Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Native Art:Who cares who made it and where it was made

On August 2, the South West Association for Indian Art (SWAIA) will sponsor a panel discussion on Authenticity and the Production of Quality in Native Arts. The event will be co-sponsored by Collected Works Bookstore, the Santa Fe venue for the discussion.
Artists, experts, and interested parties in the Santa Fe art market will discuss upholding standards in art making, and integrity in the sale of Native art in shops.  There is little doubt in an art making community like Santa Fe that there is a plethora of beautiful things –many handmade and genuine. But some copies and knock-offs, both deliberate and unintentional, provide ready sources of income to satiate tourists and decorators.  
But what are the consequences of allowing the dollar to take the lead in the production of Native art and Indian-style souvenirs in Santa Fe?  Is the groundwork now laid for eventual collapse?  How do artists and non-profits serve to protect heritage, and what is the city of Santa Fe's culpability and role?  
The panel, to be moderated by Dr. Bruce Bernstein, Executive Director of SWAIA, is part of SWAIA’s investigation into quality and its commitment to upholding standards of excellence as the preeminent authority in Native art.
The August 2 panel begins at 6 pm and is free and open to the public.


This writer notes in reading the SWAIA announcement that little credit is given to the commercial aspect of a healthy Native art market. Once again, the "institutional" view seems to be that professional collector/dealers are somewhere between irrelevant, venal an at least, unwelcome.

As one of those dealer/collectors of Native American pottery
Indian jewelry and fetish carvings, who is a member of IACA and ATADA, I know countless professionals in the field. They are upright, honest and supportive of the artists and the market. It is in their best interest to protect the integrity of Native arts. After all, in addition to being a passion for them, it is a source of their income and economic success. They wouldn't think of fouling the nest.

Moreover, the network of reputable dealers, whether resident in Santa Fe or online, is fundamental to the appreciation and success of the Native arts genre. How would the products of artists, who often live in remote communities, get to market, to the thousands of collectors who may never get to a pueblo or Indian Market? Collector/dealers not only buy outright, channeling funds immediately to the artists, but also invest a substantial portion of their income in promoting the artists and the art.

Yes, there are some miscreants in shops along the walkways of Santa Fe. But overwhelmingly, the people who deal in authentic Native arts in Santa Fe and online are responsible, reputable and integral to the growth and popularity of Native art. They should be treated with respect by the institutional elite.

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