In Memoriam - Jimmy Economos andd James Willis

We have lost two more great ones this summer in Willis and Economos - both were major figures in tribal arts during the past four decades. We shall write more in the Fall issue of our newsletter.

Economos 1.jpg

SANTA FE, NM.- James Economos, the legendary art dealer, passed away peacefully on July 29 at the age of 80. His husband of 50 years, Gilbert Hampton, was at his side. Born in New York City, James studied at Columbia University. His eye for African, Oceanic, and American Indian art established him as a leader in the field and had a major impact on the development of many significant public and private collections, including the renowned collection at the St. Louis Art Museum. After living in New York and Denver, he settled in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he had an eponymous gallery.

James Willis passed away In San Francisco September 2nd. “James Willis has collected tribal art since 1955, and opened his public gallery in 1972. The gallery initially exhibited both tribal and contemporary art. He became specialized in tribal art, and was the first gallery in United States to hold specific tribal theme exhibits. The public gallery was established for thirty years of exhibitions.

He has been in business since 1972. He has worked together with his wife Lin Chen-Willis since 1991. Since 2001, they have a private gallery by appointment.

Willis 1.jpg

Since 2003 to present 2018, he is appointed to five three year terms to the White House Cultural Property Advisory Committee of eleven members, who advise the President of United States on cultural property issues. He was on the San Francisco Craft and Folk art museum board; member of San Francisco Friends of Ethnic Art; M.H. De Young Museum Tribal Arts Study Committee; New York Center for African Art; San Francisco Art Dealers Association, and early participant of BRUNEAF Belgium.

He previously participated in tribal exhibitions in Brussels, Paris, New York, and in San Francisco; Caskey-Lees, Objects of Art, Contemporary Art fair and Fall Antique show. He led collector trips to Europe and Africa in the eighties. He and Lin love to travel worldwide.”

Anna Sammons - Intern - Summer 2019

My Time at Shango - Anna Sammons


Hello, readers of this blog and future interns at Shango! My name is Anna Sammons and I recently graduated from the University of Dallas with a degree in painting. Currently I am working at a frame shop, and trying to get my art out there and keep painting. I hope to get my MFA in painting someday in the near future, and in the more distant future I hope to one day be represented by a gallery and keep chasing exciting opportunities. The one thing I know for sure is that I will keep painting for as long as I live.


            I started my time at Shango with absolutely no expectations about what the internship would entail. All I knew was that it was a tribal art gallery--and I had no knowledge of tribal art! On my first day, John opened up a file on the computer containing pictures of some Oceanic items he had recently acquired, put a stack of books down in front of me, and told me to research the items. I felt vastly underqualified and more than a little bit lost, but I threw myself into it--and surprisingly enough, it didn’t turn out so bad. The feeling I got when I found a picture or symbol in one of the books that matched one of the items I was looking for was so exciting. It felt like detective work! At the end of the afternoon, John called me into his office and we talked about what I wanted to do with my life. I told him I was interested in getting a foot into the contemporary art world and that most of all I wanted to keep painting. He said he would help me with that and I went on my way.

            After that day, I continued to keep trying new things at Shango, from appraisal work to auction research to organizing the catalogue database and the library. One thing I’m really grateful I got the opportunity to do was visit the contemporary art gallery across the street, Valley House, and talk to the director there. She motivated me to keep looking for opportunities to get my art out there and provided a fresh perspective on the art market.

            As my internship at Shango is coming to a close, I am extremely thankful for all the opportunities I have been exposed to here, and I definitely have a deeper appreciation for tribal art and different areas of the art world than when I started. I want to thank John Buxton for providing me with these opportunities, and I will definitely keep using what I have learned here in the future.

John Lunsford In Memoriam 1933 - 2019

John Crawford Lunsford - Eulogy Dallas Morning News July 23, 2019

Raj Lunsford.jpg

John Crawford Lunsford died on June 30, 2019 surrounded by close friends reading poetry and declaring their love for him. John Lunsford was born on April 15, 1933 in Methodist Hospital in Oak Cliff, Texas. His father Robert Lunsford was a reporter for the Dallas Morning News and his mother Susan Eleanor Fullilove Lunsford was a ceramist, homemaker, and DMN credit union employee. From childhood through his twenties, John took classes from prominent local artists, Otis Dozier among them, at The Museum School of Art. He graduated from Sunset High School in 1950, then earned his AB in English literature from Harvard College in 1954, graduating cum laude. While at Harvard, John studied 13th and 14th century Italian art and took awriting seminar with John Updike. After serving in the US Army from 1955 to 1957, John returned to Dallas.

In 1958, his childhood friend Jerry Bywaters, then director of the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, offered John the position of Associate Curator of the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. Before attending graduate school, Lunsford served as curator and catalog author for a major international exhibition, The Arts of Man (1962); just ayear later, he curated and wrote the catalog for Indian Arts of the Americas (1963). In 1968, John’s close friend Margaret McDermott prompted The Shakespeare Club of Dallas to provide him with a scholarship to earn a master’s degree in Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University. Finishing his coursework in one year, he returned to Dallas and, while working full time at the museum, wrote his master’s thesis on a sculptural group at the complex of Ankor Thom in Cambodia. Between 1958 and his retirement in 1986 from the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts (now the Dallas Museum of Art), Lunsford rose to the rank of Senior Curator and once served as interim director. He was instrumental in building the DMFA collections of African and Pre-Columbian art, enhancing the American Indian collection, and founding the collection of Oceanic art. These objects were his passion.

John Lunsford 5.jpg

John’s profound insights into their beauty, iconography, and cultural significance were communicated in his lyrical prose and finely tuned lectures. Overlapping in part with his DMA (DMFA) career, Lunsford taught non-western art history and connoisseurship at SMU for thirty-three years. He was a gifted teacher, always with an entourage of devoted students.

From 1996 to 2001, John was director of the Meadows Museum at SMU, when the new building opened, and later worked for Heritage Auction House researching objects and writing catalog entries.

Noteworthy as these achievements may be, John’s most remarkable qualities were personal, staggering in range, and presented on numerous levels simultaneously.


John was a Renaissance child and a Renaissance man. From childhood he studied butterflies and birds, drew them, memorized their Latin names and identifying features, learned their habits, prowled the woods in search of them. As a child he read seriously, began collecting books, listened to opera, drew with precision and delicacy, and developed lasting friendships. All of these passions he maintained throughout his life.

He loved travel and wasted no time in it, walking miles and standing hours from dawn to dusk so as not to miss asight, asite, or a work of art. He led tours all over the world for patrons of the Dallas Museum of Art and the Meadows Museum, and for private groups.

He was a serious birder who kept a life list and birded on Victor Emanuel Nature Tours and with friends. He traveled with Elder Hostel, National Geographic, and other educational organizations.

John and his mother drove a VW Beetle all over Mexico in the 1960’s, and he returned to that country he loved countless times to explore Chalcatzingo, Palenque, Teotihuacán, Mitla and Monte Albán, Yaxchilan, Uxmal, Cacaxtla, Chichen Itza, El Tajín, countless other ancient sites, and breathtaking Colonial cities. He traveled in Guatemala, Honduras, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, China, Japan, Turkey, India, Bali, Myanmar, New Guinea, and all over Europe. John was fearless, and for most of his life he could walk anyone into the ground. John read everything, making notes in the margins of books, drawing on copies of poems, and remembering with great clarity passages he read decades before. He was an avid photographer with a library of his own 35mm slides, printed photographs, and digital flash drives.

John Lunsford was a collector at heart: a collector of friends he loved fiercely; a collector of interesting names, genealogies, and human pedigrees; a collector of musical recordings, antique tea cozies, folk art, tribal objects of mystericeramics and textiles, ous power, ceramics and textiles, books and books and more books.

John Lunsford 4.jpg

John Lunsford was a connoisseur at heart. He practiced what he preached in his connoisseurship classes so that he might discern quality in opera singers, literature, visual art, flotsam and jetsam, the human form, and patterns of stars in the night sky. His passion for opera led him to spend many seasons at the Dallas Opera and countless summers at the Santa Fe Opera with his close friend Sally Estes. John Lunsford was a note taker, a bird list maker, a map drawer, and agift giver. He gave and gave and gave to his friends in a seriously considered and subtle way, for the gifts were often immaterial and presented in lesson form.

John Lunsford 1.jpg

John Lunsford had a wicked sense of humor and loved to sing peculiar songs and ditties, especially on the occasions of birthdays. He was a champion mask- and costumemaker, taking the prize at more than one of Anne Bromberg’s infamous costume parties. John Lunsford was the consummate gentleman who loved decorum as well as the wild and exotic, the essential, the poetic and the fierce.

