Sunday, September 26, 2010

Native American Art Advocate Ralph T. Coe Dies

Ralph T. Coe, 1929-2010
Photo: NY Times

Ralph T. Coe, a former art museum director and a private collector who played a central role in the revival of interest in Native American art, died September 14th at his home in Sante Fe, New Mexico. He was 81. 

Ted Coe, as he was known, was director of the The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, from 1977 until 1982. But as an art student in 1955 he was transfixed by a small Northwest coast totem pole that he spotted in a shop on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan. It was the start of a 55-year fascination that Mr. Coe would share through major exhibitions he curated, his writings and eventually his donations.

“He was kind of the beginning player, enormously significant in the growth of appreciation of Native American art in the 20th century,” Julie Jones, the curator in charge of the arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas at the The Metropolitan Museum of Art, said on Thursday.

After seeing that totem pole, Mr. Coe began collecting and studying Native American art, ultimately assembling a collection of more than 1,100 objects, some of which dated from prehistoric times. It included ceremonial and utilitarian pieces, among them kachina dolls, decorated blankets, war bonnets, baskets, masks, pipes, ceramic jars, weapons and lavishly beaded garments.

To gather the objects, Mr. Coe roamed from reservation to reservation in the United States and Canada, learning about their symbolism and the techniques of their artisans. He lived with the Passamaquoddy of Maine, the Winnebago of Wisconsin, the Osage of Oklahoma, the Shoshone of Wyoming and other tribes.

Mr. Coe’s research culminated in two landmark exhibitions. The first, “Sacred Circles: 2,000 Years of North American Indian Art,” opened at the Hayward Gallery in London in 1976 and traveled to the Nelson-Atkins a year later. The second, “Lost and Found Traditions: Native American Art, 1965-1985,” was the first major exhibition dedicated to the work of contemporary Native American artists. It was shown at the American Museum of Natural History and nine other museums beginning in 1986.

By then, Mr. Coe had resigned as director of the Nelson-Atkins to immerse himself in collecting and spending time on reservations.

“It was a beguiling world of color and visual excitement, of pungent and humorous people,” he said in 1986. “To me, the Indian world became the real world. I changed a pinstripe suit for a pair of jeans. I said, ‘I’m just not good anymore at 12 cocktail parties in 14 days. I want to take off.’ ”

Ralph Tracy Coe was born in Cleveland on Aug. 27, 1929, one of three children of Ralph and Dorothy Coe. His father, who owned an iron factory, was a collector of Impressionist paintings and a trustee of the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Mr. Coe, who is survived by a sister, received his bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College in 1953 and his master’s from Yale in 1958, both in art history. A year later he was working at what was then called the Nelson Gallery of Art.

In 2003 the Metropolitan Museum of Art mounted an exhibition, "The Responsive Eye: Ralph T. Coe and the Collecting of American Indian Art,"which placed on view a promised gift of nearly 200 works from Mr. Coe’s collection. They included works by 20th-century artists, an indication of his determination to show that Indian art is a living tradition.

“There is an idea of the dying American Indian, and we keep counting them out,” Mr. Coe said of the modern works. “But I keep wondering, if we have counted them out, why is all of this here?”

Source: NY Times

 The Responsive Eye: Ralph T. Coe and the Collecting of American Indian Art
Photo: Amazon

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Christie's Interior Sale features fine Nguni Pipes

Christie's London "Interior: Masters & Makers" sale concluded today, fetching nearly £300,000. The auction featured 132 lots from the pipe collection of British appliance magnate, Trevor Barton.

A circa 17th century Sinhalese Ivory Double-Pipe Case sold for £51,650 at the Unusual Smoking Pipe sale, far surpassing the £8,000 - £12,000 presale estimate. The work was the sale's top lot.

Ivory pipe cases, Austrian Meerschaum pipes, and 18th century tobacco figures were among the top lots. 

A large Austrian Meerschaum Pipe (circa 1875) sold for £7,500. The ivory pipe, carved as the head of a young lady carrying a porte-monnaie and wearing an elaborate wrist corsage, was projected to sell for £2,000 - £3,000. William Bragge's drawings of his rare pipe collection, expected to sell for £2,000 - £4,000 failed to find a buyer. 

The sale was from the collection of renowned "Pipe Man," Trevor Barton. Owning what was arguably the finest, most wide-ranging collection of pipes and smoking memorabilia in the world, Barton was a familiar figure in the stalls of the Portobello and Bermondsey markets of London. 

Barton's pipes come from all over the globe and reflect over fifty years of passionate pipe collecting and a lifetime of a travel. He was a leading member of the exclusive "Academie Internationale de la Pipe."

