This annual Tribal Art Show event located on the waterfront Marina at Fort Mason is a "Must See" for everyone!  We were blessed with gorgeous sunny weather which sent attendance soaring.  This is an "energized" event which continuously expands each year.   If you attend only one tribal show per year it should be this one.  If you're attending the show for the first time give yourself plenty of time (at least two days) to see everything as the event can seem overwhelming.  It's fairly obvious that this show has become the best tribal show in the world, attracting the finest dealers, showing the highest forms of the various tribal arts.  Booths have grown more sophisticated and refined, boosting the overall appearance of the show, which has never looked better!   San Francisco is "The" destination for Tribal Art enthusiasts.  

This year the Gala Preview opening benefited the de Young Museum's departments of Textiles, Art of Africa, Oceania and the Americas.  All of the important museum donors were in attendance.  On Friday night there was a separate event at the de Young Museum for dealers and lenders of Tribal art.  The dealer organization "San Francisco Tribal" was a co-sponsor.  John Friede led an exciting & informative tour explaining some of his pieces currently housed in the permanent collection.  


View of Alcatraz Island from Festival


The pulse of the marketplace:  Many dealers reported that sales this year were off 10% to 20% or more.  With 103 dealers under "one roof" and a finite number of buyers not every dealer will have a successful show.    The softer sales may be attributed to two factors.   The U.S. economic slowdown and looming recession is likely a factor but probably not the main one since most collectors buy art with discretionary income.  The larger long term factor seems directly related to the weakening U.S. dollar. 

It seems that fewer American Collectors are traveling to Europe and buying art these days.  There was apparently a substantial drop in American buyers from Summer Bruneaf Fair to the Winter Bruneaf.  The European dealers are especially feeling the slowdown and are more dependant on their base of customers back home.  As a result the European dealers, despite their increased purchasing power,  were far less active buying at the show this year.  In fact they were eager to "sell", adjusting their prices to tempt U.S. collectors.




That said a healthy number of dealers sold over $100,000 in material and some did many times over that!   For example, Joel Cooner had a stellar show selling a New Guinea Mindja Figure for six figures from the Masco Collection.   Other dealer's reporting a very successful show include Vicki Shiba (Mill Valley, CA), Michael Hamson (Palos Verdes Estates CA), Michael Evans (Pennsylvania) and Tribalmania.   Although I didn't speak to each of my European colleagues, Dalton Somare' (Milan Italy) reported strong African Art sales as usual.  Other European dealers such as Jack Sadovnic (Brussels) and Joaquin Pecci (Brussels) got off to a slow start but they finished strong.




Dave DeRoche (Piedmont CA) chose not to exhibit at the show after the promoters strategically moved him to the back from a prime space in the front of the show (shared by Jo De Buck).  Deroche had occupied that same space for 15 years.  Instead Dave hosted several art openings in his home including a Sunday morning brunch.  He tells me it was a fabulous success vastly exceeding his expectations.  

Less wool more wood:  This year there was an intentional shift in the composition of dealers.  There were fewer Carpet/ Rug dealers and more Tribal Art dealers giving the show more focus and cohesiveness.  





Vetting--The show the customers don't see:   The process of vetting material for authenticity is seldom pretty but always daunting and sometimes subjective.  Occasionally pieces are removed which should stay in and pieces are left in which should be removed.   This is especially true of African and to a lesser extent Indonesian Material.   It has been said many times but there is a dire need for the vetting to be done by outside independent experts.  This is partially being done with Oceanic Art having John Friede and David Rosenthal (non-exhibiting dealer) on the Vetting committee.





Special Exhibit in the Foyer Organized by Lee Chinalai

"Outer Garments- Inner Warmth"



A stunning array of wearable art displayed on a complex bamboo structure a dramatic entrance to the show





Note to Dealers:  I try to be inclusive but it is impossible to photograph every booth.  If yours is not seen here and you have an image please email it to us.


Clive Loveless- London, had one of most tasteful and elegant booths at the show although his choice of belts remains questionable.

Clive Loveless:  Group of nested triple prestige containers from Rwanda


Tribalmania's Booth, Raymond Manzarek (keyboardist from "The Doors")  poses for a photo, before picking up a purchase.




Michael Hamson:   With a large New Guinea Papuan Gulf Gope Board from the Elema people, (right) an ancient Lower Sepik Figure which he described as a Rembrandt of New Guinea Art.  Both pieces were sold.


Jack Sadovnic- Brussels


Jack Sadovnic still suffering from jet lag adjusts the time on his phone, or takes his own picture to prove he actually arrived.


Andres Moraga- Berkley CA


An impressive New Britain Tapa Dance Shield (Baining People) 


 Bruce Frank and Wayne Heathcote patiently wait for the food court to open.  



Jean-Baptiste with a captive audience discussing a Baule Figure


Ramona Morris Fine Art- Delaplane VA, with her husband standing in front of a large Samoan Tapa Cloth "siapo"


Zena Kruzick's Booth:  Group of antique Japanese masks



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(Text and photos by Michael Auliso)

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