NEW YORK.- Sothebys sale of The Dundas Collection of Northwest Coast American Indian Art, the finest known field collection of Northwest Native material in private hands, achieved $7,030,600, a new record for a sale of American Indian Art at auction, far above its presale estimate of $2.4/3.4 million and with every lot sold. The unparalleled artistic and historic value of the collection, which had survived in family hands since it was originally acquired by the Reverend Robert J. Dundas of Scotland in October of 1863, attracted a wide array of bidders from the Canada, the United States and Europe. Among the masterpieces of Tsimshian art which ranked among the most impressive and best known of Northwest Coast artifacts, was a Tsimshian Portrait Mask, which sold for $1,808,000, setting an auction record for an American Indian Object. The previous record was set by Sothebys in May 2006 when an Early and Important Upper Missouri River Man's Quilled and Pony Beaded Hide Shirt, probably Blackfoot, sold for $800,000.
The mask was purchased by Donald Ellis of the Donald Ellis Gallery of Dundas, Ontario, Canada who purchased a total of 27 lots in the sale, bidding on behalf of two Canadian institutions, an American private interest and two members of the Thomson family of Canada. The day after the sale, Mr. Ellis said: The Donald Ellis Gallery is extremely thrilled to have been a participant in the repatriation of a major portion of the Dundas Collection to Canada. Discussions are already underway this morning regarding a public display of this extraordinary group of historical Northwest Coast native art.
Benjamin Carey, speaking on behalf of his father, Simon Carey, the seller of the Dundas Collection who is also the great grandson of the Reverend Robert J. Dundas, said: My father and I are extraordinarily pleased that the bulk of this remarkable collection, which has been our family heritage for 143 years, will, with this sale, become part of the heritage of the Canadian nation. We look forward to talking to these institutions and exploring how we can work together on the publication of my great-great grandfathers letters, journals and other unpublished material, which represents such an incredible historical resource about early British Columbia and the Pacific West coast.
David Roche, Sothebys Consultant in charge of the sale, said: It has been one of the high points of my career to preside over the sale of the Dundas Collection, which is the most important collection of American Indian Art to come to auction in the last 30 years.
A Rare Tlingit Polychromed Wood Clan Hat, elaborately carved in the form of a frog, a creature which figures prominently in Northwest Coast mythology, sold for $660,000 (est. $350/550,000). A Rare and Important Northwest Coast Club, Tlingit or Tsimshian, carved from the branch of an elk or caribou antler with a series of totemic devices, sold for $940,000 (est. $450/550,000). A second Rare Northwest Coast Club, Tlingit or Tsimshian, in the form of a bird with curving beak, sold for $108,000 (est. $150/200,000). A Tsimshian Polychromed Wood Headdress probably depicting a mosquito, sold for $340,800 (est. $90/120,000). An Early Tsimshian Polychromed Wood Chiefs Ceremonial Dance Rattle, in the classic form of a flying raven, sold for $108,000 (est. $40/60,000). A Tsimshian Polychromed Wood Chest, carved in relief with totemic designs, sold for $318,400 (est. $70/100,000).
The Reverend Robert J. Dundas - Traveling in British Columbia on the gunboat H.M.S. Grappler, the Scottish Reverend Robert J. Dundas spent the morning of October 26, 1863 on the shores of Metlakatla. Here he was shown and acquired a group of Northwest Coast American Indian artifacts assembled by William Duncan of the church mission at Old Metlakatla. A 250,000-word journal that Dundas kept during his time in British Columbia between 1859 and 1865 provides unusual documentation about the acquisition of the Collection, and historic and cultural information about the region as well. His vivid observations of the Native inhabitants, recorded in his journal, bring the objects in the collection to vibrant life.