He was all of those. John Lunsford had a big life and he made life big for the rest of us.

John Lunsford is survived by his cousin Susan Kennedy in New Mexico, his godson Steve Watkins and his wife Michelle, and by adiverse network of adoring friends from all periods of his life. Among these are Gavin Newman, Mary Cook, Rossi Walter Sr., Philip Henderson, Melissa Berry, Suzanne O’Brien and Maisie O’- Brien, Robert Armstrong, John Buxton, Steve Farr, Kathi Chandler, John Coates, Diana Clark, Anna McFarland, David Carapetyan, Michael Grauer, Brandt and Amy Heitzman, Jess Galloway and Kathy Windrow, Susie Moody, Sally Estes, Richard and Teel Sale, Tom Sale, Russell Sublett, David Searcy, Paula Selzer and Vera Guillen, Cheryl and Kevin Vogel, Edleeca Thompson, Roslyn Walker, and so many others John would want to recognize.

Named or unnamed, you are all remembered and thanked for your friendship to John. In lieu of flowers, please consider contributions in John’s honor to the National Audubon Society and to Friends of the South Dallas Cultural Center.


John Lunsford: Mentor, Advisor, Friend

Lunsford Ratcliffe.jpg

John Lunsford’s passing marks not just the loss for many individuals of a beloved colleague and former professor but also the loss of a living link to an earlier era.  As pre-Columbian curator at the Dallas Museum of Art for thirty years, director of the Meadows Museum, and professor of art history at SMU, John was indispensable in the cultural history of Dallas over the past sixty years.  Always self-effacing, he skillfully passed on this vast reservoir of knowledge and experience to those of us fortunate enough to have known him.  For example, John proved to be an invaluable resource for me and the other staff members of Jerry Bywaters Special Collections, Ellen Buie Niewyk and Emily George Grubbs.  Mr. Bywaters had been instrumental in launching the careers of John, Ellen and me.  But John had a slight head start, having been hired as an assistant curator at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts (now the DMA) in the 1950s when Jerry Bywaters was its director.  Having worked with him for so many years, John definitely had helpful thoughts about organizing the collection, a collection development policy and, of course, exhibitions; his ideas proved to be especially valuable after Mr. Bywaters’ death in 1989.

John Lunsford 3.jpg

The consummate professional, John was an outstanding role model in many ways.  For example, he was a gentleman who maintained high standards but personified the adage of disagreeing without being disagreeable.  Conversations with John (often over lunch at Cisco Grill) were wide ranging and sometimes had surprises for me, Ellen, and Emily.  For example, we learned that John’s many ties to SMU began even before his birth, when future SMU president Umphrey Lee, an ordained Methodist minister, performed the wedding ceremony of John’s parents.  In relating this and other tales of his family, it became clear that John was very proud—but not prideful–about his deep Texas roots. We greatly enjoyed and learned from his reminiscences of growing up in Oak Cliff, his globetrotting stories (including his bird watching exploits), and his thirty years at the DMA.  On more than one occasion, he and I discussed our shared affinity for the writings of C.S. Lewis, specifically Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters.

It is well-nigh impossible for me to put into words the many ways that I and countless other individuals benefitted from knowing John Lunsford.  Perhaps the most fitting tribute to him came in 1995, when the Dallas Visual Arts Center named him as the recipient of its “Legend” award.  That was perfect for John, since he personified that word in every way.

Sam Ratcliffe, former Director, Bywaters Special Collections
Image: courtesy of Meadows Museum



Appreciating John Lunsford, key in spurring Dallas Museum of Art's global reach

Written by: Rick Brettell, Special Contributor

The Dallas Museum of Art is inconceivable without the contributions of its curator of almost 30 years, John Lunsford, who died earlier this week at 86. Its first exhibition of real consequence, for which he wrote the catalog, is proof of this.

On Oct. 6, 1962, in time for the State Fair of Texas, the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts opened its most ambitious exhibition to date. "The Arts of Man"  took up the museum's entire building in Fair Park, with more than 500 works in every medium from throughout human history.

The lenders included 40 museums across the country, 15 art dealers and 28 private collectors, including luminaries such as John Hay Whitney and two of the Rockefeller brothers. This vast and expensive endeavor was paid for by 123 Dallas donors -- individual and corporate.

Margaret McDermott 1962.jpg

Art collector, patron and museum trustee Margaret McDermott with two pieces featured in the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts' "The Arts of Man" exhibition in 1962.

(Doris Jacoby/The Dallas Morning News)

The miracle of this exhibition is that it was created by a museum staff of 13, with three men as principals, in less than a year. It is safe to say that this feat could not be repeated today.

Lunsford had worked for the DMFA for fewer than five years, beginning in 1958, when he was given curatorial responsibility for this sweeping endeavor, and was only 29 years old when it opened. He went on to work for the museum until retiring in 1986.  (The museum had formally changed its name to the simpler Dallas Museum of Art in 1984.)

Lunsford then entered a career as an art adviser and professor at Southern Methodist University, culminating his distinguished post-career in education as director of the Meadows Museum of Art from 1996 until its new building opened in 2001, when he again retired at the age of 68.

A pivotal moment

Arts of Man Show 1962.jpg

Few in Dallas today remember "The Arts of Man" exhibition, but it, more than any single event, altered forever the course of the museum, taking it from a regional museum to one with global ambitions and collections. In 1962, all of the art needed to give Dallasites a picture of the human past through art had to be borrowed. Not so today, largely as a result of its extraordinary scope and success in bringing so many people to support the efforts of a minuscule staff.

Today, we can scarcely imagine three young men -- the museum's painter director, Jerry Bywaters; its assistant director (also a painter) Barney Delabano, and its associate curator Lunsford -- making frequent trips to New York and then other cities by train, staying in one hotel room to save the museum money. (Lunsford, being the youngest, got the cot.)

Their art expeditions ranged throughout human history from the caves at Lascaux in France, which Delabano and Lunsford re-created in "The Arts of Man," to the latest abstract painting, and in the world from Japan all the way through Asia, Europe, Africa and Mexico to Peru.

None of these men had graduate training in art history; none of them had international experience. And, yet, their relative inexperience and their supreme taste for art allowed them to do something that is literally impossible today.

A curator's career path 

Lunsford was the curator, although he had taken only a handful of art history courses (in Italian 13th- and 14th-century art), and graduated in 1954 with a bachelor's degree in English from Harvard University, where he took a course with John Updike. He was a Dallas native, and his father, Robert Lunsford, a reporter for The Dallas Morning News, died when his only child was 18.

Lunsford was a smart and curious scholarship student, far from the patricians who dominated his Harvard class. When he came home to Dallas to help his widowed mother, he was soon drafted into the Army and served for two years, before returning again to Dallas with no prospects for work and a burning interest in art.

John Lunsfgord 1963.jpg

He took art classes at the school of the DMFA, thinking about becoming a painter, and was offered a job in 1958 together with Delabano to work with Bywaters. Today, it is difficult to imagine a group of men less prepared to mount an international exhibition, but in postwar Dallas, intelligence and ambition were more important than graduate degrees. By the time Lunsford was 28, he was handling Chinese scrolls, Maya stucco figures, Peruvian ceramics, French medieval manuscript pages, paintings by Peter Paul Rubens and El Greco, African masks and on and on.

What Lunsford lent to the group was not only a real gift as a writer (following both his father's footsteps and his work at Harvard), but an ability to convey in spoken words the power and character of incredibly diverse works of art. This gift was instantly clear in reading the modest catalog of "The Arts of Man," his very first publication, and seeing the news announcements of his numerous lectures to diverse Dallas audiences.

Gorgeous sentences and thoughtful summaries of thousands of years of culture through objects make his catalog still one of the most satisfying and readable texts about human art produced by the DMFA or the DMA. African, Oceanic, Pre-Colombian and American Indian art were known to him so well because he had read widely and handled so many thousands of works. Lunsford went on to write six more exhibition catalogs for the DMFA, each of which helped propel the Dallas Museum of Art to become the global museum it is today. 

The Shakespeare Club of Dallas, under the instigation of his longtime friend Margaret McDermott, sent him to Columbia University for a year with a leave of absence from the museum to work on a master's degree, which he completed in 1968. Yet, he was to be a teacher and communicator more than a scholar at a time when American museums were demanding increasingly that their curators be both. At his retirement in 1986, the DMA had a Ph.D. curator and a Ph.D. educator, and, like most American museums, has valued specialized education at the expense of connoisseurship and experience ever since.

