Christie’s, who are currently reviewing the future of their collectables department in South Kensington, have closed their American Indian art department in New York. Their May sale at the Rockefeller Center has been cancelled and Delia Sullivan, department head since 1999, has left the company.
Like the toy trains, rock and pop memorabilia and teddy bears under threat at CSK, American Indian art is a publicity-grabbing discipline but suffers from a shortage of supply, at least for the valuable pre-contact material. US legislation also prohibits the sale of some spectacular ceremonial objects because they contain the feathers of protected species.
Sotheby’s, who use a part-time consultant to catalogue their sales, have taken the major share of the recent auction market – last year they sold the Dundas collection for $6m (£3.35m) – with specialist sales also held by Bonhams & Butterfields in San Francisco and Skinner in Boston. Christie’s will still sell pre-Columbian art in New York, and tribal art in Paris.
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