by Howard Nowes - 02/22/2007
Last week I returned from the San Francisco Tribal & Textile Arts show, produced by Caskey-Lees. Caskey-Lees also produces the NY Tribal Art show at the Park Avenue Armory in May. The west coast weather was warm and the show was top notch. It is probably the premier Tribal art show in the country and the catalog makes a nice reference guide. The show is particularly strong in Traditional African Art, with impressive showings in Oceanic, Indonesian, Pre-Columbian, and Asian Art, not to mention some excellent tribal carpets and world textiles. The show has such a strong draw that a satellite show --‘Crossroads’ – has been set up in a nearby gallery. It is a consortium of 5 European African tribal dealers & 1 Oceanic dealer exhibiting very refined objects with an accompanying catalog.
The gala opening night of the Caskey-Lees show was reminiscent of a bar mitzvah with music, racks of lamb, and complete with chocolate fountains amid wonderful forms of art. The space in the Fort Mason Center pier was impressive and accommodated over 100 dealers quite nicely.
I was very impressed with many of my colleague’s showings, and it was good to see and speak with old friends. One of the reasons for the success of the show is the strength of the vetting committees. Many objects were taken off display to insure the authenticity and quality of the objects shown. The governing committees also removed “correct” pieces if they thought they were poor examples of the type. While a subjective criteria, it resulted in a show that was visually thrilling with masterpieces all around.
I particularly liked a 10 foot tall Ibo figure in Arte Y Ritual’s booth. Dalton Somare had a joyful Senufo mask as well as other top quality pieces. The Primary Source from Los Angeles had some beautiful Indonesian primitive art. A real specialist was there in Jean-Baptiste Bacquart, the author of ‘The Tribal Arts of Africa,’ an excellent primer, and he had some strong Akan material from an established collection. A really nice guy with a great tribal eye is Joris Visser from Gallery Visser. He had a great Salomon Island Canoe prow that was competitively priced, as well as nice sculpture and clubs. Erik Farrow, a great guy with the hometown advantage, had a beautiful New Guinea drum which he sold right away as well as a great 10 foot tall New Hebrides fiber sculpture.
Jo De Buck and Dave DeRoche had a beautiful display with a showcase of Magic related Congo art and an assortment of Tonga headrests, as well as other beautiful African and oceanic sculptures, vessels and masks. Ron Dammann of Stendahl Gallery in Los Angeles had the best Pre-Columbian piece: a green stone inlaid Vera Cruz hacha, a true masterpiece. James Willis Tribal Art, another hometown boy, had the best Songye in the show, a powerful 12 inch fetish which I still think about. His eye is excellent and he had first rate text book examples of west and central African art.
Michael Rhodes, from New York, had some impressive pieces. He had an excellent Mbole figure. Two Paris dealers caught my eye. Alain Lecomte, who has some fantastic Teke material, and Galerie Flak who had a sweet Kota reliquary and some nice North West Coast material. Kip McKesson had some lovely East African objects from Gourds to tablets to chairs. He was next to Neil Becker, a Taino Indian specialist, who has a fantastic shell and a zemi from Hispaniola. I enjoyed seeing Joe Lux, Thomas Murray, Joshua Diamondstein, Jerry Bock, Billy Jamison, Bob and Maryanne Huber, Norman Hurst, Robert Dowling, and Steve Berger.
If you happen to be in the area next year, please check the show out!! You will not be sorry.