A REVIEW OF THE 2013 SAN FRANCISCO TRIBAL & TEXTILE ARTS SHOW

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(Text and photos by Michael Auliso) 

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I found it difficult to write my review this year since at this point the show doesn't need reviewing but needs "reviving".   If more customers don't start attending this show and spending money, it faces an uncertain future (in my humble opinion).

As I've written before, this show is going through a period of "adjustment" mostly because of the economy, resulting in issues with attendance, buyer apathy, and dealers not signing up to exhibit.   I had hoped the issues it was having could be resolved and it would have found its equilibrium point by now.  But the "economy" is STILL all encompassing for most dealers and their customers these days. 

Despite what the media says, there is no economic recovery and for perspective, the number of people in the U.S. on "food stamps" has swelled to nearly 50 million (equal to the population of Spain or South Korea).   Also, 8.5 million people have lost their jobs in the last 5 years which is like having all of New York City out of the labor force.  That's a serious impact and explains why the prices for Tribal Art in the middle market are down so sharply.   As I keep saying it is a great time to buy.

Before this current environment, there was not only a raging Tribal show in San Francisco but also a thriving Asian show.  In fact, not long ago the San Francisco Asian Art Show had far more attendance than the Tribal Show.  Now that show doesn't exist.  Yes, the Asian Art show held the prior week was cancelled.  So, some dealers from that show were combined into a single show now.   The billing also changed and it is now promoted as "Tribal & Textile Arts Show, Fine Art of Native Cultures".   The tribal show already had an overly broad mix of dealers and now that has been expanded further.  You decide if that is a good thing?

Also at the Fort Mason complex was an "independent" African Art exhibit produced by dealer Andrew Berz.  The exhibit was held in the large Fleet Room and the pieces were high quality.  The exhibit was ambitious and large scale.  The opening night was well attended but afterwards it looked like you could land a helicopter in there (a little too much space).  Andrew explained that photos were not possible since he has a customer who refuses to buy an object if it is seen on the internet...

To avoid being redundant, below are links to previous reviews where most aspects of this show have already been covered:

The 2012 San Francisco Tribal

The 2011 San Francisco Tribal

Okay, lets check out some photos.   Note: these images only represent a small sampling of dealers and pieces found at the show.  I'm only serving you "one drop" from the soup bowl. 

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For years now, New Guinea collectors Sam and Sharon singer have graciously hosted an invitation only party in their home before the kick off of the San Francisco show.  Their house is a shoe-free-zone and this hilarious sign was posted on the front door.  Apparently Wayne Heathcote doesn't remove his shoes for anyone!

 

Two things can be concluded from this photo:  1) Its late and most people had already left and 2) the "fashion police" were not in attendance to hand out violations.

 

 

Kevin Conru was in great form again this year, keeping the quality of the offerings at a high level.

 

(Kevin Conru) Solomon Island Figure

 

(Conru) with a large South African Milk container.  His assistant standing next to it for scale.

 

Fily Keita (Los Angeles) with a handsome Lwena prestige Staff/ spear from Angola

 

(Fily Keita) Also with this fine Ngbaka mask

 

David Zemanek (Zemanek-Munster Auction) Wurzburg German

 

Zemanek, with a unique Cameroon mask (Bamileke)  with projecting phallic nose

 

detail of mask

 

Galen Lowe Art and Antiques Seattle

 

Thomas Murray, Mill Valley CA

 

Murray cont.  Display case with Indonesian gems

 

Murray cont.  collection of stone Celts from various cultures

 

 

Murray cont.  getting ready to unroll a carpet.   Look at the size of that Sumba stone disk--  forklift.com?!

 

 

Joel Cooner next to a signed Paul Jacoulet woodblock print (Title: Femme Tatouee De Falalap Ouest Carolines).   Note how Joel selected a wood frame to mimic the tattooing on woman's arms.

 

Detail of above

 

 

My man Tad Dale (Santa Fe NM) poses for a quick photo as his booth is swarmed.

 

(Tad Dale Cont.)  with a lovely old Luba Stool

 

(Tad Dale Cont.)

 

(Tad Dale Cont.)

 

 

Vicki Shiba, Mill Valley CA

 

(Vicki Shiba cont.)  In the corner of her booth she had this early Middle Sepik replacement wood head which caught my attention

 

Patrick Mestdagh (Brussels), next to a fabulous Kenyan Luo shield.  Bob Dowling, San Francisco (right). 

 

(Mestdagh cont.)  These are scarce and in fact I've never owned one of these Nomaic Tuareg War shields yet

 

Chatting in Michael Hamson's booth, Michael's wife Darcel (right) and Christina Hellmich (De Young Curator of the Jolika Collection) 

This year Hamson's booth contained New Guinea pieces from the collections of noted field collectors: Douglas Newton, Harry Beran, Thomas Schultze-Westrum

 

(Hamson)  Papuan Gulf Gope Board with a great nose

 

(Hamson)  Impressive Massim Trobriand Island Adze

 

(Hamson)  Collection of Massim Lime Spatulas from Harry Beran

 

In the foyer of the show inside Festival Pavilion was an exhibit on Indian Textiles which I think were published in the book below.  Okay, fine, very nice... but in my opinion a display that reflected tribal rather than ethnographic soft goods would be a nice balance.  Gosh, its been 10 years since they've had a shield exhibit (or wood sculpture for that matter) which can be just as graphic and is a more exciting introduction to the show.

 

 

 

Dalton Somare (Milan) A fine Tibetan head of Buddhist sage guru Padmasambava, possibly 18th c.

 

(Dalton Somare cont.) Leonardo Vigorelli and Zena Kruzick standing next to a 5 foot tall sandstone Bodhisattva from Afghanistan 4th-5th century. 

 

(Dalton Somare cont.)  Fang Figure

 

Jerry Bock Splenders of the world with a couple cheerful gals.  We'll be meeting up with Jerry again later

 

James Barker (Santa Fe NM) with a good display of Irian Jaya woven bags

 

(Barker's booth cont.) That's Carrie Haley who offers Art collection services and management

 

Chris Selser's Booth (Santa Fe NM).  That's Alice Kaufmann in the center who makes ATADA (Antique Tribal Art Dealers Association) and its Newsletter run.

 

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