Dallas Museum of Fine Arts 1940.jpg
  • Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, in Fair Park, shown in 1940

A legacy to remember

So many of us in today's Dallas art world have forgotten the formative phase of our beloved museum, a phase of which Lunsford was the principal curatorial force. He was a skilled diplomat -- (the go-between at a time when the McDermotts and the DMFA's imperious director, Merrill Rueppel, were at odds) -- a brilliant intellectual, a wide-ranging thinker.

His museum colleague of many years, Anne Bromberg, calls Lunsford "the spirit of the DMFA" and remembered his wide-ranging knowledge in an age of specialization. Janet Kutner, a former art critic of The Dallas Morning News and a close friend, recalled Lunsford as "a man of all seasons in terms of his broad embrace, not just of visual arts but cultural pursuits of many persuasions. Most importantly he was a true gentleman, who treated young and old, erudite and fledgling seekers of knowledge with kindness and respect."

Dallas native Michael Thomas, the new director of the Edith O'Donnell Institute of Art History at University of Texas at Dallas, remembers Lunsford from the perspective of a student. "He had a great influence on me as a young graduate student ... He had an amazing eye and an encyclopedic mind. He will indeed be missed."

A memorial service will be held at a later date.

Rick Brettell is a contributing writer and the former art critic of The Dallas Morning News. He is the founding director of the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History at the University of Texas at Dallas.


John Lunsford - Memories from Friends Summer 2019

Lunsford Memories

Paula Selzer

John Bird Watching - Selzer

John Bird Watching - Selzer

I met John when I was at SMU in 1986. While I had never been one of his students, I had always been one of his admirers. I didn’t know him terribly well, but over the years we were in touch occasionally though mutual friends.

We were living in DC in the late 1990s and one afternoon, I got a call from John out of the blue. He was in town for a conference, so we invited him over for dinner. I was unnecessarily anxious wondering what we would talk about during his visit. Once he arrived, he wasn’t in the door two minutes when he spotted a ceramic statue on our mantle that caught his eye. He walked directly across the living room and put his glasses on to better inspect the piece. He then proceeded to tell me exactly what it was. We had no trouble finding things to talk about the rest of the evening. Prior to that night whenever I looked at that ceramic piece, I always thought of my great uncle who brought it back from Mexico in the 1930s. It still sits on the mantle in a different home, in a different city, but now I think of John and remember the night he came to visit.

Once we moved back to Dallas in 2006, we invited John to our annual Christmas parties. He was always eager to engage a new circle of friends. A couple of years ago, I found him standing in the backyard on a lovely December day talking to a neighbor. She had recently visited an archeological site and was giving John the rundown. Of course John was already an expert on the site and they were debating the irrigation techniques of the inhabitants. The next time we saw John, he asked about the “ancient irrigation enthusiast.” We now refer to our neighbor, not by her name, but as our “ancient irrigation enthusiast” friend.

It was an honor to have known John Lunsford. He always made an impact and forever changed the way we looked at things. He was thoughtful, kind, brilliant, talented, and giving. He was an extraordinary man who was always giving--whether it was an article to share about a plant in our garden, a book he thought we might like, or knowledge on one of the many topics on which he was an expert. We spent time with John in the woods bird watching and in Oak Cliff restaurants--usually eating Mexican food--we went to local heladerías, and he came to our home. When I was working on a massive research project, John was so supportive, he set up a meeting to introduce me to another historian who he thought would offer insight on my topic. The time John spent with us was the best gift he could have given to us, and we will always cherish it.

Stephen Watkins

John Lunsford La Paz 2012 Doing What he Always Did - Walkins

John Lunsford La Paz 2012 Doing What he Always Did - Walkins

I am John Lunsford’s godson, Steve Watkins. I had heard your name many times in conversation with John. While I saw you at the memorial service, I didn’t get a chance to introduce myself. You had asked that John’s friends write something about him, and my wife keeps asking me if I’ve done it - so here it is.

First, the “godson” moniker is an interesting one considering John’s feelings about religion as well as my own. Alas, I suppose we all go through different phases of life, and at least according to my family, John was at some point involved in the Episcopal church, thus was assigned as my godfather whenever that process takes place in one’s upbringing… honestly I never cared enough to really dig into the why or how John became my godfather. Our relationship took shape in its own way, without any real connection to religion other than its beginning.

My paternal grandmother became acquainted with John in the 60s, I believe. That story is long and a little hazy to me, so I will focus on what John meant to me and give a couple of high points of our relationship.

My first memory of John was eating stacked enchiladas, New Mexico style, at my dad’s house. I would have been about eight years old. He had been around I’m sure, because I remember he existed in my mind as a kind of mysterious guy that had strange masks hanging in his house and was somehow affiliated with the museum. I knew he didn’t have a television, and this always amazed me. I’ve learned that he was far more prescient on that topic than I ever knew…

John Lunsford in Bolivia 2012 - Watkins

John Lunsford in Bolivia 2012 - Watkins

I remember we had intermittent interaction with John throughout my childhood, but nothing really stands out until my late teens when John re-entered my life. I was having some rough times trying to find my way in life, and I believe he reached out to me at the request of one of my parents. We went to eat at a restaurant in Fort Worth called Caro’s - home of the puffy tacos. This would become the first of one of my many culinary adventures with John.

John in many ways was my connection to a world that otherwise I didn’t have much exposure to - folk art, fine art, adventurous eating, Latin Americas adventures, birdwatching - John’s world just had a different orbit than mine. Since his passing I’ve reflected on this quite a bit, and whether John knew it or not, he was the catalyst for what would become many of my interests and hobbies. After that meeting at Caro’s we went to dinner fairly regularly, though looking back, not regularly enough. He would tell me about his travels to places , some of which I had barely heard of, much less been to - Bhutan, Malta, Bulgaria, Cuzco, Santa Fe. We ate at Hula Cafe, Cafe Veracruz, Green Papaya, Cosmic Cafe, Spiral Diner - all places I still enjoy today. He took me to the King Tut exhibit at the DMA years ago, and we visited a number of other museums and galleries over the years. The depth of his knowledge on just about any topic was absolutely amazing. As life went on, I married, divorced, married again, had a child. Depending on how busy my life was, the frequency of our meals together ebbed and flowed. I think we always enjoyed our visits - he remained my connection to a different world, and I think I was a connection to a world he didn’t experience - marriage, kids, corporate America.

John Lunsford in Bolivia 2012 - Watkins

John Lunsford in Bolivia 2012 - Watkins

The highlight of our relationship was a trip we took together to Bolivia. I speak Spanish fluently, and had traveled quite a bit in Mexico and South America, so John approached me about going to Carnival in Oruro, Bolivia with him. The festival is known for its elaborate costumes and marathon series of processions. John wanted to take pictures of the parades. It was quite the adventure!

The altitude is above 10,000 ft, and by this time John would have been in his late seventies, but John was a trooper. We stayed in Bolivia at that altitude for a week. Driving from La Paz was an epic adventure - off roading to avoid impromptu street markets, going through crime ridden El Alto, almost being robbed in Oruro. But John and I had a great time. I still have a condor mask used in the Oruro procession hanging in my office.

I have so many fond memories of John. I wish now I would have made more time over the last few years to spend more time with him, and I wish I would have made more of an effort to be less distracted and more present during the times we were together. I guess that’s the way it goes. I did get to eat burgers with John just a couple of months before he died.

I wrote a lot, but I hope you can find something in here to put in your journal article about John. He was special to me in more ways than he knew. I am a far richer man having known him.


Steve Watkins

David Carapetyan

I was disappointed, to say the least, to miss John's memorial service.

That week was the only opportunity to see all my kids and grandkids in one place at the same time, in California.

Heather attended, and said it was beautiful. Thank you for all your dedication to his memory, for your friendship.

John and I visited over lunch most Wednesdays (or sometimes another day of the week, due to our schedules) from 2008/2009 until he went into the hospital the last time. We probably had almost 500 lunches together, all told.

John was "our man of culture", albeit his heyday in the forefront Dallas's artworld had come and mostly gone by the time I met him. But he still reigned large in his community, which I was lucky to become a part of.

We met at Nodding Dog Coffee in the burgeoning Bishop Arts District in 2007/2008. Friends from Jeff Chandler's early morning yoga class, which I was a member of, and others, would occasionally gather there for coffee.

So John and I met through friends and proximity, and immediately began to share our art lives.

Meeting John was like finding an old lost friend, as he was partly responsible for the DMFA art collection and exhibits in the 60s and 70s that I grew up looking at with a hunger. He influenced my world view without me even knowing him so long ago.

