once the global economy looks more normal.”

It is worth bearing in mind that the close correlation between regional prosperity and growth in the art market is not a new phenomenon. The $82.5m that the Japanese paper magnate Ryoei Saito spent at Christie’s in 1990 on Van Gogh’s Portrait of Dr Gachet, 1890, equates to $145m in today’s terms, which means it theoretically reigns as the most expensive work at auction. The art-market boom in the late 1980s was fuelled by newly rich Japanese on an art-buying spree. This stopped abruptly in 1991 with the collapse of Japanese property prices and sparked an entrenched art-market recession. If the current slowdown in China accelerates, for example, this could have a major impact on the trade." The Art Newspaper

2. LONDON.- Tonight in a dramatic bidding battle at Sotheby’s London saleroom, a new benchmark was set when Joan Miró’s 1927 modern masterpiece Peinture (Étoile Bleue) sold for £23,561,250 / $36,946,396 / €29,260,764, exceeding the pre-sale estimate of £15-20 m / US$ 23.7 - 31.6 m / € 18.4 -24.5 m and shattering the previous record for the artist at auction. The hammer fell after a tense stand-off among four bidders, with offers jumping in large increments before the work was finally won by a telephone buyer. The sum paid was the highest price for a work of art sold in London thus far this year. Miró’s painting was the top lot in a sale which realised £75,046,850 / $117,680,965 / € 93,200,835 (est. £73- £102.6m / $114.4 -160.9m / € 90.5-127.3m). This brings the combined total for Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art sales worldwide this year to £435m / $692.6 m / €504.2, an increase of 12.4 % on the same period last year.

Helena Newman, Chairman of Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art Department, Europe, said: “We are thrilled to have been able to offer Miró’s Peinture (Étoile Bleue) in tonight’s auction. At a time of unprecedented demand for the best examples of 20th-Century art, this masterpiece by Miró not only shattered the previous record for the artist (set only four months ago at £16.8 million), but also made more than three times the price it achieved five years ago.”

Further Statistics:
• The average lot value of the works sold this evening was £2,275,843.
• 33% of the works sold realised prices above high estimate.
• 23 works sold for over $1 million
• 15 works sold for over £1 million.

Joan Miró’s Peinture (Étoile Bleue)
Identified by the artist as a work that was key to his oeuvre, Peinture (Étoile Bleue), executed in 1927, belongs to the seminal ‘dream paintings’ cycle - in which Miró pioneered a uniquely poetic form of abstraction - examples of which can be found in major international museums such as the Musée National d'Art Moderne in Paris, the Tate Gallery, London and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. This landmark work was formerly in the collection of André Lefevre, a leading collector and connoisseur of early 20th century art. The price achieved at Sotheby’s this evening is three times the sum (£ 8.35 m / €11,586,520 / $16,673,650) achieved when the painting sold at auction in 2007. Demand for works by Miro is at an all-time high following a major international retrospective of the artist’s work in London, Washington and Barcelona.

Further highlights from this Evening's Sale
• Five bidders competed for Mother and Child with Apple, one of the most elegant and compelling of Henry Moore's interpretations of the theme, sold for ¢3,737,250 / $5,860,382 / £4,641,298 (est: ¢ 1.8 ¡V 2.8 million / US$ 2.9-4.4 million / £ 2.2-3.4 million), a record for an indoor sculpture by Moore, to bidder on the telephone. The work was owned by the same family since 1957, who bought it for ¢G650.

• Pablo Picasso's monumental late portrait Homme assis, executed in 1972, a year before his death, realised ¢6,201,250/ $9,724,180/ £7,701,345 (est: ¢ 6-9 million / US$ 9.50-14.2 million / £ 7.4-11 million).

• A remarkable and rare group of watercolours by Wassily Kandinsky from a Distinguished Private Collection made a combined total of ¢4,832,750 / $7,578,235 / £6,001,802 against a combined pre-sale estimate of ¢3.85 - 4.95 million. Perfectly exemplifying their respective periods, the works act as a survey of the artist's entire career.

• Pierre Bonnard's Nu Debout, a 1930 masterpiece from the collection of Mr and Mrs John D. Rockefeller 3rd sold for ¢4,521,250 /$7,089,772 /£5,614,950, a record for a nude by the artist ( est. ¢ 4.5-5.5 million / US$ 7.1-8.7 million / £ 5.5-6.8 million). Interest in Bonnard's nudes has been particularly strong in recent months following the landmark exhibition at the Fondation Beyeler.

