Posted 3 years ago
In my own collecting, I am one of simple tastes. In graduate school, I wrote research on this topic. But a few years had elapsed since I was emmersed in the study of fine art. I had dabbled in different areas of green businesses, and sold guitars and pro audio, and learned buying in that vintage retail market to get my feet wet. I circled back around to my roots when I moved to an area of Florida primed for an explosion of estate art collection liquidation. So, with my bit of camera skills. I went door knocking. I walked into Joseph's Gallery with a resume in hand, and the auctioneer's daughter had recently gone into business as a realtor, and coincidentally, he could use a photographer.
People tend to inquire how you become an art dealer. For me, that was where I started to pay my dues, cataloging art auctions, and staffing gallery and jewelry counters, as well as running AV for live auctions. Getting to know art dealers and the collectors in that milieu was key. Like anything, you have to start in the trenches and prove yourself to get more and more gigs. The hours can be very seasonal, personalities mercurial. I was in the main house first for a couple of days with the appraiser and auctioneer, earmarking pieces for upcoming auctions, and a lot of the upper echelon paintings were already being pretty well gleaned by the two partners in this estate service contract when they brought me in to help pick. This piece was part of an enormous antique and art collection that the boss was dispersing. Only a couple of times in the early days did I take the better hourly rate to climb into the attic crawlspaces and bring down boxes of estate ephemera, sifting for those last bits of silver. My background in art history was finally paying off, and I could say I was using my education for the first time since leaving grad school.
I helped box up a pretty amazing art pottery collection here, and after a couple of trips, the "art room," the spare bedroom of a retired antique store owner and independent dealer and his husband was well picked over enough that only some empty frames and a folio of decent prints was left. I was offered my pick, and I took two small ones, trying not to ask too much, and an additional piece when offered again. The two pieces appeared to be bookends of each other, and I was able to match them up, and I mounted them on an acid free mat.
Due to my areas of study, precolumbian art, I had a special appreciation for these. I never gave serious consideration to selling the depiction of native Floridians, which is why I had not bothered with better photos. I often say that one is my most prized possession. I hang it only in low lit rooms, and rotate it off the wall for long periods of time, to protect it from fading. It is difficult to even put a value on these, with their rarity, but even being centuries old, it would be modestly between $100 - $300 each. What was bonus was the heir and appraiser also allowed me to help myself to two tall stacks of reference books, for free. I have amassed a small library of books this way.
This seems to be the woodcut illustration for a page of Bernard Picart's c.1730 Ceremonies et Costumes Religieuses, from one of the volumes on "idolatrous peoples." It was printed in multiple languages, as a sort of "armchair travel" market was emerging simultaneous with the evolution of the printing press.
As a person of native american descent, it is important to me to collect anything related to the subject of mesoamerican printmaking, and depictions of indigenous people in western art, rare, out of print books, drawings, as well as prints from the 15th through 18th centuries.