JL Caro Carapetyan.jpg

We got a kick out of our how our lives overlapped in time, when we finally had the pleasure to get to know one another. Upon learning my last name, he inquired if I was related to Caro Carapetyan, who used to direct the Dallas Symphony Chorus in the 60s. Caro was my dear Grandfather. He was a generation older than John, but they had known one another as art professionals in the nascent Dallas cultural scene. As in my relationship with my grandfather, my relationship with John was as an artistic forefather of sorts. His life's work was part of my heritage, as it was for so many of the art community in Dallas. He was a carrier of a lineage of artistic scholarship and knowledge. He knew stuff I was curious about, and I wanted to know more.

I don't have a specific story to tell, but here's a picture he let me draw of him while we were visiting at his house around 2010.

I'll miss him.

May he rest in peace.

Thank you,

David Carapetyan

Sam Ratcliffe

Bywaters Special Collections

Bywaters Special Collections

My memories of John concern more the general texture of our friendship. However, I do have a somewhat humorous recollection. During planning for the current Meadows Museum, which included a restaurant, John stopped by Bywaters Special Collections late one afternoon. With a combination of exasperation and weariness, he plunked down in a chair in my office and declared, “I’ve spent all day learning about commercial dishwashers!” Of course, he was a splendid director of the museum even though, that day, I was pretty sure that he would have preferred to have been examining art or bird watching.



JL Jerry Bywaters.jpg

John Lunsford’s passing marks not just the loss for many individuals of a beloved colleague and former professor but also the loss of a living link to an earlier era. As pre-Columbian curator at the Dallas Museum of Art for thirty years, director of the Meadows Museum, and professor of art history at SMU, John was indispensable in the cultural history of Dallas over the past sixty years. Always self-effacing, he skillfully passed on this vast reservoir of knowledge and experience to those of us fortunate enough to have known him. For example, John proved to be an invaluable resource for me and the other staff members of Jerry Bywaters Special Collections, Ellen Buie Niewyk and Emily George Grubbs. Mr. Bywaters had been instrumental in launching the careers of John, Ellen and me. But John had a slight head start, having been hired as an assistant curator at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts (now the DMA) in the 1950s when Jerry Bywaters was its director. Having worked with him for so many years, John definitely had helpful thoughts about organizing the collection, a collection development policy and, of course, exhibitions; his ideas proved to be especially valuable after Mr. Bywaters’ death in 1989.

The consummate professional, John was an outstanding role model in many ways. For example, he was a gentleman who maintained high standards but personified the adage of disagreeing without being disagreeable. Conversations with John (often over lunch at Cisco Grill) were wide ranging and sometimes had surprises for me, Ellen, and Emily. For example, we learned that John’s many ties to SMU began even before his birth, when future SMU president Umphrey Lee, an ordained Methodist minister, performed the wedding ceremony of John’s parents. In relating this and other tales of his family, it became clear that John was very proud—but not prideful–about his deep Texas roots. We greatly enjoyed and learned from his reminiscences of growing up in Oak Cliff, his globetrotting stories (including his bird watching exploits), and his thirty years at the DMA. On more than one occasion, he and I discussed our shared affinity for the writings of C.S. Lewis, specifically Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters.

It is well-nigh impossible for me to put into words the many ways that I and countless other individuals benefitted from knowing John Lunsford. Perhaps the most fitting tribute to him came in 1995, when the Dallas Visual Arts Center named him as the recipient of its “Legend” award. That was perfect for John, since he personified that word in every way.

Blog post: Sam Ratcliffe, former Director, Bywaters Special Collections

Image: courtesy of Meadows Museum

Michael Grauer

Here are a few reminiscences about John:

I will never forget his small sign on the faucet of the sink in his downstairs bathroom that simply said: NO! because it didn't work right. Still makes me smile.

I house sat for him during one of his trips to India. This is the trip where the security person dropped his camera and broke his new lens he'd bought especially for the trip. He was devastated. His house was simply amazing, truly, especially his living room and his book room. What a treat it was to stay there for a week.

I am sure he didn’t really know what to make of me in the midst of all the uber preppie overindulged undergrads at SMU and oh-so-serious art history grad students--except Kathy Windrow who took studio-art-student hippie-chick to a whole new level (smile, Kathy!). With cowboy boots and Levi's I was a little different than most SMU students, and most Dallasites for that matter. Anyway, I would run into John in the hallways at the Meadows building during one of his night classes and we became friends; I think I amused him just a little.

Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park

My second year spring semester John and I had become friends and I rode along to Fort Worth with him quite often to go to the Kimbell, mostly for whatever exhibition was going on since I didn't yet have a car. He began talking about wanting to go to Big Bend and camp. So, by spring break I had secured a pickup, thinking he had camping equipment. I certainly didn't, having moved to Dallas with very little beyond the clothes on my back and about $17 in fall of 1985. He had no camping equipment, so I bought a two-man dome tent at Dick's and Jess and Kathy lent me a sleeping bag and backpack. It became clear John's idea of camping was much like the African safaris you see in films like Out of Africa or old Hollywood. And, John having his own thoughts on food (as most of you know), normal camping food wasn't going to cut it. So, we took some of the strangest food. We took off and camped the first night in the Davis Mountains near Indian Lodge and it snowed! John did okay but the lack of an air mattress and other comforts discomfitted him. (Smile everyone!) As many of you know, John's vast memory often left places locked in time in his head. So, when we arrived in Big Bend in Spring Break 1987, needless to say it wasn't as he remembered it. Wall to wall RVs, Big Wheel trikes, Frisbees, dogs, and a "cast of thousands" filled the main campground. I had relied on him to know about these things and this was before PCs and smartphones, so there was no place to camp. John was fairly inconsolable and kind of stopped functioning. (Some of you may have seen this happen with him.) I finally convinced him that we could sleep in the back of the pickup on the side of the park road, which we did. His mood had not improved the following morning. So, I did my best to resurrect the trip, not knowing where anything was. We drove through much of the park, and sight saw. We then headed to Terlingua (I needed a beer!). We drove through a couple thunderstorms that you don't find anywhere else but Big Bend, and he started to brighten up and come out of his funk. He was still very disappointed that Big Bend wasn't as he remembered it from the 1940s. We slept in roadside parks (I slept on a concrete picnic table one night) and made our way back to Dallas. Overall it was a great trip and I got to see things I'd never have seen. John taught us all to look and see. But he wasn't infallible and really didn't adapt to disappointment and change very well. He was my friend and mentor and I love him.

If this is usable and not disrespectful in your opinion, please use it. I will send another installment or two about our adventures.


SMU in Taos

SMU in Taos

While we were at Fort Burgwin/SMU in Taos during intersession 1987, and after the students had left, John decided he wanted to go to Cordova, a small Spanish village in the Sangre de Cristos. I say Spanish because many of the people in these remote villages up there consider themselves Spanish, not Mexican, and are quite proud of being direct descendants of peninsulares and criollos. Because of their remoteness and isolation, and also because many of these villages are practicing penitentes, they are not very welcoming to outsiders, especially Anglos. Anyway, John wanted to go to Cordova because it was a center for the carved (but not painted) santero tradition, with the Lopezes, Mondragons, and etc. as the best known artists. So in his blue Chevy POS we drove up into the mountains. Cordova then had one road in and the same road out, and is literally perched on the edge of the mountain. Let's just say the looks and stares we received upon driving into their village, it became clear we needed to get the hell out, John executed a perfect 25-point turn as there was nowhere to turn around. It reminded me of those old Hollywood B movies where the British explorers in pith helmets stumble into the remote African village purely by accident and just before their heads are removed, the villagers take pity on the fools. That was us in Cordova, but there were no smiles on the faces of the villagers when we exited. He was so sophisticated, yet so naive sometimes. It was one of the most charming and endearing things about John Lunsford.

Much obliged.

Michael Grauer

McCasland Chair of Cowboy Culture at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City

Nancy Rebal

Almost twenty years ago, my husband David Searcy introduced me to his longtime friend and mentor, John Lunsford. David shares John's passion for art of ancient cultures. Meeting for a meal together always began with a discussion, and competition, between the two of them about John's most recent acquisition.

Our group trip to Turkey became an art history field trip with Professor Lunsford. Mary Cook had charged me to take care of him. By the end of the trip we were all just trying to keep up with him.


However, I treasure most his willingness to play. I have pictures to prove it. Each time he would surprise me. Like the time I put a cardinal mask over his head and he seemed quite amused as he sat for his formal portrait. Or the time at one of our annual retreats at The Hacienda when Ruby spun him at wild speed in the hanging chair. When he recovered he started laughing. Thank goodness. Still a bit wobbly, but laughing.

For me, my favorite image of John is his portrait as a Balinese shadow puppet. That's just him to the T, the wise old man of the world. I am sure that I see a twinkle in his eye even in paint. What a twinkle.