3. ABU DHABI.- " Abu Dhabi Art has announced its galleries for 2012; including new highlight exhibitors and an 80% return rate from last year. Again held in the Saadiyat Cultural District, future home of Louvre Abu Dhabi, Zayed National Museum, and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, it takes place from 7–10 November. Now in its fourth edition, it is organised by the new Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority* and sponsored by BVLGARI. "You can see from the calibre of galleries we have again this year, that it was a difficult decision to select a small number from the exceptional submissions, to fit with our boutique platform. We think the line-up reflects our goal—to show museum-quality work in an iconic setting," says Rita Aoun-Abdo, Executive Director. The 2012 edition includes 50 galleries, representing approximately 400 artists from 20 countries including 10 new galleries. Signature, the section presenting emerging artists"

4. DALLAS DALLAS (AP).- Hotel rooms are no longer just a place to shower, sleep or maybe indulge in a breakfast in bed. They're now also spots to pick up a souvenir — and no, we aren't talking about stealing the towels.

Like that painting over the bed? How about that drawing next to the TV? At hotels around the globe, guests now have the option to purchase the art work in their rooms.

For several years, hotels have invited local artists in to decorate hallways, lobbies and other public spaces. It's a way they can distinguish themselves from the cookie-cutter chains and offer guests a sense of their unique city or town. Now, they are taking that partnership one step further and turning bedrooms into mini-salesrooms.

The recently-opened Omni Dallas hotel features more than 6,500 original pieces of art from 150 local artists in guest rooms and public spaces. The art is one of the reasons the property doesn't feel like every other hotel stayed in on past vacations. It also gives guests the option of taking a bit of Texas culture home with them.

And the Omni Dallas is not the only one.

The Lancaster Arts Hotel, in Pennsylvania, sells art — and even some furniture — found in guest rooms, its own gallery and common spaces, all from local artists and craftsmen.

The Principe Forte Dei Marmi in Tuscany, Italy, actually hosts an artist in residence for several months. Guests meet and interact with the artist and then can custom order a piece of art. The guests can even handpick the materials to be used in sculptures.

Some chain hotels trying to distinguish themselves are getting into the art business.

At the Renaissance Arts Hotel in New Orleans, a Marriott property, don't expect to see price lists in the rooms. But guests who ask the staff can learn how to buy the various pieces of artwork, such as the glass sculptures in the bathroom that go for about $300. Each room features an original picture and the hotel is also able to refer guests to the artist or gallery if they are interested in other works.

Guests at the new Conrad New York can't take home the hotel's signature piece of art, Sol Lewitt's "Loopy Doopy (Blue and Purple)" which fills 13 stories of the lobby. However, each room has a tile representing part of the work. The gift shop sells the same tiles for $95.

Sherry Quinn, of Lisbon, Md., near Baltimore, recently purchased a painting, "Orange Moon over Lemmon Avenue," while attending a security-related convention at the Dallas Omni.

"It was the most unlikely place I would think I would purchase art," Quinn said. But the nighttime scene of the city just called to her. "I just felt like there was something magical about the painting."

Quinn had three days to debate buying the 32-inch by 32-inch painting. When she spoke to the gift shop staff — the hotel has a digital catalog of all its artwork there — she learned that the artist, Kelly Megert, actually worked there part-time. The next morning, she met Megert and spent $350 on the painting.

"I got to talk to her about she came about painting it," Quinn said. "I did love the painting itself, but the fact that it was a local artist kind of clinched the deal for me. It means something to me that an artist is painting about their city."

Ed Netzhammer, managing director of the Dallas Omni, notes that his hotel has "more art than a lot of the galleries and museums around the country."

"It makes it fun and interesting and adds a whole different level of energy to the hotel," Netzhammer said.

Bjorn Hanson, dean of New York University's hospitality school, said any savings hotels see from not having to furnish rooms is lost by the adding liability and staff needed to rotate the art.

The push for local art, he said, is coming from younger guests who don't want to see the same thing in a hotel in New York and San Francisco.

"This age group has a special appreciation for local sensitivity," Hanson said. "That would be things like helping local artists, helping local growers whether that's produce or bakeries or wine producers."

So leave a little extra room in that suitcase this summer — you never know what will be coming home with you from vacation.

