Wednesday, October 31, 2007


San Francisco Tribal, an association of the top Bay Area tribal art dealers, hosted a "mini" show at the Herbst International Exhibition Hall within the Presidio grounds of San Francisco over the weekend of October 12-14, 2007. This was the fourth annual show put on by the members of SF Tribal, but the first time in this new venue.

The participating members of SF Tribal were: Michael Auliso; David Betz; Robert Brundage; Dave DeRoche; Joshua Dimondstein; Robert Dowling; Erik Farrow; Zena Kruzick; Joe Loux; Andres Moraga; Thomas Murray; Vicki Shiba; Frank Wiggers; and James Willis. The range of material offered spanned the globe: from Africa; Southeast Asia; Indonesia; Australia; Oceania; India; the Himalayas; and pre-Columbian America.

I loved the new venue. The Presidio is one of the most beautiful locations in the city and the Herbst building commands an impressive view of the old military post and the forest covered grounds. The hall was spacious enough to allow each participating member to easily exhibit within their own 15' wide booth. In fact there was plenty of room for even wider booth sizes or additional exhibitors. The group was fortunate to have contracted a company specializing in exhibition set-up that provided regular walls, paper, and lighting giving the whole venue a more professional look. In addition, there was ample parking close to the venue or within a short walk to the entrance.

Friday evening's Gala Preview, benefiting the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, brought in an estimated 120+ people, who paid $50 each to attend. The crowd, mostly well known local collectors and dealers (although there were a few notable out-of-towners), was upbeat and anxious to get a first look. That said it did not appear that any serious business was conducted as most attendees dropped into social mode (typical of most art openings). It was an enjoyable evening, chatting with old friends and admiring the objects on display, but the one criticism I had for the preview, was that the catered food was very lackluster.

The following weekend brought in another couple hundred people and considerably more business. It also helped that the weather could not have been more perfect: clear, blue skies and mild temperatures. I'll admit I spent most of my time in front of Frank Wiggers’ booth, because it was full of great Indonesian tribal art and there were plenty of chairs to sit in, and in a very short time I watched sales of a large Batak Charm (Pagar), a Batak Magic Horn, and a pair of ancient Sulawesi Ceramic Figures. It was my understanding that most of the participants sold well at the show, although there were some that were disappointed with the lack of major sales. I certainly witnessed a steady stream of buyers, leaving with bags and bubble wrapped treasures.

It would seem that 300 or so attendees are not a large crowd, but these "mini" shows are a new phenomenon and need time to build momentum. The idea is that a smaller show will allow collectors to get a better look at fewer pieces and have more time to talk to the dealers. The larger shows do tend to be overwhelming with many buyers losing focus after viewing thousands of objects.

Their previous venues were okay, but lacked a slick, professional look. The new location made a huge difference in presentation, so it should help with a positive impression for future shows, especially if SF Tribal can maintain a regular annual presence. It is my understanding that the hall has been booked for next year's show, so that is good news.

Overall the quality of material offered was good to very good, but I felt that many of the dealers opted against bringing their top level pieces to a smaller show, perhaps holding back for the upcoming SF Tribal Art Show in February. I understand the rational, as I often hold back my best pieces from lesser venues, assuming that they won't attract the big buyers. Bringing pieces that are more reasonably priced does seem practical, as most collectors are not millionaires, but there still should be a few objects that everyone can get excited about, even if they can't afford them.

I think in this case it may have been a mistake, for those who did not do so, to have passed on bringing at least a few major pieces. You want buyers to go WOW! when they come into every booth. It will be the "buzz" of this show, which will determine the attendance of the next one! Presenting at least some masterpieces and making the statement that this is a serious venue will bring in more serious collectors, at least in the long run. We all remember how long it took for the regular SF Tribal Art Show to get its legs, but as more and more serious dealers and material became available, it has evolved into the premier tribal art show in the US and arguably the world. SF Tribal is in a unique position with their annual event to fill the gap between that important show and to confirm that the Bay Area is the center for the Tribal Art market on the West Coast.

All minor criticism aside, I admire the members of SF Tribal for their hard work and dedication in putting on this annual event. I fumbled along with this same idea in the Los Angeles area and it is not easy pulling these shows together and maintaining momentum over the years.

For additional information, please visit the San Francisco Tribal website:


TribalArtery said...

Hello Mark:
I have just discovered your blog and will subscribe to the feed immediately.
I also will add a link to my tribal art blog to let visitors to my blog know about yours. I encourage you to take a look at my blog. Perhaps you could add a link to it on your blog.
I also have blog called "Carnival of Tribal Art", which I created to be able to post notices about other blogs on the subject. But i got so few leads that is has been dormant.

K Amber said...

All tribal art carries history and culture

Great Subject!

K Amber
China Asian Antiques Collectible Arts

asiaart said...

Thank you both for you comments. I will check out your blogs, asap. I am still new to this and need to make more time to keep things up to date, but business and personal issues are always pressing!!