I am honored to have called John Lunsford a friend. And I will always miss him.

Nancy Rebal

Paul Larson

Almost 50 years ago, John invited me and David Searcy to go with him

to see an African artifacts dealer who was in town. In those days

they were called ‘runners’ and were usually set up in motel rooms

with this fabulous stuff laying around the place. So who should be there already but Stanley Marcus. So my little memory consists of meeting Stanley Marcus in a cheap north Dallas motel room courtesy of our mutual friend.

Paul Larson


David Searcy

“And drifting into thoughts of monstrousness and elegance. And how John moved so easily between them. And not only in his work. I thought of how our elegant friend could be prevailed upon to terrify our children, to transform himself by somehow flipping upside down his wonderful dental appliance and emerging, from behind concealing hands, a tusked and terrible (Archaic Greek, I think) monstrosity.”

Ginger Geyer

John Lunsford in a Face Off with a Sultan

John Lunsford in a Face Off with a Sultan

In July, 2010, I became reacquainted with John on a trip to Turkey. Reacquainted, because I had always known him as a curator, working alongside him at the Dallas Museum of Art from 1977–1990. John was IT at the museum; he knew everything and everybody, and was a fixture in the museum library, where he devoured the NYT, as well as in the darkened galleries where he explained pre-Columbian gold to gold-studded docents. But John was most at home in the art storeroom, where he meticulously measured, sketched and labeled works of art from far-flung places. I was fortunate to just observe and take notes. His wide-ranged knowledge was far beyond the art history canon I had studied, and at staff lunches in the “prep room”, he often entertained us with the stories of opera and his travels into the wilds. So, years later, when I was invited, along with my husband Rick, on a “free” trip to Turkey with John and others of the Dallas arts community, I jumped for it. Our small group found ourselves to be celebrities-- for no reason-- to the fervid followers of the Gulen Movement, which had underwritten our tour. The very first day set the pace in Istanbul, jet-lagged and eager, skimming through museums, newspaper offices and neighborhoods, down the Bosphorus, eating baklava puzzles that resembled Obama. In a school we managed to pause in one long hallway of plaster busts. John Lunsford posed, facing down a stern statue. I’m sure he could tell you the name of this sultan, and recorded it in his ever-present pocket notebook. It wasn’t until later that we all realized the similarity of noses in profile... The entire trip was like a whirling dervish, and John gained steam as we ventured forward, talking constantly. But by his gravitas, he also maintained a stable atmosphere for those of us who suspected we had been kidnapped by a mysterious, but very kind, cult. Nothing like bonding with fellow travelers in a quixotic land where you fear you might never return home.


> Ginger Geyer


John Buxton

Many of us have marveled over the past few days at how successful John has been in compartmentalizing his world. As we celebrate this great man's life, it has been fascinating now to meet John's friends and colleagues from these other lives. John is major part of the history of the Dallas Museum of Art , SMU and the Meadows Museum and the city of Dallas It is important that as memories fade we do not lose what John Lunsford has meant to those that knew him and to those that will come to know him in the future. For this reason I encourage all of us to take a minute and to write a paragraph about what he meant to you. John's closest friends are working on a way to compile these thoughts so that they can be shared in the future. In this issue I have included the memories of some of John’s closest friends. I hope we receive many more contributions that may be compiled in a more permanent way than this forum.

John Lunsford Paris 2013 - Buxton

John Lunsford Paris 2013 - Buxton

How did John and I come to know each other. In 1974 I was returning to Dallas after living for almost 4 years in Bahrain just off the coast of Saudi Arabia.. I had been serving in the Navy until I resigned my commission in in late 1973. Anyway I proclaimed myself an art dealer and opened up a shop on Oak Lawn called The Bahraini Chest. This decision created a marketing nightmare as no one could spell it, pronounce it or more importantly find it. Undaunted by the fact that I had dropped Art History at Tulane after three weeks because it was boring I called John Lunsford to present the curator with a Yoruba mask I found in Kenya. If anyone did not deserve any credibility in the art world it certainly was me. But I was delighted when John made his first trip to my shop. I had absolutely no idea how important this visit would be to the next forty five years. Proudly I presented my mask and John said it’s very interesting. I replied that I had no idea what that meant. John said its one of a kind. I was still confused. John said the mask is mushy. A little frustrated I said that I wanted his opinion in plain language. John looked me straight in the eye and said John this mask is a fake, a decorative piece made for sale. I thanked him and from that moment he knew that I wanted candor and I knew that he would always tell me the truth. John became one of my important mentors. We worked together on many projects; however, probably my proudest moment was when he first asked my opinion on an object he was studying. And since he was responsible for me being in that position I suspect it was a moment for him as well. The height of our collaboration was 2013 when Margaret McDermott sent us both to Paris on behalf of the McDermott Foundation and the Dallas Museum of Art to evaluate the Barbier Pre-Columbian collection that was to be auction at Sothebys. A week in this city with John looking at art and experiencing life is as close to perfection on earth that I can imagine. And even then at 81 he walked that city like he was in his 30’s. What an experience.,

John made enormous contributions to both the Dallas Museum of Art and the Meadows Museum. His legacy should not, however, be measured in objects or bricks and mortar. His legacy is all of us. Without  John’s influence in my life it is inconceivable to me that I would have had a career in tribal art that now spans 45 years. I certainly would not have been a tribal art appraiser on Antiques Roadshow since its inception in 1996.  So John thank you.. thank you for your guidance, your patience, and your friendship.


John Lunsford Eulogy July 2019

In the late 80’s, Cheryl and I co-hosted a “Dress as you were in the 1960’s Party.”  I was dressed in a white and black leather motor cycle jacket and blue jeans, unfortunate, most likely with bell bottoms.  The door bell rang and I happened to answer it and there was John, standing in a tweed jacket dressed just like he always was.  I asked him why he had not dressed a little more the part and he got that look on his face when he was about to zing you and he said, “I bought this jacket in the mid-60’s.”


In my experience, it was always difficult or actually near impossible to get John to answer his phone at the museum. 


John was the best generalist I ever encountered.  He was knowledgeable about all art history, not just in his area of specialization.  When he came to the gallery he would engage with the contemporary artists on view and his taste was diverse.  When we went out to dinner, John’s stories were never edited and full of lively details about people and events.  What a memory!


About a month before John passed, I had a lovely long phone call with him.  I don’t remember why I called except it had to do with something related to the history of Dallas.  Cheryl suggested I call John as he was the only one we knew with the age and memory to have known the answer.  During our conversation it dawned on me that, even though he was a go-to person on a certain aspect of the Dallas arts scene, I did not know if he had been properly interviewed to record his life story and his participation and behind the scenes knowledge of goings on at the Dallas Museum.  John said that he had been interviewed in the past about his knowledge and interactions with other people, but not just about him.  I asked him if he would be amenable and he indicated that he might be if he liked the interviewer.


My next call was to the Dallas Museum of Art archivist who was very amenable and promised to start the process of generating a proposal to send John.  I wish I had called John about 6 months earlier.  Unfortunately, he took a lot of Dallas history with him when he passed.  Cheryl and I often saw him at all kinds of events through the years; we will miss him. 


Kevin Vogel


Michael Kan

Columbia Graduate School

Columbia Graduate School

John Lunsford was a good friend, schoolmate of mine at Columbia’s Grad School, and fellow friend of the Mc Dermotts and the Dallas Museum. He eptomized the qualities of a. Southern Gentleman. John would always give you his frank opinion on a piece of African art if he knew you could take it.


Michael Kan

My Word Summer 2019

JB initials.jpg

Losing Chris Roy and then John Lunsford within a few months makes this a memorable but very difficult summer. My mentors were Robert Plant Armstrong, a professor and collector at Univeristy of Texas at Dallas, Ray Wielgus, a collector from Tucson, Roy Sieber, a Professor and noted African scholar from Indiana University at Bloomington, and John Lunsford, who was the first Africani scholar and curator that took an interest in me. . All now reside in the spirit world. To devote this issue in large part to John Lunsford in celebration of his life and friends is an appropriate send off for this great friend. John Lunsford was not only an important figure in the history of art in Dallas but he was also a major influence in the appreciation and understanding of art for those he touched and mentored.

In lieu of flowers, please consider contributions in John’s honor to the National Audubon Society and to Friends of the South Dallas Cultural Center.

There is an important interview in this issue done by with the new curator at the New Orleans Museum of Art. Endy C. Ezeluomba. Endy is a Nigerian born Africanist that represents a new direction in the study of African art. There are fewer young scholars that want to spend years in the filed working towards their PhD instead opting for contemporary African art. While this is certainly important Endy provides a unique perspective that provides context for scholarship in the future. I am sorry John Lunsford never saw this interview for he would have been fascinated.. Thank you to the folks at imodara,com for doing this.