Chicago Art Institute Raises the Standard for Everyone

Unfortunately, on this last trip around the country I visited The Art Institute before I made the trip to Bloomington and the Indiana University Art Museum. It is definitely preferable to restore your faith in mankind by saving the best for last. And the Art Institute is, indeed, the best. This installation is in every way elegant, informative, and accessible regardless of whether you are an experienced collector or casual museum visitor. The installation was the product of the collaborative vision of Dick Townsend, Kathleen Bickford Berzog, and the installation genius whose name I can't recall.

All areas reflect the great taste of both Townsend and Bickford Berzog who have had a major impact over the years in upgrading the Art Institute's holdings.  And remember this museum had some pretty great curators in the past with Evan Maurer, Alan Wardwell, and Alan Sawyer. Some powerful African objects seem to float mesmerizing the viewer. The extensive high quality Andean ceramic collection which undoubtedly was acquired during Sawyer's tenure offers the opportunity to compare different forms and icnography from the Paracas, Moche and Nazca cultures. A newly acquired Teotihuacan mask covered with spondylus shell dazzles. The iconic pair of chiwara headdresses, the massive polychrome Acoma jar, the Ameca valley Jalisco figure and the Mogollon ritual bache from Arizona are all there to see among other masterpieces we have come to  love from this collection.

I don't care where you are going or where you live, make a trip or a detour to see this. All will agree that this is a long way from the shotgun African gallery and the cramped quarters of the past for Pre-Columbian and Native American.

"African and Native American art at the Art Institute of Chicago gets a new home, starting Friday 3. Moved to the museum’s Morton Wing (formerly the contemporary art wing), the African Art and Indian Art of the Americas galleries have more than triple the space of their previous gallery. This allowed curators Kathleen Bickford Berzock and Richard Townsend to display dozens of never-before-exhibited works and make a few unusual curatorial choices. The curators worked closely with architect Kulapat Yantrasast, from Los Angeles–based firm wHY, who imbued the space with a clean, light and warm aesthetic that shows off dark-toned art objects, including masks, pottery, textiles and beadwork. Here’s what not to miss.
• Because of the larger space, Bickford Berzock, the African collection curator, took the opportunity to include work from all geographic regions of Africa, and, in some instances, the display shows how these different regions aesthetically influenced one another through trade. Bucking convention, Bickford Berzock mixed pottery, textiles and beadwork together with more familiar African staples like wood masks and ritual figures within the same display cases.
• A series of architectural elements, nicknamed gates, separates the larger galleries into smaller, more intimate areas—allowing a fluid movement of visitors. Each gate is composed of a simple wood archway and flanked by transparent display cases.
Ci wara means farming animal in the language of Mali’s Bamana people. These headdresses—icons of the Art Institute—depict a pair of mythical ci wara: half antelope and half anteater.
• Curators chose to display these large mid-19th- to early-20th-century Baga headdresses from Guinea on a low-lying platform, bringing them closer to visitors. Matching costumes were reconstructed for the exhibition, a novel approach for the museum, which normally stresses authenticity over replication.
• Zulu artist Ntzinyanga Qwabe, born in South Africa in 1900, created wood relief carvings of people and animals. They reflect a transition between traditional and modern African art in the mid-20th century.
• In Indian Art of the Americas, Townsend strived to present a broad range of material from the entire Western Hemisphere, including works from native North America, Mesoamerica (think Maya and Aztec) and ancient Peru.
• Departing from traditional art exhibitions devoted to native cultures, the curators installed videos that place the objects in their cultural context. Ceremonial masks, after all, weren’t intended to be displayed inside glass cases. The videos present art objects and traditional ceremonial dances.
• The American Southwest section of the exhibition features dozens of pots, including this 1,000-year-old ancestral puebloan storage jar. In a bold move, curators displayed ancient finds next to more contemporary works, representing an unbroken tradition spanning centuries.
• The North American section features an extensive collection of native baskets, like this 1910 Maidu storage basket. Amazingly, many of these baskets held water, reflecting the basket makers’ mastery of this art form.
• Ah Maxam, this Mayan vase’s creator, lived around A.D. 750 in the Maya city of Naranjo. He signed the vase, which features glyphic writing and a water-lily motif symbolizing the cycle of birth, death and renewal.
• During the construction of Mexico City’s subway, workers stumbled upon this stone monument. It commemorates the coronation of the ill-fated Aztec emperor Moctezuma II in the year 1503."
I initially saw this exhibition in Los Angeles at the Fowler Museum. It is a superb and important show. If you are in the San Francisco area, you need to see this. JB
 Central Nigeria Unmasked: Arts of the Benue River Valley
 Art from Little-Known Region of Africa on View at Stanford
May 16–October 14, 2012

Stanford, Calif. — “Central Nigeria Unmasked: Arts of the Benue River Valley” opens May 16 at the Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University. Presenting more than 150 objects drawn from international collections, the exhibition gives a comprehensive view of the arts from along the river that flows across the center of Nigeria, joining the great Niger River on its way to the Atlantic Ocean. “Central Nigeria Unmasked,” on view through October 14, 2012, reveals arts and cultures of diverse peoples who are far less known and studied than those of the majority populations in the country’s northern and southern regions.

