2008 February The San Francisco Tribal & Textile Arts Show

Written by Michael Auliso and republished here with his permission.

Unfortunately, all the images have been lost

This annual Tribal Art Show event located on the waterfront Marina at Fort Mason is a “Must See” for everyone! We were blessed with gorgeous sunny weather which sent attendance soaring. This is an “energized” event which continuously expands each year. If you attend only one tribal show per year it should be this one. If you’re attending the show for the first time give yourself plenty of time (at least two days) to see everything as the event can seem overwhelming. It’s fairly obvious that this show has become the best tribal show in the world, attracting the finest dealers, showing the highest forms of the various tribal arts. Booths have grown more sophisticated and refined, boosting the overall appearance of the show, which has never looked better! San Francisco is “The” destination for Tribal Art enthusiasts.

This year the Gala Preview opening benefited the de Young Museum’s departments of Textiles, Art of Africa, Oceania and the Americas. All of the important museum donors were in attendance. On Friday night there was a separate event at the de Young Museum for dealers and lenders of Tribal art. The dealer organization “San Francisco Tribal” was a co-sponsor. John Friede led an exciting & informative tour explaining some of his pieces currently housed in the permanent collection.

View of Alcatraz Island from Festival

The pulse of the marketplace: Many dealers reported that sales this year were off 10% to 20% or more. With 103 dealers under “one roof” and a finite number of buyers not every dealer will have a successful show. The softer sales may be attributed to two factors. The U.S. economic slowdown and looming recession is likely a factor but probably not the main one since most collectors buy art with discretionary income. The larger long term factor seems directly related to the weakening U.S. dollar.

It seems that fewer American Collectors are traveling to Europe and buying art these days. There was apparently a substantial drop in American buyers from Summer Bruneaf Fair to the Winter Bruneaf. The European dealers are especially feeling the slowdown and are more dependant on their base of customers back home. As a result the European dealers, despite their increased purchasing power, were far less active buying at the show this year. In fact they were eager to “sell”, adjusting their prices to tempt U.S. collectors.

That said a healthy number of dealers sold over $100,000 in material and some did many times over that! For example, Joel Cooner had a stellar show selling a New Guinea Mindja Figure for six figures from the Masco Collection. Other dealer’s reporting a very successful show include Vicki Shiba (Mill Valley, CA), Michael Hamson (Palos Verdes Estates CA), Michael Evans (Pennsylvania) and Tribalmania. Although I didn’t speak to each of my European colleagues, Dalton Somare’ (Milan Italy) reported strong African Art sales as usual. Other European dealers such as Jack Sadovnic (Brussels) and Joaquin Pecci (Brussels) got off to a slow start but they finished strong.

Dave DeRoche (Piedmont CA) chose not to exhibit at the show after the promoters strategically moved him to the back from a prime space in the front of the show (shared by Jo De Buck). Deroche had occupied that same space for 15 years. Instead Dave hosted several art openings in his home including a Sunday morning brunch. He tells me it was a fabulous success vastly exceeding his expectations.

Less wool more wood: This year there was an intentional shift in the composition of dealers. There were fewer Carpet/ Rug dealers and more Tribal Art dealers giving the show more focus and cohesiveness.

Vetting–The show the customers don’t see: The process of vetting material for authenticity is seldom pretty but always daunting and sometimes subjective. Occasionally pieces are removed which should stay in and pieces are left in which should be removed. This is especially true of African and to a lesser extent Indonesian Material. It has been said many times but there is a dire need for the vetting to be done by outside independent experts. This is partially being done with Oceanic Art having John Friede and David Rosenthal (non-exhibiting dealer) on the Vetting committee.

Special Exhibit in the Foyer Organized by Lee Chinalai

“Outer Garments- Inner Warmth”

A stunning array of wearable art displayed on a complex bamboo structure a dramatic entrance to the show


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.

Clive Loveless- London, had one of most tasteful and elegant booths at the show although his choice of belts remains questionable.

Clive Loveless: Group of nested triple prestige containers from Rwanda

Tribalmania’s Booth, Raymond Manzarek (keyboardist from “The Doors”) poses for a photo, before picking up a purchase

Michael Hamson: With a large New Guinea Papuan Gulf Gope Board from the Elema people, (right) an ancient Lower Sepik Figure which he described as a Rembrandt of New Guinea Art. Both pieces were sold.

Jack Sadovnic- Brussels

Jack Sadovnic still suffering from jet lag adjusts the time on his phone, or takes his own picture to prove he actually arrived.

Andres Moraga- Berkley CA

An impressive New Britain Tapa Dance Shield (Baining People)

Bruce Frank and Wayne Heathcote patiently wait for the food court to open. Rumor has it they actually camped on que the night before.