Several fine Nguni pipes from Southern Africa were included in the sale. Dating from 19th century, the works were finely inlaid with lead and depict objects such as clocks, cannons and trains. Others featured more traditional subjects, carved human figures. 

Results from the sale can be found at Christie's website,

Source: Christie's London
Photo courtesy of Christie's London

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Africa meets Africa - Ndebele Women designing Identity

An Ndebele Resource!

Africa meets Africa: Ndebele Women designing Identity focuses on the history and visual cultural expression of the Ndzundza and Manala Ndebele.

In this project, the authors explore the knowledge contained in the sophisticated design landscape of Ndebele women, which has informed their homestead design beadwork and has informed their homestead design, beadwork and painting. They look at the design language as art, but also in terms of the history and heritage that produced it. Going one step further, they also mathematically explore the elegant symmetry and proportion of Ndebele design.

A fifty-two minute documentary film by Guy Spiller (script by Andre Croucamp) introduces Zimbabwean Ndebele speaker Siphiwe Khumalo, who comes across Ndebele painting for the first time in Johannesburg, and then investigates the people who make the colorful designs. She talks with to such academics as Ndebele historian Dr. Sekibakiba Peter Lekhgoathi of the History Department of the University of the Witwatersrand, and Professor Peter Rich, who studied Ndebele homestead architecture. Siphiwe undertakes a journey to rural KwaMahlanga, Mabhoko and the surrounding area, to the homes of the master painters Esther Mahlangu and Francinah Ndemande, as well as attends contemporary Ndebele cultural festivals. Finally, she interviews Mathematician Dr. Chonat Getz, who explores the remarkable symmetry and proportion in the design language that Nbebele women use in their homestead architecture and painting.

The sixty-four page book (in full color), designed by Anina Kruger, unpacks the history of the Ndzundza and Manala Ndebele in more depth.

The book is available for purchase on Africa Meets Africa website,

The Africa meets Africa Project explores the southern African cultural heritage in the belief that educators and students in South African schools can find solutions to contemporary learning problems in the knowledge and skills contained in familiar forms of cultural expression around them. This integrated approach to learning serves all of South Africa's educators, as current curriculum statements call for a process of holistic learning - and specifically for an engagement with the cultural context of learning areas such as the Arts, Mathematics, Language and History.

Monday, September 13, 2010

'Art of Africa: Objects from the Collection of Warren Robbins' at Keene State College

From carved serving bowls to ceremonial masks, art is interwoven into the African way of life, as shown in an exhibit set to run from Friday, Sept. 3, through Sunday, Oct. 31, at the Thorne-Sagendorph Art Gallery at Keene State College.

“‘Art of Africa: Objects from the Collection of Warren Robbins’ depicts how life and art come together in African culture,” curators said. “The exhibit presents more than 60 objects, including sculpture, textiles, beaded clothing and jewelry, which broadly represent the creativity and diversity of artistic expression of nearly 30 cultures of sub-Saharan Africa. Accompanied by a video on African masks and dance, the exhibition illustrates the broader cultural context in which these art forms were created and used.”

Robbins was founding director of the National Museum of African Art, now a branch of the Smithsonian Institution. He discovered African art while serving in the American Diplomatic Service in Germany and Austria from 1950 to 1960. Robbins visited an African art dealer’s shop near Hamburg, where the African objects immediately captured his interest and imagination. He returned to the United States with 32 objects, the beginnings of a collection that later grew to include 5,000 pieces. Robbins opened the Museum of African Art on Capitol Hill, with the hope it would help “foster a deeper understanding of African culture, its history, its values, its creative tradition,” and its relevance to lives of contemporary Americans.

Originally collected by European explorers and ethnologists as academic specimens or curios, African sculpture had, by the end of the 19th century, begun to accumulate in European natural history museums and with dealers in antiques and the “exotic” arts.

“At the beginning of the 20th century, a handful of European artists in France and Germany were intrigued by the unique forms and styles of African art and began to draw creative inspiration from them,” curators said. “The aesthetic significance of African art became highly appreciated and respected in Europe and served as a catalyst for the artistic revolution that ushered in modern art around the world.”

“Art of Africa” is from the collection of the Robbins Center for Cross Cultural Communication and organized by International Arts & Artists, Washington, D.C.