Organized in sections that unfold as a journey up the 650-mile-long Benue River, the exhibition presents artistic forms and styles associated with more than 25 ethnic groups. The objects on view embody meanings and purposes crucial to Benue Valley peoples as they confront and resolve life challenges and rites of passage such as birth, initiation, marriage, illness and death. Works include maternal figures, sleek statues, anthropomorphized vessels, elaborate regalia, masks with naturalistic human faces, and masks that appear as stylized animal-human fusions. Film footage of dynamic, complex masquerades; maps; photomurals; and written material provide further context for understanding the artworks.

“Central Nigeria Unmasked: Arts of the Benue River Valley” is organized by the Fowler Museum at UCLA in association with the Musée du quai Branly, Paris. The exhibition is co-curated by Marla C. Berns (Shirley and Ralph Shapiro Director, Fowler Museum), Richard Fardon (Professor of West African Anthropology, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London), Sidney Kasfir (Professor of Art History, Emory University, Atlanta) and Hélène Joubert (Curator of African Collections, Musée du quai Branly) with Gassia Armenian (Curatorial and Research Associate, Fowler Museum). Major support for the exhibition is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Shirley and Ralph Shapiro Director’s Discretionary Fund, Jay and Deborah Last, Ceil and Michael Pulitzer, Joseph and Barbara Goldenberg, Robert T. Wall Family and Jill and Barry Kitnick. Major funding for the publication is provided by the Ahmanson Foundation with additional support from the Ethnic Arts Council of Los Angeles. The planning phase of the project was funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Central Nigeria Unmasked: Arts of the Benue River Valley is organized by the Fowler Museum at UCLA in association with the Musée du quai Branly, Paris.The exhibition's presentation is made possible at Stanford by the Center's Clumeck Fund and Cantor Arts Center Members.

Berns speaks about the exhibition on Wednesday, May 16 at 6 pm. On Thursday, May 17, New York Times art critic Holland Cotter presents the Wilsey Distinguished Lecture, entitled “Critical Consciousness: Art and the World,” at 6 pm in Annenberg Auditorium, Cummings Art Building. A Nollywood Film Festival is being presented Saturday, June 9, from 11 am to mid-afternoon. Docents offer tours of the exhibition on Thursdays at 12:15 pm and Saturdays and Sundays at 2 pm. The programs are free, and all except the May 17 lecture are at the Cantor Arts Center.

# # #

VISITOR INFORMATION: Cantor Arts Center is open Wednesday – Sunday, 11 am - 5 pm, Thursday until 8 pm. Admission is free. The Center is located on the Stanford campus, off Palm Drive at Museum Way. Parking is free after 4 pm weekdays and all day on weekends. Information: 650-723-4177,

Indiana University Art Museum

For those of you that have been following this blog over the years, you will recall that I have been critical of Indiana University's handling of Ray and Laura Wiegus' gift of their tribal art collection to the art museum. It took over two years for the University to acknowledge Ray's death on their website. While that's just plain rude, callous and ungrateful, but it pales in comparison to how the University is actually exhibiting the collection. I not only did all of Ray's appraisal work in the last fifteen years of his life, but I along with Jim Cook was tasked with finding an institution for his extraordinary gun collection. Yes I do feel an obligation to speak out and yes on behalf of Ray I do take it personally.

Years before Ray's death Jim Cook, who in many ways was like a son to Ray, and I constantly recommended to Ray that the gift be contingent upon a reinstallation of his collection. We also strongly suggested that he insist upon someone to act as his voice on this matter after his death. Ray consistently told us that he had complete confidence in Indiana and that plans were already in the works for this installation. Jim and I remained skeptical but were continually given these reassurances by Ray as he rejected our recommendations. Unfortunately our cynicism was justified and Ray was not correct in trusting Indiana.