Jean-Baptiste with a captive audience discussing a Baule Figure

Ramona Morris Fine Art- Delaplane VA, with her husband standing in front of a large Samoan Tapa Cloth “siapo”

Zena Kruzick’s Booth: Group of antique Japanese masks


Wayne Heathcote with his new assistant, a Vanuatu rambaramp funerary effigy

Didier Claes: Mangbetu Harp

This large Booth of Schlag, Sadovic, and Pecci located in front of the show formerly occupied by Dave DeRoche and Jo De Buck

Jack Sadovnic: A fine Timor ancestor figure

Sadovnic: Dayak ironwood sacrificial post

Pecci sold this long flat Congo mask from the Kumu People

Yann Ferrandin and Eugenia(sp)- Paris

Ferrandin: Luba Bowl Bearer

Ferrandin: This New Guinea Papuan Gulf figure had an unusually sweet face

Bruce Frank, New York

Frank: A powerful PNG Lower Sepik crouching figure w/ elongated headdress

Joe Gerena- New York

Gerena: Rare type of Naga Shield

Gerena: A splendid Bidjogo Ladle from Guinea Bissau with Shark handle collected by Bernatzik in the 1930s

Mark Johnson- Marina Del Rey CA (right), chatting amiably about this stoic N. Nias ancestor figure siraha salawa

Johnson: Fantastic Modang Dayak ironwood cave guardian figure, Borneo

Kevin Conru- Brussels

Conru: This compelling New Guinea Papuan Gulf Elema tapa mask was my personal favorite piece in the show. It had amazing presence and good scale. It was collected in the 1900’s was in pristine condition and priced well above six figures

John Giltsoff, Spain

Giltsoff: Large North West Coast totem fragment

Giltsoff: (back wall)

Erik Farrow- San Rafael CA, with a crowded booth, stands next to his Philippine Moro armor set. The two 17th-18th c. bronze cannons were from Mindanao

TAD Tribal Art- Santa Fe New Mexico, had an attractive display of mostly “African Forms” against the back wall

TAD Tribal Art

Tad Dale (Right) w/ Dieter from Zemanek-Munster Auction House in Germany. Tad Dale has a well deserved reputation in the business for his comprehensive knowledge of the world’s many diverse art forms and cultures, and his kind generosity. I will always be indebted to him for the encouragement and inspiration he gave me as a young dealer starting out in the business, and the wealth of information he continues to share.

Lewis/ Wara Gallery-Seattle: Kirby (in the suit) standing next to an enormous ancient New Guinea Garamut drum end or finial

Lewis/ Wara Gallery

Lewis/ Wara Gallery: A superb quality New Guinea Middle Sepik Suspension Hook

Robert Morris Fine Art- Santa Fe NM with Jewels

Robert Morris: Mayan polychrome bowl with glyph bands

View down the isle from the rear. There was a constant “buzz” of people which made leaving even for a moment impossible without an assistant.

People enjoying lunch at the food court, (well people in the food court anyway).


Booth of “Tribal”-San Francisco: The dapper Jonathan Fogel (Editor) tirelessly works to make our next issue happen. He once described the job to me as “like having a final exam that never ends but I enjoy it”. Keep up the great work. We all appreciate your efforts!

Jon Eric Riis- Atlanta GA

Fily Keita- Los Angeles CA, just spotted his favorite customer buying from another dealer

Ben Hunter- London, with a well waxed handlebar goatee standing next to a Binji mask from the Congo

Patrick and Ondine Mestdagh- Brussels

Yo de Buck- Brussels, with a large Songye Fetish

Michael Evans- Ferndale Bucks County PA, Mike sold that terrific New Guinea Abelam figure (right) to a noted San Francisco collector

Neil Becker New World Antiquities- W. Harrison NY, with a pair of fine Zacatecas seated figures from W. Mexico

Kip McKesson- East Lansing MI, Kip field collects and specialized in Tanzanian Art

Jim and Lin Willis- San Francisco

Arte Textile, Steve Berger (left)- San Francisco. Next to Steve is Santa Fe Gallery owner Wiliam Siegal who specializes in museum quality Pre-Columbian Textiles. Bill is known for being perhaps the best “salesman” in the business.

Serge Schoffel- Brussels, next to a mask from Vanuatu (Melanesia). With zero help from his father Alain, he deserves every ounce of success he has achieved

This extraordinary Dan mask was owned by B.C. Dentan- San Francisco. Chester who has a very refined aesthetic only displays a handful of objects but each is always a 10!

Brant Mackley- Hummelstown PA

Brant Mackley- Hummelstown PA. An elegant Eskimo wooden Yoke with red and green pigments

Thomas Murray- Mill Valley CA, hiding behind an huge funerary stone from Sumba Island Indonesia

Galerie Flak- Paris, Rowland discusses the merits of a African Mossi mask from Burkina Faso with a potential customer

Galerie Flak: A Marquesas Island Bowl

Tomasto and his brother next to a Bakota reliquary figure

Robert Brundage- Petaluma CA, specializing in Nepalese and Tibetan Art

Joaquin Pecci- Brussels, next to a Senufo figure made by a great artist

Tribalmania- cyberspace, used mirrors to show the backsides of Polynesian clubs

Alain Lecomte- Paris, next to a sexy black Hemba figure

Alain Lecomte: with an expressive Chokwe Mortar (a personal favorite)

A Private Party Hosted by Sam & Sharon Singer

Sam Singer (Left)

Carlo Bella, Pace Primitive Gallery New York

Photos Courtesy of Sam Singer

Michael Hamson’s San Fran Gallery Loft Opening

“Art of the West Sepik”

If you’ve suspected that Michael Hamson might be an “over achiever” this will removed all doubts. He was exhibiting at the show and produced this event simultaneously, even publishing an exhibition catalog! Fortunately Michael has a large family to draw from for loyal employees, and I heard he has all the kids taking canoe lessons this summer, just in case he wants to expand.

Photos Courtesy of Sam Singer

The End– thanks for stopping by!