Thursday, July 5, 2012


Plaited Arts from the Borneo Rainforest
Editor: Bernard Sellato.

"One of the richest basketry traditions in the world, the plaited objects produced in Borneo are created from plant materials gathered in the rainforest and worked by hand using techniques passed from generation to generation.  Unrivaled in their combination of beauty, form, and function, they provide a unique window on the way of life of Borneo's inhabitants."

Available from University of Hawai'i Press.

*A review will be forthcoming...


Islamist group Ansar Dine destroying historic sites in Mali

By Chris Barton.  Los Angeles Times, July 3, 2012.

For the direct link, please go to:,0,5182480.story

Easter Island Has Stone Heads, But Little Else.  What Happened? (updated)
By Thomas H. Maugh II.  Los Angeles Times, June 21, 2012.

For the direct link, please go to:,0,6247582.story

Cave Art, Older Than Thought, Could Be From Neanderthals
By Thomas H. Maugh II.  Los Angeles Times, June 15, 2012.

For the direct link, please go to:,0,7456214.story

Haunted By Ancient Artworks
Some of the pictographs in Horseshoe Canyon are more than 6000 years old. They resonate across time.
By David Kelly.  Los Angeles Times, June 10, 2012.

For the direct link, please go to:,0,5292119.story

Sunday, June 3, 2012


New York: May 9th to 13th, 2012.

For nearly a week in early May, auction houses, tribal art dealers and galleries came together to produce a series of semi-coordinated tribal art events.  After the closing of the Caskey Lees show in 2010, a rushed attempt at filling the void barely got off the ground.  Not unexpected, considering the organizers had less than two months to pull in exhibitors, spaces, and promotion.  The concept was to find temporary spaces or share existing gallery space with tribal art dealers from out of town, preferably in close proximity, along the lines of the successful BRUNEAF show in Brussels and the Parcours in Paris.  It was important to time these dealer exhibitions around the existing Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Bonhams tribal art auctions.

In 2011 another group, AOA Tribal Art New York produced a similar event.  With more time for promotion, it was reported that this attempt went fairly well.  This year the AOA group working with a new organization, Madison Ancient & Tribal Art (MATA) produced an updated version, with two major hubs, one at the Fletcher-Sinclair Mansion, the other at the Arader Gallery, both near 79th and Madison.  Two smaller hubs, also hosting out of town dealers, were located the Bohemian National Hall and the Art for Eternity Gallery.  In addition, other local galleries specializing in tribal art (for example: the Calvin-Morris Gallery’s “Shields of New Guinea”) were hosting special exhibitions as well as the usual scheduled tribal art auctions.

The primary locations near Madison, brought in several European dealers, most notably Gallery Visser, Galerie Flak, Conru African & Oceanic Art, and Adrian Schlag Tribal Art Classics.  American dealers included Peter Boyd African Art, Joe Loux, Bruce Frank Primitive Art, Huber Primitive Art, James Stephenson African Art, Michael Rhodes African Art, Gail Martin Gallery, Earl Duncan, and Jeffery Myers Primitive & Fine Art.  Also participating were local galleries, such as Pace Primitive, Alaska on Madison, Nasser & Co, Arte Primitivo, and Tambaran Gallery.

My favorite location was the MATA group at the Arader Gallery.  With four stories of open, wood paneled rooms, excellent lighting and good air circulation, it was a comfortable place to visit.  There was a great mix of material, with high end African, Oceanic, Indonesian, and Pre-Columbian objects well represented and displayed.

What most impressed me was the pacing and timing of the openings and auctions.  It was easy to preview the offerings at the three auction houses prior to the main openings on Wednesday.  The Art for Eternity Gallery opened on Wednesday afternoon, the MATA group had their opening in the late afternoon, and the AOA group, a short walk around the corner, later that evening.  Sotheby’s held their auction on Thursday with the official opening at the nearby Bohemian National Hall location, soon afterwards.  Christie’s auction took place on Friday, with Bonhams holding theirs on Saturday.  A couple of private parties were planned for Friday evening.

There was significant “buzz” leading up to events in NYC, bringing in important collectors and dealers from Europe and other parts of the US.  The openings at the AOA and MATA locations were packed, at times leaving little room to easily view the fine display of objects.  The auction housed did well with sky-high prices paid for several very special objects offered at Sotheby’s and Christie’s.  I heard that several of the dealers were able to make significant sales, although most reported more modest gains. 

Unfortunately, not all of the material offered at the various locations was of the quality you would hope to see and there were a few dealers offering very marginal material, to put it politely.  Well, at least there was something for everyone.

In my opinion, after a few off seasons, this latest incarnation of the New York “Tribal Week” bodes well for the return of New York as again one of the primary international centers for the sale of tribal art.  I applaud those who organized this year’s events and look forward to returning (and possibly exhibiting) in 2013.


Monsoons Had Key Role In Harappa, Study Says
Researchers show how the weather pattern gave birth to, then decimated the ancient civilization.
By Thomas H. Maugh II.  Los Angeles Times, May 29, 2012.

For direct link, please go to:,0,1127932.story

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Italy On Other Side Of Art Tiff
Disputed 'Christ Carrying the Cross' is seized by U.S. while it is on loan from a Milan museum.
By Mike Boehm, LA Times, April 25, 2012.

For the direct link to the article, please go to:,0,4187454.story

There is not much to say, other than "those who live in glass houses, shouldn't throw stones."


The Loot Stops Here
Continuing the story of the Khmer stone sculpture removed from auction.
By Tess Davis, LA Times, April 25, 2012.

For the direct link to the editorial, please go to:,0,2456835.story

My comments:

To be clear, I am not condoning the looting of cultural objects.  But, I do want to make a few points, often missed in the debate over cultural patrimony.

Many of these source countries are currently subject to government complicity in the antiquity trade, corruption, wars, insurrections, natural disasters, and lack of funds, thus preventing the preservation of existing objects and the safe return of other objects that may have removed illegally. 

There are too many examples of cultural objects being destroyed or damaged in source countries, because of the above conditions, most notably the destruction of ancient Buddhist art in Afghanistan during the Taliban era and the looting of the museum in Bagdad during the US invasion.

Without a market for antiquities, many if not most of these objects would be left to ruin or deliberate destruction and rarely if ever seen and appreciated.  It is common that most major works of art are eventually donated or sold to public institutions, allowing for further appreciation and study by a wide audience.  On that note, will more people see and enjoy an object safely displayed in a major international museum versus a local museum in a source country?  Will that local museum have the ability to safely conserve and protect that object?

Who actually owns this cultural property?  Why do the current residents of a region, many who are not the actual descendents of the creators of this art, have that privilege?  Why does any one country have dominion over works of art?   Doesn’t it make more sense to treat all cultural property as belonging to humanity as a whole?  Is it not human culture that is the provenance of art?

I believe that works of art should be appreciated by the widest audience possible.  Unless there is clear evidence of theft, I propose that instead of permanently returning cultural property that they are loaned back to sources countries, on a temporary basis, in exchange for the loan of other objects in their collections.


A New Glimpse Into Ancient Human History
DNA from excavated skeletons sheds some light on the spread of agricultural in Europe.
By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times, April 26, 2012.

For the direct link to the article, please go to:,0,6220304.story