During this past summer's road trip for the Roadshow that took me by car from Dallas through Rapid City and Cincinnati, I visited Bloominton and the Indiana University Art Museum. I was hopeful that at a minimum some of these very valuable works would at least be secured and safely exhibited. Unfortunately the installation was something I would have expected from a poorly funded University in the late 1950's. The lighting is extremely poor making it difficult to even see some of the objects. Many of the objects are completely exposed creating a major security problem.  This extraordinary Sepik River standing figure, which is illustrated above, is 80" in height and valued far in excess of a million dollars. It is just standing next to a pillar in poor lighting and totally exposed. There are a number of Wielgus objects that are displayed in this way.  It is inconceivable to me that this gallery meets minimum AAM guidelines. It is at best incompetent that any museum curator or director entrusted with the safety of these works could sign off  on this installation. In my world if I were the President of this University I would fire both the curator and the director and close this gallery until the works could be displayed safely. I probably failed to mention in these past articles that Ray also gave the university almost $2,500,000 in cash.

We live in a very strange world that demands that we think the unthinkable. For three large galleries displaying African, Pre-Columbian, American Indian, and Oceanic art, there was one very young guard that could not possible adequately cover this very large area. The men that made this possible, Roy Sieber and Ray Wielgus, would be disappointed and appalled that their desire to do something special for Indiana had been so callously taken for granted. We can only hope that nothing bad happens before the museum gets its act together.

Museum Installations - What should They Be?

In this Newsletter issue we have commented on both the installations at Chicago Art Institute and also Indiana University at Bloomington. This article by Edleeca puts in perspective different approaches institutions have taken in their installations. In my judgment the installation in Chicago and quality of objects is far superior to any other public institution in the United States in the past decade.

Remaking the Arts of Africa Gallery
"My name is Edleeca Thompson and I am the curatorial research assistant for the Arts of Africa Reinstallation Project, sponsored by the Texas Fund for Curatorial Research. The research for the reinstallation project involves photographing gallery spaces and observing the use of technology and interactive media, as well as visitor responses, in order to ascertain the “best practices” in exhibition design for African art. I am also collecting information on educational programs, activities, and events that support a more innovative approach to the representation and interpretation of African art. This information will be used for the upcoming reinstallation of the DMA’s Arts of Africa gallery in the fall of 2013.
Since June 2011, Roslyn Walker, Senior Curator and The Margaret McDermott Curator of African Art, and I have visited twenty museums (together or separately) in the United States and Europe for this project. For me, the most impressive displays are at the Louvre (Paris), the Musée Rietberg (Zürich), the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum (Cologne), and the Museum Aan de Stroom (Antwerp).

Musée du Louvre, Porte des Lions, Paris, France
In Paris we toured the Pavillon des Sessions, where African art has been presented at the Louvre since 2000. The first picture shows the cool and serenely elegant African gallery at the Louvre. Although the Louvre is most known for its vast collection of masterpieces of Western art, the arts of Africa and Oceania have become increasingly popular with the general public. In response to public demand for more information on the objects, the museum added more labels and portable laminated information cards that visitors can take with them as they tour the galleries.

Museum Rietberg, Zurich, Switzerland
The Rietberg Museum also follows the tendency toward cool elegance, but with more color contrast in their restrained, yet intimately formal, spaces.

Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum, Cologne, Germany
The Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum carries spatial intimacy even further in an exhibit that explores the theme of death and the afterlife. The serene, contemplative environment, with its white walls, cushy flooring, featherlike ceiling, and soft, ambient music, evokes otherworldly experiences of the afterlife. The visitor approaches the gallery in stages before entering a large, veiled space. In order to view some of the objects, it is necessary to part the veil in front of the display case.

Museum aan de Stroom, Antwerp, Belgium
The Museum Aan de Stroom, which houses the ethnographic, maritime, folklife, and Antwerp history collections, by far exceeded all expectations regarding the use of technology. Here, the visitor is surrounded by multimedia devices.

Chicago Art Institute, Chicago, Illinois
The Art Institute of Chicago’s newly reinstalled gallery features a number of sculptures displayed in the round. The gallery also incorporates videos of ritual performances and still photographs of artists at work, as well as a historical timeline that parallels the cultural developments of both Europe and Africa.

Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California
The African collection at the Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University, was reinstalled in 2012 and includes objects ranging from pre-dynastic Egypt to the mid-20th century. Themes of body adornment, economics, and the afterlife are addressed through time and space.
All in all, being given this opportunity to travel and work with Dr. Walker has been a total blast! I’m excited for the DMA in anticipation of making the Arts of Africa exhibit more appealing and engaging for visitors for years to come."
Edleeca Thompson is Curatorial Research Assistant at the DMA.