Thursday, January 27, 2011

Lost in Transaction?

Two aboriginal masks could fetch millions at art fair
From Thursday's Globe and Mail
Published Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2011

(commentary on the above noted article by Angus, your Native Perspective.)

That old adage: “Art will fetch what the market will bear.”  It’s also known too, in the art world, if you’re a dead artist, your art is worth a lot more. Most of us are familiar with artists like Da Vinci, Monet, the Group of Seven, and Michelangelo and their respective artworks and what they command and demand “in the market.” While aboriginal art in any form is a large part of cultural expression around the world, it is two masks from Alaska, this time, garnering a lot of attention. Why?

Photos posted in the GLOBE AND MAIL
“What makes the masks so valuable are their provenance and historic import, their museum-like quality and relative rarity and, oh yes, their beauty.”

The Yup’ik native masks are from Western Alaska. Typically, from an American perspective, the people there are known as Eskimo/Native American while in Canada, they could be considered as Inuit. An Erico Donati had acquired them in 1945 for $325 and $160. Now, the asking price?...2.1 million dollars for one and around 2 million dollars (US) for the other. Mr. Donati won’t be basking in the windfall though. He passed away in 2009 at the age of 99.

“Instead, it’s Donati’s heirs – and the Canadian art dealer working for them – who stand to be showered by a cascade of cash…”

While major artworks are attached with names,... names to these masks are unknown, long lost in transaction by a deceased trader who acquired these masks shortly after 1905 subsequent to witnessing ceremonial dances. Who knows what those aboriginal dancers received in trading those masks in what the 2011 antique show in Manhattan is now considering could be the cream of the crop.

Common practice though, this type of auction is the irony: whoever acquires these masks will want anonymity…names also lost in transaction. What goes around comes around?