France and African Repatriation - Summer 2019

"France retreats from report recommending automatic restitutions of looted African artefacts"

France - African Artifacts.jpg

The controversial French report recommending a systematic and unconditional return of African cultural heritage was all-but buried yesterday at a conference in Paris. The report's authors Bénédicte Savoy and Felwin Sarr raised alarm in French and European museums by recommending automatic restitutions to African states of all goods seized during the colonial era. In his opening speech at the symposium on Thursday, the French culture minister Franck Riester only pledged that "France will examine all requests presented by African nations" but asked them not to "focus on the sole issue of restitution."

After the Savoy-Sarr report's explosive release last November, President Emmanuel Macron announced that an immediate follow up would come in the form of a major Euro-African conference planned in April on the issue. That event never got off the ground and was subsequently cancelled. Thursday's much lower-key symposium at the French Academy focused on “wider cultural cooperation with Africa“ according to a source close to the minister, aimed at overcoming the confusion and consternation caused by the report.

The conference was attended by some 200 archaeologists, anthropologists, art historians, curators and representatives of ministries of culture from Europe and Africa. Despite being invited to address the meeting by the minister, Savoy and Sarr failed to show. They were not available for immediate comment.

Riester says that France is still working with Benin on the restitution of 26 cultural items looted in a military raid in 1892—another promise by President Macron—but no date has yet been set even for discussion by the parliament, which has to approve the move. Meanwhile, the director of the Musée du Quai Branly, Stéphane Martin, says the museum has agreed for an exhibition and a long term loan of these items in Benin, but is waiting for the country to express its wishes. The minister also announced that the regular cultural season planned each year in France will be dedicated in 2020 to Africa and its artists.

Sources close to the culture ministry hailed the meeting a success, with participants upbeat and eager to move forward. Riding this momentum, the government is planning another meeting in September to take stock of plans to improve cooperation with Africa and inventories of African works and their provenance in museum collections.

Rembrandt's Night Watch Restoration - Summer 2019

"World invited to watch museum restore Rembrandt's 'Night Watch'"

Restoration of Night Watch

Restoration of Night Watch

AMSTERDAM (AFP).- Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum on Monday began the biggest ever restoration of Rembrandt's "The Night Watch", building a giant glass case around the famed painting so the world can see the work carried out live.

In what has been compared to a military operation, experts at the museum in the Dutch capital will spend a year studying the 1642 masterpiece before embarking on a huge makeover that could take several years more.

The multi-million-euro revamp of the tableau -- the survivor of a difficult history including several acts of vandalism and a period in hiding from the Nazis -- will also be livestreamed online.

"More than two and a half million people come and see it each year. It belongs to everybody who lives in the Netherlands, and the world," Rijksmuseum director Taco Dibbits told reporters.

"And we felt that the public has the right to see what happens to that painting."

Experts hope the research could also shed more light on the mysteries of how the greatest artist of the Dutch Golden Age created his masterpieces.

"We know very little about how Rembrandt made this painting and we hope to discover by knowing which paint he used, which pigments he used," Dibbits said.

"That's of course very exciting to do because everybody wants to kind of look into the kitchen of Rembrandt."

White haze

Rembrandt van Rijn created his masterpiece after a commission by the mayor and leader of the civic guard of Amsterdam, Frans Banninck Cocq, to depict the officers and other members of the so-called "Night Watch" militia.

Now one of the world's famous paintings, it remains under constant scrutiny by experts, who have recently noticed some changes.

In particular, a white haze has appeared on the surface of some parts, especially in the area around damage caused in 1975 when a mentally disturbed man slashed the painting 12 times. The haze is now bleaching out the figure of a small dog.

While most restoration work happens behind closed doors, the Rijksmuseum has decided to let daylight in on the magic.

Experts will work on the Night Watch inside a glass case designed by French architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, who was behind revamps of both the Rijksmuseum and the Louvre gallery in Paris.

"The Night Watch was restored in the 1970s... while the restorers were at work, we closed the curtains at that time. And now it will all be on view for the public to see so in a sense it's the first time," Dibbits told AFP.

He said a team of 25 "scientists, researchers, conservators, curators, restorers" would work on the painting using high-resolution photography and computer analysis of every layer including varnish, paint and canvas before deciding on the best restoration techniques.

Historic survivor

But the museum warned that anyone expecting fast-paced excitement might be better off watching paint dry.

"The research phase will take about one year," said Petria Noble, head of paintings conservation at Rijksmuseum. "At this moment, we don't really know how long the actual treatment of the painting will take."

Noble said the sheer scale of the three-metre-by-four-metre (nine-foot-by-13-foot) painting -- which is housed in its own special room at the museum -- had also contributed to the decision to restore it in public view.

"Given the size of the painting, it's really not possible to take it out of the galleries. That also imposes a certain risk for the painting," she said.

In many ways it is a miracle Rembrandt's brooding painting has survived the last three and a half centuries to be restored at all.

Large chunks were cut from each side of the Night Watch during a move in the 1700s, followed by several bouts of work on the varnish that darkened the picture and helped give it its name.

In 1911 a man stabbed it with a knife. Then in September 1939 the painting was evacuated from the Rijksmuseum and hidden in the cave, just months before Nazi Germany invaded the Netherlands. After the war in 1945 it needed major restoration.

Then came the 1975 knife attack, but its sufferings were still not over, as a man sprayed it with acid in 1990.

© Agence France-Presse

Christies London Sells King Tut Relic - Summer 2019

"Tutankhamun relic sells for $6 mn in London despite Egyptian outcry"

LONDON (AFP).- A 3,000-year-old quartzite head of Egyptian "Boy King" Tutankhamun was auctioned off for $6 million Thursday in London despite a fierce outcry from Cairo.

Christie's auction house sold the 28.5-centimetre (11-inch) relic for £4,746,250 ($5,970,000, 5,290,000 euros) at one of its most controversial auctions in years.

Tutankhamun Relic.jpg

No information about the buyer was disclosed.

The famous pharaoh's finely-chiselled face -- its calm eyes and puffed lips emoting a sense of eternal peace -- came from the private Resandro Collection of ancient art that Christie's last parcelled off for £3 million in 2016.

But angry Egyptian officials wanted Thursday's sale halted and the treasure returned.

About a dozen protesters waved Egyptian flags and held up signs reading "stop trading in smuggled antiquities" outside the British auction house's London sales room.

"This should not be kept at home. It should be in a museum," Egyptian national Magda Sakr told AFP.

"It is history. It is one of our most famous kings," the 50-year-old said.

Egypt's antiquities ministry said it would hold a special meeting at the start of next week to discuss its next steps in the standoff.

"The Egyptian government will take all the necessary measures to recover Egyptian antiquities that left Egypt illegally," it said in statement.

'Stolen from Karnak'

Former Egyptian antiquities minister Zahi Hawass told AFP by telephone from Cairo that the piece appeared to have been "stolen" in the 1970s from the Karnak Temple complex just north of Luxor.

"We think it left Egypt after 1970 because in that time other artefacts were stolen from Karnak Temple," Hawass said.

The Egyptian foreign ministry had asked the UK Foreign Office and the UN cultural body UNSECO to step in and halt the sale.

But such interventions are rare and made only when there is clear evidence of the item's legitimate acquisition by the seller being in dispute.

Christie's argued that Egypt had never before expressed the same level of concern about an item whose existence has been "well known and exhibited publicly" for many years.

"The object is not, and has not been, the subject of an investigation," Christie's said in a statement to AFP.

The auction house has published a chronology of how the relic changed hands between European art dealers over the past 50 years.

Its oldest attribution from 1973-74 places it in the collection of Prince Wilhelm of Thurn and Taxi in modern-day Germany.

This account's veracity was called into doubt by a report from the Live Science news site last month suggesting that Wilhelm never owned the piece.

Wilhelm was "not a very art-interested person," his niece Daria told the news site.

'Clear ownership'

Tutankhamun is thought to have become a pharaoh at the age of nine and to have died about 10 years later.

His rule would have probably passed without notice were it not for the 1922 discovery by Britain's Howard Carter of his nearly intact tomb.

The lavish find revived interest in ancient Egypt and set the stage for subsequent battles over ownership of cultural masterpieces unearthed in colonial times.

Tutankhamun became commonly known as King Tut and made into the subject of popular songs and films.

International conventions and the British government's own guidance restrict the sale of works that were known to have been stolen or illegally dug up.

