June 11, 2010

Recession spurs Native art sales

Cherokee Art Flourishes in Hard Times

Americans show renewed interest in value and beauty of handcrafted objects

By Mike Osborne
Gone are the busloads of tourists dashing in to buy Indian beads and other cheap vacation souvenirs. In their place are serious collectors willing to pay premium prices for handmade native artwork.

According to Anna Fariello--an authority on Appalachian Art at Western Carolina University--the same thing happened during the early 1900s, as a nation of farmers evolved into a nation of factory workers.

"The nation then, you know, became a little nostalgic and began to look back at what they perceived of as a fading way of life," says Fariello.

Largely untouched by the industrial revolution, the Appalachian region of the Southeastern United States became the focus of that nostalgia.

Suddenly, authentic mountain-made baskets, brooms, and bowls were all the rage in places like New York and Chicago. Social reformers and the government saw supporting local handcrafts as a path toward economic development in one of the nation's poorest regions.
Native American Art Realizes Strong Prices in June at Bonhams & ButterfieldsOn June 7th 2010, fine arts auctioneers Bonhams & Butterfields hosted an auction of Native American Art in its San Francisco galleries, realizing more than $1.6-million for baskets, pottery, jewelry and blankets from private collections, estates and institutions. Top lots included Northwest Coast and Plains material, with strong bidding seen throughout the 440-lot auction.

Collectors vied for a seven-inch long Haida or Tlingit eagle effigy bowl with a rich dark and oily patina from use, the successful bidder paying $146,000, three times the estimate. The oval utensil was conceived as a stylized eagle, its head rising at the front, the raptor’s beak curving over the interior cavity. Wooden tail feathers project from the rear, while wings and form lines in shallow relief decorate the sides of the bowl. Another eagle-form Northwest Coast artifact brought $11,590--a Kwakiutl feast bowl featured painted details on the head, tail and rim.
Comment:  How counterintuitive! I would've guessed sales would be down for any kind of arts or crafts. Shows what I know.

For more on the subject, see Indian Jewelry Sold on QVC.

Below:  "As far back as the 1700s, European explorers commented on the high quality of Cherokee baskets, but over the generations, the complex weaving technique was nearly lost." (VOA--Mike Osborne)

No comments: