Native American Art Trends – 2019
By Doug Thresher
Below are some trends and just general observations I’ve been thinking about in regards to the Native Arts Industry. Specifically pottery, since that is what we mostly deal in.
Collectors are aging and downsizing:
In looking at the demographics of our website visitors, the age group is primarily 55 and up. Baby boomers make up most of Native American Art collectors these days. A lot of them are de-cluttering and downsizing their collections only keeping their most prized pieces. This is helping flood the market with art which is keeping prices flat.
Collectors are passing away:
Let’s face it, none of us are getting any younger and in keeping with the trend above a lot of collectors are passing away. We have been seeing an uptick in “Estate Sales” featuring Native Art. A lot of collectors have children who are not interested in Native Art and just want to sell off their parents’ collections for the money. We have also been getting more requests from folks whose parents have passed and are looking to sell off their collections.
Gallery Owners & Dealers are retiring:
Along with collectors, dealers and gallery owners are aging and looking to retire. Many don’t have children who are interested in taking over the company, so they are forced to just close the doors. Just this year we have witnessed the closure of long-time fixture in Albuquerque Maisel’s Indian Art close for this very reason. There have also been several online shops that are shutting down this year. This is also contributing to an abundance of Native Art in the market.
Native Artists are becoming more internet savvy:
More and more Native artists are becoming more internet savvy which is putting a strain on dealers and galleries who operate websites. Most collectors would prefer to buy directly from the artist and with Facebook offering a sales platform this makes that possible without being local. Internet is also becoming more readily available in rural areas and on Reservations which will increase this trend. With all the do it yourself website platforms out there now, we will probably see more and more artists developing their own websites.
There is a wave of new up and coming artists:
There are a lot of younger artists coming into prominence and carrying on the traditions of their elders. Sandra Victorino of Acoma Pueblo has taught her 2 boys Preston & Cletus Jr to make pottery very similar to hers. Ty Moquino who is the 17-year-old son of award-winning potter Jennifer Tafoya has now started to win his own awards. Patrick Rustin Jr. is another young Acoma pottery who is carrying on the tradition of his mother Shana Garcia and his father Patrick Rustin Sr. We also just received some beautiful pieces from the daughter of Elizabeth & Marcellus Medina, Kimberly Medina-Toribio who is very talented! Many more of the artists that we deal with are teaching their children their craft.
One thing that is clear is we need to find a way to encourage younger people to start appreciating and collecting Native Art. How to do this is open for discussion. Everyone has their own story about how they became interested in collecting Native Art, but we have noticed that a lot of folks become interested in “Southwest” style art first and then as they become more educated hone in on authentic Native made art after. One excellent source for learning about Native pottery is the Facebook group “Jim Barufaldi Sr., Native American Indian Pottery” which has group members made up of collectors, Gallery Owners and Native potters themselves. I encourage people who have an interest to join this group no matter what your experience level is.
Doug Thresher is the owner of C & D Gifts Native American Art, LLC located in Rio Rancho, NM.
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