All the books reviews
Ecuador. The Secret Art of Pre-Columbian Ecuador - (ENGLISH)
This abundantly illustrated publication unveils a group of Ecuadorian treasures assembled by two collectors, and features commentaries by distinguished specialists. The authors use a chronological order of presentation, and make a subjective selection from among the 15,000 objects in both private and institutional collections. Their selection includes exclusively archaeological patrimony objects which have remained inside the country. Through the brilliant photos of the 250 chosen objects, the authors invite us to elaborate an esthetic approach to Ecuadorian archaeology. Above and beyond the archaeological novelty of some of these objects, and the information given, the text is not, strictly speaking, archaeological. Rather, it is a book whose subject matter is the artifacts themselves, at a crossroads of the magical, the symbolic and the mundane, the ceremonial and the anecdotal, the human and the supernatural. It is a valuable contribution to the literature on an as yet little known but culturally rich pre- Columbian civilization.
Edward S. Curtis - (ENGLISH / FRENCH)
Between 1907 and 1930 Edward Sheriff Curtis (1868-1952), photographer, anthropologist, and artist, published his monumental twenty-volume work, The North American Indian. No other photographer has produced such a vast output on the subject. Born in Wisconsin in 1868, in the heart of Chippewa and Winnebago territory, Curtis became interested in photography at a very young age and built his first camera himself. He began photographing Indians at a time when only some 250,000 of them had survived the conquest of the West. In spite of the prejudices inculcated into him by his education and background, Curtis became interested in Indian culture and denounced the carnage at Wounded Knee. For thirty years, Curtis roamed the land in all directions, mingling with Indian populations decimated by sickness and starvation, and sequestered in reservations. He took some 40,000 photographs in nearly eighty different communities. Little by little, he gained the confidence of the Indians, who came to understand that his work would constitute a unique documentation of their disappearing cultures. Although this is a re-edition in a new format, this remarkable and very affordable book, produced by Hans Christian Adam, a specialist in antique photography, will certainly find a place in the libraries of many tribal art collectors.
Embodying the Sacred in Yoruba Art : Featuring the Bernard and Patricia Wagner Collection - (ENGLISH)
This catalogue was published to accompany an exhibition recently featured at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta and upcoming at The Newark Museum in New Jersey. The exhibition’s many beautiful objects are illustrated and discussed in detail, both with regard to their purpose and design. The catalogue also contains an informative essay by Lawal on Yoruba culture and traditions. The chapters focus first on objects relating to the head, followed by altar art and sacred symbols, and conclude with objects associated with masquerade festivals.
Enigmas de las Montanas. Máscaras Tribales del Himalaya - (FRENCH)
The classical art of the Himalayas, especially Buddhist and Hindu bronze sculpture, has been recognized and appreciated in the West for many years. However, the tribal masks from the area, the products of ancient animist traditions from isolated ethnic groups in the high mountains, have been largely ignored until recently. Today, they are the subject of growing interest. This book, published to accompany an exhibition being shown both in Spain and in Guyancourt (southwest of Paris), fills a gap in the documentation of such pieces through the description and illustration of a private collection of some sixty examples, which are shown in fullpage illustrations. Most of the masks are of Nepalese origin and display a wealth of forms.
Erotik Kanak - (ENGLISH)
The art of engraved bamboo, known to Western travelers since the nineteenth century, is a manifestation of the creativity of the peoples of New Caledonia. The best-known and most-often-reproduced examples in specialized books depict scenes of traditional communal life (navigation, fishing, harvest, battle, warriors’processions, grieving ceremonies, and trade) and include evocations of European presence. Engraved bamboos were part of an ancestral method elders employed for the transmission of knowledge and historical events to the younger generations. Ethnologist Roger Boulay, a leading and recognized expert on New Caledonia, reveals a new side to this mode of expression in his new book. Rarely seen until now, the erotic scenes shown on these examples will undoubtedly surprise the reader with their audacity and freedom. Using drawings, Boulay has faithfully reproduced the engravings on thirty-four of these antique bamboo artworks, which are in the collections of numerous museums. The Centre Culturel Tjibaou in Noumea will devote an exhibition to these drawings, which will open in November 2013.
Eternal Ancestors: The Art of the Central African Reliquary - (ENGLISH)
This is the catalogue for the eponymous exhibition that was presented at The Metropolitan Museum of Art this winter. For those who were unable to attend, this book is a fine second best, since it beautifully showcases the objects that were on display. Essays by a variety of contributors precede the catalogue itself, informing readers on different aspects of the Kota, Fang, Tsogho-Punu, and Kongo cultures of Central Africa, most of which are ranged along the equatorial Atlantic coast. Detailed descriptions accompany the object photographs, which depict a wide variety of sculptures, masks, and figures. These works are masterpieces of African art and stand shoulder to shoulder with the finest artistic creations of mankind.
Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment: Australia, Oceania, Asia, Africa - (ENGLISH)
This book is truly a gem, not only for collectors, scholars, and dealers, but also for contemporary artists and designers, who will find a ready source of inspiration amid the wide array of surprisingly "modern" ornaments. Exquisitely produced with over seven hundred large-format photographs printed on high-quality paper, this work takes a serious yet accessible approach to the jewelry of tribal areas and cultures. All the illustrated artifacts are particularly well documented. Uniquely, the book begins its journey in Australia with eighty-five photos of Aboriginal ornaments. This is followed by 119 illustrated pieces from New Guinea and sixty-eight images covering the rest of Oceania. The objects presented come from the South Australian Museum in Adelaide and from the notable Daalder private collection. Truus and Joost Daadler began collecting jewelry in 1976, after settling in Adelaide. A passionate author, inveterate collector, and thorough researcher, Truus has devoted several years of travel and study to bringing this book to fruition. The photographs were taken by her son, Jeremy. Finally, the bibliography presented at the end of the book has been compiled with great care and thoroughness to allow the reader to continue the journey.
Ethnologie, la quête de l'autre - (FRENCH)
In this book, Gerard Toffin, director of research at the CNRS and a specialist in Himalayan ethnology, gives an account of the evolution of his discipline, the result of an interest born either of condescension or fascination, depending on the historical period, in the ways of others. The book begins with an explanation of the beginnings of European awareness of the "otherness" of distant civilizations that took place when the New World was discovered. It was further fueled by accounts of later voyages, which were rich in exotic descriptions and mostly cursory and inaccurate descriptions of peoples encountered. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the first scientific expeditions to these places began to employ reliable methodology, leading to better understanding of their peoples. The book closes with a discussion of the emergence of ethnology as a social science with its own tools and procedures.
Ethnopassion: Peggy Guggenheim’s Ethnic Art Collection - (ENGLISH)
Peggy Guggenheim’s name is virtually synonymous with art collecting. The works of modern and contemporary art that still remain on display in her palazzo facing the Grand Canal in Venice remain one of the finest privately formed collections of its kind in the world. In circumstances that uncannily mirrors today’s art market, in the late 1950s, she found that prices for contemporary art had risen beyond a level where purchasing them was a satisfying experience, or even one that was feasible. Looking for something else to satisfy the collecting bug, she turned to tribal art, which she had first been exposed to a decade and a half earlier when she was living in New York with artist Max Ernst. An avid collector, particularly of Native American art, Ernst had filled the apartment they shared. He had sourced much of it from Julius Carlebach, whom Peggy also turned to when she became interested in the material. Over the years, she accumulated about fifty objects, some world-class examples and others considerably less interesting. This book thoroughly documents the thirty-five works of African, pre- Columbian, and Oceanic art that remain in the Venice collection. It was produced in conjunction with an exhibition at Galleria Gottardo in Lugano, Switzerland.
Exhibitionist: Earl Stendahl, Art Dealer as Impresario - (ENGLISH)
If you’re interested in pre-Columbian art, you’ve probably heard of the venerable Stendahl Galleries in Hollywood. What you may not know is just how venerable that name is and the remarkable history that lies behind it. Earl L. Stendahl moved to California from Wisconsin in 1909. Though he had no formal training in art, he discovered that he had an eye for quality and was promoting unknown artists in Southern California by 1911. Before long, he had a gallery in the Ambassador Hotel, where he represented California impressionist artists such as Franz A. Bischoff, Alson Clark, Edgar Payne, Jack Wilkinson Smith, William Wendt, and Guy Rose. He began to invest in avant-garde artists and in the 1920s became the first in Southern California to exhibit abstract art from Europe and New York. The local press described these artists as “cuckoo” and “dangerous,” but Stendahl persisted not only with exhibitions featuring Matisse, Klee, Kandinsky, Chagall, Brancusi, Feitelson, Siqueiros, Rivera, and Picasso, but also with an effort to get the Guggenheim to open a Los Angeles location. The latter ultimately proved unsuccessful, but it is a fascinating story. Stendahl was a major force in the development of interest in modern art in the United States. As Jean Stern, director of the Irvine Museum, noted, a Stendahl label on the back of a painting “is an unquestioned endorsement that the artist was an important painter and that the painting is among the finest by that artist.” Hand in hand with his interests in Modernism, Stendahl was also a pioneer on the West Coast for African and pre Columbian art (inspired by Diego Rivera). A century later, the gallery is still being run by his grandson, Ron Dammann. The book is authored by April Dammann, Stendahl’s grand daughter-in-law and an award-winning screenwriter and producer of plays in Los Angeles (though this is her first book). Stendahl’s contribution to the art world was so significant yet little remembered that, as she put it, “Since I had access to such rich and original source materials—letters, photographs, catalogs, inventory and price lists—that to NOT have written the book would have bordered on being irresponsible.”