WHILE its emphasis rests firmly within the native American art
world of the Southwest, the three-day Santa Fe Indian Market is a
decidedly national event.
This weekend, an estimated 150,000 casual and serious collectors
of native American fine art, sculpture, jewelry, pottery, and
traditional crafts will shoehorn their way into this centuries-old
city. Their destination is Santa Fe's central plaza, where nearly
1,000 of the country's most accomplished native American artisans
will gather for the 72nd annual Santa Fe Indian Market.
Not only is this one of the most unique and colorful of all art
fairs, Indian Market also happens to be an economic powerhouse of
an event where prices for individual works of art occasionally top
$100,000. Among the Navajo, Sioux, Santa Clara, Zuni, Chippewa,
Crow and other indigenous people who sell their creations at Indian
Market are dozens of artists whose work is regularly exhibited on
the international art circuit.
In this high desert city (7,000-foot elevation), a place where
more than 200 galleries compete for art collectors' attention, some
native American artists choose to exhibit their work and host
collectors in the more sedate confines of gallery spaces. That's
why R.C. Gorman can be found in the Navajo Gallery, sculptor Allan
Houser prowls the Glenn Green Gallery, painter David Bradley stays
inside the Elaine Horwitch Gallery, and jeweler Ray Tracey is found
in his namesake gallery. Besides avoiding the crunch of bodies
circulating around the plaza and its surrounding streets, these
galleries are sheltered from the afternoon thunderstorms that
descend on Santa Fe in the late summer.
But many native American artists are in the same position as
Hopi jeweler Phil Naavaasya and Navajo painter-sculptor Nelson
Tsosie. Despite their being established presences on the Southwest
arts scene, their work isn't sold in one of the many galleries
along Canyon Road or tucked into the adobe-walled streets
surrounding the city's plaza. That's why the Indian Market is an
important venue for artists like Mr. Naavaasya and Mr. Tsosie.
Collectors of their work can rely on the fact that the artists will
have booths on the plaza in which their latest work can be seen.
Each year, several particularly ardent followers of a select
group of Indian Market artists will camp out on the city's plaza,
directly in front of the booth of their favorite artist. For some,
this is in response to an artist's having won a top award in the
prestigious juried arts competitions that take place the Friday
evening of Indian Market weekend. Others are just following a hunch
about an up-and-coming artist whose work, they feel, is a sure-fire
bet to appreciate in the Southwest's still-healthy art market.
Still others are simply enthusiastic about an artist's work and
return to the market each year solely to add to their collections. …