Friday, February 24, 2012


Over the weekend of February 10th, 11th, & 12th, the tribal art faithful assembled at the West Coast’s sacred hall: the Festival Pavilion, Fort Mason in the city of San Francisco.  The San Francisco Tribal & Textile Arts show, in its 26th year, is without a doubt the best tribal art venue in America and arguably, the world. There are two other high-end shows in Europe, but the emphasis in on African art. The SF show has much more depth, with top sellers from the US, Europe, and Australia offering a much wider range of materials and cultures: wood and stone sculptures, ceramics, masks, textiles, beadwork, jewelry from Africa, Oceania, Asia, and the Americas.

After a few slow years, this time attendance was up, as well as enthusiasm.  Not once, for the first time since 2009, did I hear potential buyers complain about the economy or put off purchases based on money woes.  Serious sales were made and at least one well-known Indonesia tribal art dealer had the best show, sales wise, ever!  Most of the dealers I talked to reported better sales this year, although as usual some sellers left disappointed.

In my area, Tribal Asia and the Western Pacific, including Indonesia, there were many rare and important objects on display.  There were two archaic Tau-Tau figures, several ancient Kayanic Dayak (Kayan, Bahau, Modang) wood sculptures, a crowned Nias Island figure, ancestral figures (Aitos) from Timor Island, a pair of Batak Pagars, a beautiful Kenyah Dayak dance mask, an old human figure style Toraja shrine door, painted Dayak shields, lots of weapons, Javanese batiks, and Iban ritual textiles.  Known sales of Indonesia tribal art included a rare Dayak cave guardian (one of four of this quality, type and condition known on the market), an amazing Dayak chief’s stool in the form of a dragon (Aso) with a super patina, a ladle from Timor Island with early provenance, one of the Tau-Tau figures, and a beautiful and unusual beaded vest/skirt set from Borneo Island.

As an added bonus to the festivities, Bay Area legend Tom Murray celebrated his 60th birthday party on Saturday evening at the Fort Mason Gate House.  Well over 300 of Tom’s closest friends joined him for food, drink, and live music.

As usual, the super team put together by show organizers Bill Caskey and Liz Lees created the perfect venue for viewing great works of art: a large historic hall overlooking the beautiful San Francisco Bay.  Besides the regular well-received opening night Gala, there was a colorful display of contemporary Moroccan rag rugs in the lobby.