As Alexander Calder says in a TV clip currently on view at the Jewish Museum's exhibition “Revolution of the Eye: Modern Art and the Birth of American Television,” “The best kind of art is primitive art.”
Primitive art's influence on modernism is historic and it continues to inform, as visitors to the MATA Ancient and Tribal Arts Fair, May 14 - 17, will see. It is a category of collecting that is on the uptick. Tribal art is held in the private collections of notable collectors. Perhaps the popularity of ancient art is a sign of the times: as civilization coalesces, the desire to acquire one-of-a-kind items from non-European cultures increases. Perhaps it is simply that the beauty envisoned and achieved with rudimentary tools touches a universal chord that continues to resonate in an age of minimalism.
The works of indigenous artists and craftsmen on view at the MATA show reflect the heritage of such important cultures as the Songye and Dan of Africa, the early Hawaiians, the Huari of Peru, as well as the people of the Marquesa Islands and Western Polynesia.
Among the highlights of the fair are an intricately carved Kongo, Lualua tobacco mortar carved from a single piece of wood that bears the provenance of Peter Loebarth, Germany and Christies, Paris. A Janus staff carved with identical heads facing forward and back speaks of the Dan of Africa. Early Hawaiian bowls express the carver's art while an 18th century toddler-sized stilt step from the peoples of the Marquesa Islands stresses the importance of sports. From Fiji comes a straight wooden club known as a bowai that is inlaid with an ivory star.
The selling exhibition features collections of vetted works sourced by the international members of the Madison Ancient and Tribal Art alliance. Exhibitors at the Arader Galleries townhouse are MATA members Bruce Frank (New York), Patrick Mestdagh (Brussels), Marc Assayag (Montreal), Wayne Heathcote (England), James Stephenson (New York), Michael Rhodes (New York), Kellim Brown (Brussels), Michael Oliver (New York), Jacaranda Tribal (New York), Nasser and Co (New York), and Splendors of the World-Hawaii.
Pace Primitive, Arte Primitivo and Hunt Fine Arts, also MATA members, will hold exhibitions in their upper east side galleries.
Admission to the MATA Ancient and Tribal Art Fair is free. The Arader Galleries townhouse, 1016 Madison Avenue, is at 78th Street. Show Hours are Thursday, May 14th 11am— 8 pm, Friday, May 15th, 11am—8 pm, Saturday, May 16th, 11am—7 pm, and Sunday, May 17th, 11am—6 pm. The opening cocktail reception Friday, May 15, 5 - 8 pm. For details, please visit www.matanyc.com.