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Native American Art Brings More than $2 Million at Bonhams and Butterfields' Sale
Robert Davidson "Bring Back the Salmon" Haida, "Bring Back the Salmon", 1993, gouache on rag paper, signed lower right, framed and matted, size 39 1/2 x 60in. Sold for $42,700; Est. $40,000-60,000. Photo: Courtesy of Bonhams & Butterfields.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- Bonhams & Butterfields’ Fine Native American Art sale on June 6, 2011 in San Francisco garnered remarkable results, with sales bringing more than $2 million. Leading the auction were important pieces from the Northwest Coast areas of the United States and Canada, namely from the Muchnick-Milliren Collection of some 50 works of art, mostly antique, but contemporary as well.

Top lots from the Collection included a Tlingit bird effigy bowl, sold for $158,000, carved in bold relief, depicting a raptor, with its beak and wings projecting strongly and its tail feathers jutting from a second totemic face; and a Tsimshian raven rattle, sold for $91,500, featuring a raven figure with a humanoid, frog and kingfisher in full relief at the top and a hawk face on the underside, that clutches a "box of daylight" in its beak. Additional Muchnick-Milliren Collection highlights included a Tlingit fish club, likely used for ceremonial purposes, sold for $48,800; a Tlingit raven rattle, sold for $46,360; a Tlingit soapberry spoon, featuring animal imagery, sold for $46,360; a Tlingit pattern board, used as a pictorial guide for a blanket weaver, from the Andy Warhol collection, sold for $42,700; and a painting by the highly respected Haida artist Robert Davidson, sold for $42,700.

According to Jim Haas, Vice President and Native American Art Director, the sale exceeded the firm’s expectations. “In spite of the uncertain economic times, we were pleased to see buyers from across the country and beyond participating in the auction; some for the first time.”

Significant 20th century pottery from the Estate of Isadore Samuels of Northern California also led the sale. Highlights included a San Ildefonso lidded blackware jar by Tony Da, sold for $73,200, estimated at $30,000-50,000; and a San Ildefonso sgraffito redware bowl, also by Da, that sold for $23,180.

Also smokin’ in the sale was an early carved wood effigy pipe, originally from the Great Lakes region, that brought $46,360. Its carved wood bowl depicts the head of a Native man, sternly gazing at another Native figure, seated and holding a liquor keg. Two pipes from the Muchnick-Milliren Collection also were featured: a Haida argillite pipe, sold for $8,540, featuring a pair of men next to a complementing portrait bowl, surmounting the stem of a Western-style pipe; and an unusual Haida argillite pipe, carved in the style of a “Meerschaum” pipe, depicting a bearded Scotsman, sold for $7,320.

Additional highlights included Haida items, such as a Haida bear mask by Robert Davidson, carved in strong angular form, with prominent brow and wide open mouth, sold for $39,040; a signed Haida copper by Robert Davidson, "Copper With Eagle," 1992, of characteristic form, hammered and polished copper and paint, sold for $36,600; and a Haida figural bowl, comprising a rectangular bowl container, inverted abstract face designs on the sides, each end supported by squatting human figures gripping the vessel's sides, sold for $36,600. From other regions in Native America a colorful, fully-beaded Crow cradle, fetched $41,480; a rare Navajo pictorial rug from circa 1910, attributed to Gle-nuh-pah, depicting a single Yei figure with arms raised, sold for $37,820; a Sioux quilled tobacco bag designed with a pair of thunderbirds on one side, the reverse showing a bighorn sheep, sold for $31,720; Apache artist Allan Houser's signed bronze "Reclining Navajo Woman," 1992, sold for $21,960; and a Sioux beaded pictorial vest, came in at $21,400.

Also, adding lasting sparkle to the sale was a great selection of jewelry, including several Hopi pieces by Charles Loloma, such as a ring, the interior of its 14 karat gold band inlaid with turquoise, lapis and spondylus shell, sold for $7,930; a pendant by Loloma of an abstract human figure, in 14k gold and inlays of gold, lapis, turquoise and spondylus, sold for $7,320; and another Hopi ring in 14k gold, with unusual multi-arm openwork bezel accented by small circular cavities and supporting an emerald-cut smokey citrine quartz, sold for $4,880.

There also was a significant offering of turquoise and silver Navajo bracelets and other jewelry from the Collection of Everett and Martha Thomas, Southern California. Compiled throughout a 30-year period, the collection included approximately 150 pieces of mostly pre-1940s jewelry. Top lots from that Collection – all featuring turquoise - included A Zuni fetish necklace, sold for $7,320; a Navajo bracelet, sold for $3,660; a set of four Navajo bracelets, sold for $3,416; and a set of three Navajo bracelets, sold for $3,050.

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