The Thorne-Sagendorph Gallery’s hours are Sundays through Wednesdays from noon to 5 p.m.; Thursdays and Fridays from noon to 7 p.m.; and Saturdays from noon to 8 p.m. It will be closed Monday, Sept. 6. There is no admission fee. The gallery is located on Wyman Way on the Keene State campus. For more information, call 358-2720 or visit
Source: New Hampshire Union Leader, Keene State College

Thursday, September 9, 2010

South African Photographs: David Goldbatt at The Jewish Museum

In congruence with the celebration of Rosh Hashanah, Jacaranda Tribal reminds its readers to begin the New Year by visiting the must-see David Goldblatt exhibition ending soon at The Jewish Museum in Manhattan.

David Goldblatt (b. 1930) is one of South Africa's most highly regarded photographers. As both a citizen and photographer, he was witness to apartheid's infiltration into every aspect of South African life. The exhibition includes 150 black and white photographs by Goldblatt that focus on South Africa's human landscape in the apartheid and post-apartheid eras. Very precise captions written by the artist accompany each photo in order to convey context and critical information about the image. His photos do not look at the large events or the public face of violence; rather they focus on the world of ordinary people and the minutiae of everyday life, illuminating the depth of injustice and the character of the people who imposed it and who struggled against it. Goldblatt's Jewish identity is germane to his work. The anti-Semitism that he frequently experienced made him especially sensitive to the deep humiliation and discrimination suffered by blacks under apartheid, informing his artistic vision as well as his attitude toward his country.

South African Photographs: David Goldblatt is presented simultaneously with South African Projections: Films by William Kentridge. The exhibition is on display until September 19th at The Jewish Museum, 1109 Fifth Avenue at 92nd Street.

Source: The Jewish Museum Website
Image: "The farmer's son with his nursemaid, on the farm in Heimweeberg, near Nietverdiend in the Marico Bushveld. Transvaal (North-West Province)" 1964

Monday, September 6, 2010

African Art Museum Again Delays Opening of Site on Fifth Avenue

Citing construction delays, the Museum for African Art said on Friday that it had pushed back the planned opening of its new Manhattan home by about six months, from April 2011 to September or October of that year.

The museum will occupy the lower floors of a 19-story condominium building, designed by Robert A.M. Stern, on Fifth Avenue between 109th and 110th Streets. The museum’s president, Elsie McCabe Thompson, said that the building’s developers, Brickman and Sidney Fetner Associates, had failed to complete the core and shell as expected several months ago, and that they were now planning to do so in the next few weeks.

In the meantime the museum’s construction consultants, engineers and architects decided that they could not finish the interior in time for a spring opening.

“It’s a complex situation — I don’t want to lay blame on any one entity,” Mrs. Thompson said. “There’s a lot of factors,” she continued, adding, “It’s quite common.”

Roderick O’Connor, a principal of Brickman, however, said in a phone interview that there had not been any significant delays on its part.

Mrs. Thompson said fund-raising was not a factor in the delay. As of June, the museum had raised only $71 million of the $95 million it needed to pay for construction. Mrs. Thompson said she had since raised an additional $4.5 million. Asked if the museum was considering a phased opening, she said, “I promised a full building, and I’m going to move earth to make it happen.”

Mrs. Thompson, the wife of the former mayoral candidate William C. Thompson Jr., has been pursuing a permanent home for the museum since she took it over in 1997. She first envisioned building on the site a decade ago. The plans were delayed for several years by the withdrawal of the museum’s original development partner, Edison Schools.

Since the museum partnered with Brickman and Sidney Fetner Associates, the opening has been postponed further. When the museum unveiled Mr. Stern’s designs in 2007, it said it would open its new home in late 2009. The date was later pushed back, partly because of the discovery of a quicksandlike layer of sediment under the site.

Mrs. Thompson said she still hoped to open with the planned slate of exhibitions, including a retrospective of the Ghanaian artist El Anatsui and a show of African- and African-American-made baskets.

The museum, which was founded in 1984, has been credited with presenting groundbreaking exhibitions, but it has sometimes struggled financially. Mrs. Thompson and members of the board have said they expect that moving to such a prominent location, on the upper end of Museum Mile, will help attract a large audience, as well as donors and corporate sponsors.

The long journey toward a permanent home, however, has come at some cost to the museum’s visibility. It closed its gallery in Long Island City, Queens, in 2005, though it has created traveling exhibitions and mounted some shows in other spaces since then.

Source: The New York Times

By: Kate Taylor

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Zemanek-Münster's 62nd Tribal Art Auction This Saturday

Zemanek-Münster's 62nd Tribal Art Auction takes place this Saturday, September 4, 2010.

The auction features a substantial amount of authentic old objects from Africa, America and Oceania. Over 500 objects are featured in the catalog, with highlights from Gabon, Nigeria, Mali, the Ivory Coast, Congo and Indonesia.