The British Museum has been wrangling for decades with Greece over its remarkable room full of marble Parthenon friezes and sculptures.

Egypt's own campaign to recover lost art gained momentum after numerous works went missing during the looting that accompanied former president Hosni Mubarak's fall from power in 2011.

Cairo has managed to regain hundreds of looted and stolen artefacts by working with both auction houses and international cultural groups.

But it was never able to provide evidence for the Tutankhamun bust being illegally obtained.

Tut 2.jpg

Christie's told AFP that it would "not sell any work where there isn't clear title of ownership".

© Agence France-Presse

"Egypt asks Interpol to trace Tutankhamun relic over ownership docs"

CAIRO (AFP).- Egypt has asked international police agency Interpol to track down a 3,000-year-old Tutankhamun artefact that was sold in London for $6 million despite fierce opposition from Cairo, government officials said.

Christie's auction house sold the 28.5-centimetre (11-inch) relic for £4,746,250 ($5,970,000, 5,290,000 euros) to an unknown buyer in early July at one of its most controversial auctions in years.

But less than a week after the sale, Egypt's National Committee for Antiquities Repatriation (NCAR) said after an urgent meeting that national prosecutors had asked Interpol "to issue a circular to trace" such artefacts over alleged missing paperwork.

"The committee expresses its deep discontent of the unprofessional behaviour of the sale of Egyptian antiquities without providing the ownership documents and the evidences that prove its legal export from Egypt," the NCAR said in a statement.

The committee -- headed by Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany and attended by his predecessor Zahi Hawass as well as officials from various ministries -- also called upon Britain to "prohibit the export of the sold artefacts" until the Egyptian authorities were shown the documents.

It suggested the issue could have an impact on cultural relations, by referencing "the ongoing cooperation between both countries in the field of archaeology, especially that there are 18 British archaeological missions are working in Egypt".

The NCAR added it had hired a British law firm to file a "civil lawsuit" although no further details were given.

'Stolen from Karnak'

The London sale of the head of "Boy King" Tutankhamun angered Egyptian officials at the time and sparked a protest outside Christie's by about a dozen people who held up signs reading "stop trading in smuggled antiquities".

Hawass told AFP that the piece appeared to have been "stolen" in the 1970s from the Karnak Temple complex just north of Luxor and the Egyptian foreign ministry asked the UK Foreign Office and the UN cultural body UNESCO to step in and halt the sale.

But such interventions are rare and made only when there is clear evidence of the item's legitimate acquisition by the seller being in dispute.

Christie's argued that Egypt had never before expressed the same level of concern about an item whose existence has been "well known and exhibited publicly" for many years.

"The object is not, and has not been, the subject of an investigation," Christie's said in a statement to AFP.

The auction house has published a chronology of how the relic changed hands between European art dealers over the past 50 years and told AFP that it would "not sell any work where there isn't clear title of ownership".

© Agence France-Presse

Sothebys Goes Private Summer 2019

"Sotheby's to Go Private

Patrick Drahi acquires auction house for $3.7bn"

Sotheby's to Go Private

Patrick Drahi acquires auction house for $3.7bn


Jun 17 Public post

Sotheby's announced this morning that the board of directors has accepted a $57 a share bid for the company:

Sotheby’s (NYSE: BID) today announced that it has signed a definitive

merger agreement to be acquired by BidFair USA, an entity wholly owned by media and telecom entrepreneur as well as art collector, Patrick Drahi. Under the terms of the agreement, which was approved by Sotheby’s Board of Directors, shareholders, including employee shareholders, will receive $57.00 in cash per share of Sotheby’s common stock in a transaction with an enterprise value of $3.7 billion. The offer price represents a premium of 61% to Sotheby’s closing price on June 14, 2019, and a 56.3% premium to the company’s 30 trading-day volume weighted average share price. The transaction would result in Sotheby’s returning to private ownership after 31 years as a public company traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

Drahi shared a letter explaining his personal involvement in the purchase:

I am very honored that the Board of Sotheby’s has decided to recommend my offer.

With my family, we are very enthusiastic to build together with its current management and their teams the future of Sotheby’s, a fascinating and multi-secular company with such avcelebrated history of uniting people all over the world through culture and arts.

For my entire life, I have been passionate about this industry and I believe the opportunities and growth potential are significant for Sotheby’s.

I am making this investment for my family, through my personal holding, with a very long-term perspective. There is no capital link with Altice Europe or Altice USA.

As the future owner, I have full confidence in Sotheby’s management, and hence do not anticipate any change to the Company's strategy. Management and their exceptional teams and talent around thevworld will continue to operate with my full support.

This investment will further demonstrate the anchoring of my family in the United States, a country where we have been very welcomed since the successful acquisitions of Suddenlink in 2015, Cablevision in 2016 and just recently Cheddar.

The telecom and media industries will keep being my main focus where I remain 100% committed to our businesses and to our continued growth. I will of course keep leading the management team in the development and growth of Altice Europe, as well as remain Chairman of the Board of Altice USA to support Dexter and his team who are doing a great job.

The acquisition of Sotheby’s will be funded by financings arranged and underwritten by BNP Paribas as well as by equity provided from my own funds. To help fund this transaction, I do not intend to sell any shares in Altice Europe NV; my intention is to monetize a small position in Altice USA up to $400 million by the end of the year. Due to Altice USA's share repurchase program, the total economic stake of my holdings in Altice USA has increased over the last 12 months from approximately 34% to 38 %.

Drahi's ownership of Sotheby's when it closes later this year will put both major auction houses in the hands of French billionaires. Drahi owns a number of properties but his primary wealth is through Altice, the telecom company.

Tikal and the Maya seen through LIDAR Summer 2019

Tikal was once thought to be primarily a religious and cultural site because of the splendor of its temples, the park’s primary draw. But the LiDAR mapping showed it to have been a vast city-state and urban hub of commerce, trading, and government, connected by 60 miles of broad avenues and elevated causeways. The scans also revealed 140 square miles of terraces watered by a complex system of irrigation canals, reservoirs, and dikes—evidence of a surprisingly advanced agronomy.

Extrapolating from these high-tech maps, researchers now believe that Tikal was much more densely populated than previously thought: At its height (between 650 and 800 C.E.), it may have been home to 7 to 11 million people—possibly doubling the previous estimates of around 5 million.


Perhaps the most exciting revelation is the prominence of defensive fortifications and a formerly unknown fortress, recently named La Cuernavilla, complete with ramparts, moats, and watchtowers. The discovery upended ideas about Mayan society, indicating that it may have been more violent and warlike than previously thought.

The museum at Las Lagunas Hotel exhibits the owner’s private collection of registered Mayan artifacts.

Photo by Melanie Haiken

The museum at Las Lagunas Hotel exhibits the owner’s private collection of registered Mayan artifacts.

And in addition to large-scale research projects, local efforts are broadening our understanding of Tikal as well, such as the museum opened in 2017 at the nearby boutique hotel Las Lagunas. The collection of artifacts amassed over 60 years by the hotel’s owner, Edgar Castillo, includes stone statues, intricately painted pottery, elaborate necklaces, carved buttons, and even skulls with jade-inlaid teeth. Each item is qualified and registered by the government of Guatemala (unlike many private collections), and together they help visitors understand a bit more about the rich and advanced artisanship of Mayan civilization. Hotel guests may visit the museum anytime for free, and it’s open to other visitors for a nominal five dollars.

An experience enhanced

All of this new knowledge hasn’t yet changed the park as it appears to visitors because most of the sites revealed by the LiDAR mapping remain inaccessible. But as Lopez guided us among the same temples and structures hundreds of thousands had toured before, our knowledge that these buildings were part of a vast metropolis made an already exciting experience that much more thrilling.

We stood still in astonishment at our first glimpse of the extraordinary complex of temples, palaces, and monuments that earned Tikal the status of national park in 1955 and UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979. It was the courtyard of the Central Acropolis, an imposing multi-story royal palace constructed of enormous limestone blocks stacked like Legos. Unlike in other Mayan ruins, such as Tulum and Chichén Itzá, almost all of Tikal’s structures are open and unrestricted, so we climbed the famous building’s steep stairways to explore the rows of rooms, admiring carved stone lintels, peeking through windows as we went, and wondering about the objects that may have decorated the interiors.

“These jungles are still full of mysteries, and we’re only just at the beginning of figuring it all out.”

Spread over a mammoth site and linked by winding forest paths, Tikal can take several days to explore thoroughly. But Lopez, the official tour guide of Las Lagunas, knows what he called “secret back ways,” which helped him fulfill his promise to show us everything of significance in one day.

