2007 February The San Francisco Tribal & Textile Arts Show

Written by Michael Auliso and republished here with his permission.

Unfortunately, missing all images on page 2 and 3.

This annual Tribal Art Show event located on the waterfront Marina at Fort Mason is a “Must See” for everyone.  It is an energized event which builds on itself each year.   For those of you who have thus far relied on my reviews to experience this show, you should really make an effort to come next year and have the experience first hand!  I know it might be a sacrifice of time and money but I assure you that what you will see will turn your mind inside out and outside in!  This year visitors were rained on almost everyday and attendance at the show still set a record.  According to Caskey Lees, 8500 people (not including “comebacks”) attended the show.  The dynamic Gala preview had double the visitors compared to last year, and general attendance each day was up 30 to 50 percent from 2006!  It’s obvious that San Francisco is now the  major U.S. destination for Tribal Art enthusiasts.

The Euro Factor:  This year there was a surge of European’s in San Francisco, both exhibiting in the show and attending it.  Even Alain de Monbrison (noted expert and Paris Dealer) came out for the the show this year.   We welcome the Europeans, but there are a number of reasons why they were here in greater numbers this year.  

San Francisco has clearly overtaken New York as the Nucleus of Tribal Art in North America.  There is a growing market for great objects in San Francisco.  The weak dollar makes art in the U.S. more affordable and attractive, so many Europeans came to buy this year.   European dealers reported to me that good material is getting harder to find in Europe, and business is currently slow for mid range pieces.  If you are lucky enough to find a masterpiece it is always easy to sell.  

The show promoters felt they already have a great eclectic mix of American dealers, so they invited more of the European dealers to participate in the show.

Too much of a good thing?  Too many people after the same piece of the pie?  It’s true, there were many expensive pieces this year and apparently some customers had “sticker shock”.  That’s to be expected, as the composition of dealers shifts and quality continues to rise.   Great pieces cost money and there is usually an undeniable correlation between the two.  Many factors constitute the pricing of an object, but perhaps the most important one is which dealer is selling it.  

Is there a danger of the show becoming too exclusive?  Many dealers reported hearing from a good percentage of customers, that the show experience was amazing but there was nothing they could afford to buy!  What they were really saying is all the pieces they liked were not affordable.

In reality many dealers had good pieces under $1000 and some even under $500.  But this issue is a concern.  If the show is perceived as only having higher priced items, new collectors may hesitate to attend, which would hurt the market long term.  I would encourage other dealers to bring pieces in all price ranges and not just focus on making sales to that elusive handful of top collectors.  

It might be a good thing to keep in mind, that it’s a sales venue, not a museum exhibit.  Customers should be walking out carrying purchases, not just the free catalog.

Another thing often being heard this year is that the show was so overwhelming in its scale, however, size is what makes this show so incredibly impressive and unique.  If you’re attending the show for the first time give yourself plenty of time (at least two days) to see everything.  Several customers on the last day told me they had been there everyday and only managed one revolution around the Pavilion.

Dealers reported that larger decorator pieces were selling well this year, but  smaller collector objects were not selling as well.   Perhaps the larger decorative items were fewer, and the demand for them greater.  Large pieces are always impressive, and you can’t say you didn’t get anything for the $$$ as you load it into the U-Haul!


Note to Dealers:  I try to be inclusive but it is impossible to photograph every booth.  If yours is not seen here and you have an image please email it to us.

Pietro Notarianni (Milano Italy)  A rare Paiwan sword can be seen on the wall

Norman Hurst standing next to a fine New Guinea Papuan Gulf carved dance stick

Jo De Buck and Dave DeRoche with a Masks and Magic Theme.  Dave brought a number of LARGE scale Polynesian pieces included a Fijian Kava Bowl the size of a small car!

