The past forty years or so will be regarded as the golden age of collecting non-Western art. From the late 1960’s through the end of the 20th century, young Americans – whether Peace Corp volunteers, hashish-seeking vagabonds, students or just global wanderers – explored every remote corner of a world yet untouched by the contemporary technology which has homogenized world culture. Each year some astonishing, previously unknown (to the West) art form emerged; Andean textiles, Himalayan masks, African ceramics, Afghani jewelry, New Guinea sculpture, Arctic ivories, Native American baskets, and much more- fascinated and inspired artists, collectors and museums.
As this market (and ex-hippie dealers) matured, an interesting shift in the paradigm of how non-Western is evaluated evolved. In the early 20th century Western artists were inspired by and their own art affirmed by comparisons with non-Western art – most importantly African, pre-Columbian and Oceanic art. Today the opposite is the case. The more non-Western art ‘looks like’ 20th century art the more it is worth in the art market. The collecting demographic also changed from collectors with a very attenuated focus on one particular culture or type of object to a collector more interested in relationships between cultures and the conceptual and/or aesthetic common denominators shared.
The typical collector experienced by this Gallery over the past thirty-five years was well-educated, well-traveled, well-read and interested in all types and periods of art. They were unaffected by trends or fashion and instead collected objects that in some manner reinforced each other. Their homes are filed with 20th century paintings, high-design furniture and fine examples of tribal art.
Today most major museums and collectors are intensely focused on contemporary art, primarily painting and sculpture. Contemporary art fairs and auctions have become the commercial and social focus of most art activity today. Many new museum expansions and programs typify this trend. However at the same time major museums acknowledge their charge to be encyclopedic institutions where the remarkable breadth of human creativity can be experienced, regardless of fashion and trends. Non-Western art is a fundamental component of this charge and provides the collector with an opportunity to deeply explore how the human mind is compelled to make experience tangible through art.