A REVIEW OF THE SAN FRANCISCO TRIBAL ART SHOW
FEB 13th-15th 2009
What a difference a year can make! It was difficult to muster the enthusiasm to write this years show review. Stating the obvious, there were not enough buyers to support 106 dealers when the market was healthy let alone when the market is soft. One can image what happened to sales in this poor market climate. If you're a fruit vendor it is not a wise idea to try and sell fruit where crowds of other people are selling fruit too. If you're smart you go to the corner where you're the only vendor. As expected the quality of the art remained very high and consistent with previous years.
The dealer turnover for this show was significant. Generally dealers covet their spaces at this venue, yet some noteworthy dealers, mostly Europeans, didn't exhibit. These spaces were filled by dealers on the show waiting listing. Absent this year were Antonio Casanovas, Galerie Flak, John Giltsoff, Alain Lecomte, Adrian Schlag, etc. There was very little of the usual dealer-to-dealer pre-buying that has so naturally occurred in the past. It may be that the promoters will have a very challenging time getting dealers to commit to the New York Tribal show this May.
There were herds of people and the aisles were often crowded. On several occasions my booth was so crowded you couldn't even see the art. However, few attendees had the courage or confidence to buy. Most likely they just wanted a day out & an "art experience" to inspire them or cheer them up. A few customers were indeed buying and I want to sincerely thank them for their support and courage in the face of a "tsumani" of negative economic news. In previous show reviews I've beat the drum about how new visitors must come and experience this event. It was gratifying to see a number of Australian and European tribal art enthusiasts who came for the first time! Thank you to all our Internet friends!
It was not all bad news. A handful of dealers who have loyal customers, did manage to have a successful show. Leonardo Vigorelli, Charles Hourde, Yann Ferrandin, Bruce Frank, Kirby, Wayne Heathcote, and Mike Hamson, to name a few. However, a vast number of dealers told me they sold only one or two low end pieces, not making their costs, and some had a bust show altogether, not selling a single piece! But it is a little difficult to get brutally honest feedback in a slow market. A dealer who had a good show might not want to admit it to their less fortunate colleagues. Conversely if a dealer had horrible show, they might try to keep a "stiff upper lip."
Catalog cover: Fijian breast plate from Kevin Conru
(Serge Schoffel) An early and compelling New Guinea Sepik spear thrower
(Joris Visser) Pair of New Britain Tolai figures. Joris' strategy is simply to bring extremely rare and unique pieces, guaranteeing his success. Works every time!
(Joris Visser) An important New Ireland Malagan carving
Opening Night: Jasmine Dahl, Jonathan Fogel, Owen Hargreaves
Opening Night: Artist Jose' Bedia (striped shirt) whose paintings and drawings were featured in the foyer of Festival Pavilion. Jose is a passionate tribal art collector.
A stylish Kirby Lewis
Stendahl Galleries: Ron Dammann (left) with Joshua Dimondstein
Kip Mckesson (left) and Neil Becker
Jacaranda, Daniell Rootenberg: A superb anthropomorphic Zulu Milk container
Ben Hunter scrutinizing the art (maybe he needs stronger glasses?)
Amyas Naegele with a formidable army of Ibeji figures
Joe Loux with a rare Paiwan brass and feather Crown
Joe Loux, 19th c. or earlier Northern Chinese Burl Scholar's Object
Waited so long for a sale, my hair grew out & I got stiff
(Text and photos by Michael Auliso)
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