Mark A.Johnson Tribal Art

Joe Gerena (New York) with an aquatic theme exhibit.  On the wall is an unusual Tapa Cloth depicting Marine life.  To the right is an impressive headdress of a Sawfish from the Bidjogo people of Guinea Bissau West African

Michael Auliso “Tribalmania” next to a 19th century Admiralty Island figure.  A flat screen video slide show (center) 

KIp McKesson and Neil Becker looking at a pair of woven mats from Borneo

Lin and Jim Willis, San Francisco.  A rare Roratonga pole spear in the background

Chris Boylan Oceanic Art

Joss Graham, London England 

Langauer Textile Art, Austria

Cocoon, Istanbul 

Filly Keita, Los Angeles, (Far Right) A world class Montol figure from Nigeria

Kirby Lewis holding a New Guinea Karawari Aripa ancestor figure

Primary Source, John Strusinski with sidekick Elizabeth

Joel Cooner (Right), Chatting with Jim Hart of Acquisition Inc.

 Joris Visser (grabbing some shuteye), Brussels

Unfortunately the remaining images have been lost, text and captions are available

Robert Brundage (Petaluma CA) Overrun with customers

Kevin Conru (Brussels) et al

Conru’s Booth

Tribal Gathering, London

Wenhua Liu, China Travel and Art

Jo Loux, San Francisco (which one’s the Buddha?)

Colonial Arts, James Eddy, San Francisco

Peter-Michael Boyd, Seattle

Christopher Selser (Santa Fe New Mexico) after the wine tasting

Joshua Dimondstein

Returning to the show this year “Arte Y Ritual”, Ana and Antonio Casanovas (Madrid Spain) with a superb New Guinea Karawari Ewa cave figure

Vicki Shiba (left) an 18th century Tlingit Dagger (right) an important Indonesian Textile from from the Toraja People of Sulawesi

Happy Hour hosted by Bill Jamieson (Center)


This year a second off site show called Crossroads emerged which was produced largely by Alex Arthur of Tribal Magazine. It included six Dealers mostly from Brussels: Renaud Vanuxem (Paris), Adrian Schlag, Jack Sadovinc, Joaquin Pecci, Patric Didier Claes, and Alex Arthur. It was a clever boutique show on 706 Sansome Street in the Jackson square area. The ambience was hip, and the quality of material was solid. Obviously a lot of thought and planning was involved, including a handsome catalog with a biography of each dealer and their pieces. I enjoyed seeing Jack Sadovinc’s Indonesian and Oceanic material which was terrific quality.

The Europeans had an advantage in the sense that collectors could more easily focus on one piece at a time without being overwhelmed by aisles of booths filled with art. They tell me the show went rather well especially opening night. In fact there were so many red dots indicating sold pieces, I thought they were selling red dots at first. Attendance for the show was low other days with just a handful of people coming through on Sunday. Several major American collectors of African art who favor European dealers made purchases making the show a success. This show didn’t steal any thunder from the established Fort Mason event but it is perceived that it did take money out of the market, especially for high end African Art. That said, the African buyers may have only come into town to see their pieces?

Fort Mason dealers expressed mixed emotions about the European’s show. On the one hand, they are our colleagues and we wish them success but a few said they felt “exploited” by a satellite event riding on the coattails of the main show. Next year it would be nice to have them all under the same roof. Alex Arthur tells me that “I don’t know if we’ll do it again or get absorbed into the Caskey Lees show”? Perhaps competition is a positive. It says a lot about the market for Tribal Art in San Francisco that an increasing number of dealers are coming here to sell.

Opening Night

Jack Sadovnic with a Batak dance mask and pair of hands from the Da Silva Collection together with a large New Caledonian figure to the rear

Adrian Schlag with a pigmented Moble figure

Collectors: Jose Bedia (yellow shirt) with host Alan Verala (blue shirt), Dr. Manuel Perez (Far Right) Cantor Museum Stanford University

Patric Didier Claes (left) with Joaquin Pecci, and Ladies

Renaud Vanuxem Center

Alex Arthur with New York Collector Noble Endicott discussing a Nigerian Idoma dance crest


You notice there are only 19 candles, Bill’s physical age

Bill Karate chops the cake

Thank God no one thought to throw the Bouquet!

Ten minutes into the party and they’ve almost filled the table!

Vigorelli conducts the Band

Our Own Fashion Trend Setters!

Arthur Murray and willing Student

Attack of the Ninja Warrior

Bob slept through the whole party