A special section is reserved for the region of East Africa, and in particular, Tanzania. Some 200 objects, all a part of the former exhibition "Tansania - Glaube, Kult und Geisterwelt" are included. The exhibit, shown in 2007 in the "Kultur-und Stadthistorische Museum" of the city of Duisburg and in 2009, in the "Haus der Volker," Schwaz (Austria), displays works from the private collection of Ralf Schulte-Bahrenberg.

Schulte-Bahrenberg (1934-2010) was responsible for organizing local jazz festivals in his native Germany. He was best known for his role as co-organizer of the German concerts of pop music sensations- The Rolling Stones and The Beatles.

The tribal art auction house Zemanek-Münster, is located in Würzburg, Germany. Established in 1978, they are Europe's only auction house specializing exclusively in non-European, fine tribal art. Holding four auctions a year, Zemanek-Münster features a variety of works of the Luba, Baule, Lobi, Senufo, Songye, Fang and Punu tribes, as well as works from Oceania.

The auction takes place Saturday at 2 pm at their location in Würzburg.

Source: Zemanek-Münster

"The Global Africa Project" at the Museum of Arts and Design this fall

An unprecedented exhibition exploring the broad spectrum of contemporary African art, design, and craft worldwide, The Global Africa Project premieres at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) this November. Featuring the work of over 60 artists in Africa, Europe, Asia, the United States, and the Caribbean, The Global Africa Project surveys the rich pool of new talent emerging from the African continent and its influence on artists around the world. Through ceramics, basketry, textiles, jewelry, furniture, and fashion, as well as selective examples of architecture, photography, painting, and sculpture, the exhibition actively challenges conventional notions of a singular African aesthetic or identity, and reflects the integration of African art and design without making the usual distinctions between "professional" and "artisan."

On view from November 17, 2010, through May 15, 2011, The Global Africa Project is co-curated by Lowery Stokes Sims, the Museum's Charles Bronfman International Curator, and Leslie King-Hammond, Founding Director of the Center for Race and Culture at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Visitors and scholars can track the development of the project and participate in an online discussion of key issues related to exhibition through an interactive and behind-the-scenes blog on MAD's website.

"The Global Africa Project charts important new territory in the field by actively looking beyond restrictions of traditional art historical groupings, including medium, geography, and artistic genre," states Holly Hotchner, the Museum's Nanette L. Laitman Director. "By many measures, this exhibition is entirely unprecedented and it is a landmark moment in our history. As a museum that has long challenged the hierarchies separating art, craft, and design, we are delighted to introduce these new explorations of contemporary African art and aesthetics."

The exhibition will showcase a diverse group of creators, including artists who are experimenting with the fusion of contemporary practices and traditional materials, and design collectives that are using their creative output as engines of local economic change. Featured artists and designers range from well-known figures such as Yinka Shonibare, Kehinde Wiley, and Fred Wilson; to fashion designer Duro Olowu, who is an important presence in the London fashion scene, and Paris-based Togolese/Brazilian designer Kossi Aguessy, who has collaborated with Renault, Yves Saint Laurent, Cartier, and Swarovski; to the Gahaya Links Weaving Association, a collaborative of Hutu and Tutsi women working in traditional basketry techniques in Rwanda. The Global Africa Project will be accompanied at MAD by a special installation, Are You a Hybrid?, curated by designer Stephen Burks. Exploring the impact and influence of Africa on contemporary design, it will be on view from February through April 2011. The installation is part of the MADProjects exhibition series, which explores emerging trends and innovations in the design world.

“Given the nomadic, even migratory, nature of artistic careers today, the interesting challenges of presenting an exhibition like The Global Africa Project are indicated in its very title,” stated curator Lowery Stokes Sims. “The exhibition addresses important questions of how these designers, craftsmen, and artists grapple with issues of commodification in art production, and the meaning and value of art in contemporary society.” 

“No longer are these artists viewed as part of the periphery of the main stream art world," Leslie King-Hammond added. “This work redefines a new center of creativity and innovation for the twenty first century.” 

In order to present the various dimensions of the work of African artists and artisans worldwide, The Global Africa Project will be organized around several thematic ideas: the phenomenon of cultural fusion; promoting competition on the creative global scene; fostering the use of local materials; supporting artisans and craftsman; and impacting the economic and social condition of local communities. In addition to providing a broad framework for the exhibition’s organization, these themes will encourage The Global Africa Project’s audiences to discern how global African artists grapple with the commodification of art production and the meaning and value of art in society—an increasingly significant issue for nations in a rapidly changing global context.

Source: Museum of Arts and Design website
Image: "Sweet Grass Basket" by Mary A. Jackson (1999)