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Ancient St. Lawrence Island artifact leads Bonhams Native American Art Auction in San Francisco
A Navajo classic manta. Finely woven in diamond and diagonal twill, the variegated light blue center flanked by red panels of repeated linear compositions and dark outer borders, in raveled and handspun yarns of lac and cochineal-dyed red, vegetal yellow, green and indigo blue. Size approximately 3ft 10in x 4ft 4in. Sold for $125,000.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- The Native American Art auction at Bonhams, December 9 in San Francisco, brought $2.1 million. Leading the sale was an important Okvik Eskimo carved fossilized walrus ivory human female head, 200 BC-100 AD, that achieved $197,000.

A second rare and important Okvik Eskimo ivory head, that of a man, and also dating to 200 BC–100 AD, brought $87,500. These phenomenal art objects were consigned by two St. Lawrence Island families who discovered them where their ancestors left them 2,000 years ago.

Apart from these, weavings stood out as the major strength of the sale. From the Hicks Family collection of Okla., were classic Navajo examples, including a manta that realized $125,000 (est. $80,000-120,000), a third phase variant chief's blanket that claimed $100,000 (est. $40,000-60,000) and a second phase chief's blanket that took in $93,750. Other Navajo highlights included a classical sarape that drew in $68,750 (est. $20,000-30,000) and a late classic/early transitional chief's blanket that achieved $13,750 (est. $9,000-12,000). Special Navajo highlights in the sale from the Ruth K. Belikove collection of Alameda, Calif., included a large Teec Nos Pos rug that brought $15,000 (est. $8,000-12,000) and a late classic sarape that drew in $13,750.

Two bronze works by Allan Houser, "This Was Our Home," 1993, and "Like the Eagle," 1991, sold particularly well in the paintings and sculpture portion of the sale, achieving $52,500 and $31,250, respectively. Also of note, a Fritz Scholder acrylic on canvas of "The Last Pueblo," 1973, took in $10,000 (est. $6,000-9,000).

The basketry section of the sale contained various strong highlights, such as an Apache olla from the collection of Alexandra and Sidney Sheldon of Malibu, Calif., that far surpassed its estimate and achieved $22,500 (est. $10,000-15,000), as well as a monumental polychrome Washo basket of degikup form, possibly by Maggie James, that realized $15,000. Three examples of Chumash basketry achieved $11,250 each.

Jewelry and silver works of note in the sale included a Hopi bracelet by Charles Loloma, with a mosaic panel of lapis lazuli, coral, turquoise and gold spacers, that drew in $27,500, and a Navajo reversible choker necklace and bear pendant by Jesse Monongye, featuring two distinctly executed sides, a mosaic of turquoise, lapis lazuli, jet, coral and shell with gold accents, from an Atlanta, Ga., collector, that fetched $11,250 (est. $6,000-9,000).

San Ildefonso artist Tony Da's works stood out in the pottery portion of the sale, such as a redware lidded vase featuring a double-Avanyu sgraffito design and an elaborately-designed finial lid, that brought $43,750 (est. $20,000-30,000) and a sienna and blackware lidded vase with fitted lid featuring color-coordinated tapering wood finial, that took in $18,750 (est. $8,000-12,000). Also of note, a Hopi polychrome bowl by Nampeyo, showing her classic eagle tail design in symmetrical fashion on four sides of the upper body, sold for $12,500.

Southwest-related highlights included a pair of unusually large and rare, Mojave man and woman effigy figures, each with traditional painted designs on their faces and bodies, from a Florida private collection, that achieved $12,500, and two Hopi kachina dolls by Wilson Tawaquaptewa that brought $5,250.

From the smaller than usual Plains/Plateau/Woodlands section of the sale, the principle highlight was a Sioux beaded bowcase and quiver, from the estate of Jack Bogart of San Francisco, that exceeded its estimate and sold for $11,250 (est. $3,000-4,000).

Jim Haas, the director of the Native American Art department at Bonhams, reflected after the sale: "It is extremely satisfying for me, after all these years of hard work, to see that we are really at the top of the auction market. When private collectors entrust major treasures to me, I truly appreciate their confidence and I feel their faith is well-founded. I believe we can reach as wide an international audience of seriously interested collectors, dealers, decorators and museums as one could hope to find."

For more information about the auction, please visit The next Native American Art auction at Bonhams will take place June 2, 2014 in San Francisco.

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