From the Central Acropolis, Lopez lead us down a short path to Tikal’s grandest ediface, the looming, 180-foot Temple I (also called the Temple of the Jaguar or Temple of Ah Cacao, the ruler entombed there). Directly across the enormous Grand Plaza that fronts the temple is the equally imposing Temple 2. Also called the Temple of the Masks, it was built to honor Ah Cacao’s wife and is flanked by the North Acropolis and a series of carved stone stelae, or pedestals, covered with intricate symbols telling the histories of those who once lived here.

Lopez explained that twice a year at the equinox, the sun aligns in such a way that the shadow of Ah Cacao’s temple falls across that of his wife’s, a display of the Mayans’ mastery of archaeoastronomy that symbolically allows the couple to touch across time and death.

The structures of Tikal, such as the North Acropolis, are open to the public, allowing visitors to climb stairs and walk through rooms, imagining what life might have been like in 800 C.E.

Photo by

The structures of Tikal, such as the North Acropolis, are open to the public, allowing visitors to climb stairs and walk through rooms, imagining what life might have been like in 800 C.E.

From there, another path took us to Temple IV, which is so tall that climbing it put us above the jungle canopy. Nearby, an observation platform lifted us even higher above the trees, and it was here that we were most strongly reminded of the LiDAR mapping’s findings. The temples and palaces we’d spent all day learning about suddenly seemed like such a small part of the city. In front of us, we could see the tops of as-yet-unexcavated pyramids piercing the sea of green that extended to the horizon in all directions, waiting to be explored.

Continuing to unravel the mystery

What we’ve learned from the LiDAR mapping so far just scratches the surface of Tikal, and many of its mysteries remain unsolved, including why it was suddenly abandoned around 900 C.E. Scholars still don’t agree on one explanation for the city’s fall, but the most likely contributing factors are unsustainable population growth, deforestation, drought, and crop failure—theories now supported by this new understanding of the area’s population density.

“We think people packed up and fled to the coast and into the highlands; the Mayans who live in the villages around Lake Atitlán may have come from this area,” Lopez told us at the top of Temple IV, sweeping a hand to the southeast, in the direction of that body of water more than 400 miles away.

Answers to these and other questions may come sooner than later—by the end of what is expected to be a three-year survey, PACUNAM’s LiDAR initiative plans to have mapped 5,000 square miles of the Guatemalan lowlands, which includes the 800 square miles of Tikal that have been covered thus far. The picture will only become more vivid for visitors 10 or 20 years from now. “These jungles are still full of mysteries, and we’re only just at the beginning of figuring it all out,” Lopez said. “It’s a very exciting time to be in Tikal.” Interviews Endy C. Ezeluomba - Summer 2019

Changing Narratives with Endy C. Ezeluomba

The curator of African art at the New Orleans Museum of Art on restitution and the future of African art.


Displays of classic African art in museums often take what were once functional objects and transforms them into ‘art’ placed behind glass. Masks are no longer worn, staffs aren’t held, stools aren’t sat upon. Instead, they are put in a vitrine for visitors to marvel at.

While many visitors might think they’re looking at art and cultures lost through the passage of time, Ndubuisi “Endy” C. Ezeluomba wants you to know that “Africa is continuing.” Originally from Benin City, Nigeria, Ezeluomba is now the Françoise Billion Richardson Curator of African Art at the New Orleans Museum of Art where he oversees one of the most important collections of classic African art in the United States.

ÌMỌ̀ DÁRA had the chance to sit down with the curator and pick his brain about his thoughts on restitution, connecting the classic and contemporary, and the future of African art.

We're seeing a number of debates rage in the field of African art—one is on the lack of curators of African descent at Western institutions. Do you think this discussion is warranted? What does an African bring to African art scholarship?

Some time ago the writer Chimamanda Adichie, gave a presentation about history. My take away from her speech is that history is not told from just one source. It is only when multiple people come together do we experience multiple histories. When people tell their own story, they potentially give a much deeper account of what that story is about.

Before we dig in, let’s start with nomenclature. Do you think ‘historical’ is the right term to use for art made by African artists in the past?

I started out studying African art when we were taught that African art was created only to serve religious functions, which obviously wasn't the case as we eventually grew to realise. I started out using ‘traditional art from Africa’ but now, I’m working very hard to frame it within the historic discourse.

New Orleans Museum of Art

New Orleans Museum of Art

Why do I think 'historical'? Well, I believe that many scholars, especially some of those that taught me here, now frame pre-colonial works within this whole rubric of ‘historic’. I use the term historic because I think, to a large extent, it alludes to the age of some of the objects that we are talking about. When we speak about historic, we are not alluding to the 'special functions' of the piece. The use of 'historical', I believe, is more a way to blur the line between aesthetics and function.

It also feeds back to when the field used terms like ‘tribal art' or ‘primitive art’. I believe scholars are consciously looking for a much more subtle term to use, something less jarringly out there waiting to be pounced upon by any critic.

Now let's go back to the initial question, which addresses the excitement about Africans taking over or being tasked with the responsibility of speaking about these objects that originally belonged to Africa. If we go back to what Adichie was saying, I believe that it is only proper to allow those that have invested the time for scholarship but that also have the experience of these cultures, engage with the work.

You look at the younger generation of Africans today and most aren't in the village. Many have moved into urban areas and large cities far removed from 'traditional' experiences. So how are you defining 'experience' and what do you believe that African experience brings to the art field?

I think it brings a lot. The palace of Benin is right in the city of Benin, it's not located in the village, and many of those cultural practices that define the palace and the kingdom still happen right there, at the heart of the city. That is one.

Secondly, I am Igbo by my parents but I was born in Ibadan, Yoruba country. I grew up in Benin City and lived there till I was over 30. I studied the arts of the kingdom and I have personal experience in creating works alongside the guys we used to call ‘traditional’ carvers, arts that were not burdened by lineage restrictions. I apprenticed with a carver named Guobadia, close to my father's store at Uselu in Benin City. After apprenticing, I went to art school and was fortunate to be located close to the quarters of the guild of bronze casters—to study but also to conduct ethnographic research. A combination of those experiences brings so much into my role as curator.

Many Africanists can tell you that they've been out in the field and that they have conducted ethnographic research. But even with my scholarship in the arts from Benin City and despite having studied the intricacies of the shrines and rituals from the city, there are still many sites and customs that I don't have access to. Having access to deeper knowledge from those that are the original custodians of that knowledge adds something new to what we already have in this field of study.

Endy at the Olokun communal shrine in Benin City, Nigeria, 2016

Another debate raging is about sending back pieces—the Benin Bronzes as an example. Send them back to Benin City, they’re building a new museum after all. What are your thoughts about African researchers and specialists in Africa? Do we have those skills in Africa to maintain these pieces? And if not, what needs to be done to develop the next generation of curators in African countries?

The truth is that we need to train the manpower to maintain these collections when they are back in Africa, although it comes with a lot of problems.

I believe, to a large extent, that the problem stems from infrastructure. I have seen the two sides of the argument including what the Senegalese scholar recommended in 'total restitution'. Everybody wants to get their property back but it is hard at times to be very rational because our minds are tainted by personal biases and out of those biases we are prone to say things that in hindsight we might think, "maybe we could have tweaked this a little bit". That argument about total restitution, and at once, I believe is going to be problematic.

We know the restitution debate didn't start today, it started a long time ago and faced challenges then. An example, I know that in the '70s or '80s, some returned objects found their way back to Nigeria. We also know that a government official in charge of the Department of Antiquities in Lagos was arrested for selling works from Nigeria's collection! He was caught in a racket of selling the same works that were repatriated back to Nigeria. That is from the top guns of those establishments that are supposed to care for these objects.

And I personally experienced something similar. While in Benin City, I went to the museum to research Olokun, the most important deity in the religious pantheon of Benin. It was difficult for me to get access to information. Objects on display were next to nothing. But on my way out, this young man followed me out, cornered me and said, "I have something to tell you." He said that he had some documents about the ancient city of Benin. He had old maps that were kept in the museum's archives. He also has archival books, taken from the museum, that he could sell to me if I was willing to buy them. That's troubling!

If you send back these works to African countries, it is not hard for you to put two and two together to figure out what will happen to those objects almost immediately when they get there.

In addition, I worry about the ability to sustain the manpower we have today. If African nations work with the West to build infrastructures, institutions, and train scholars, if they work with them for a few years but then suddenly pull out, what happens in the future? When those international bodies pull out, the next thing you see is that things start to trend in the opposite direction.

So as good as the restitution debate is in raising awareness and driving the quest to send these works back to Africa, I think it is heavily political. What plans are you making to let the work come back? If we bring the art back home and they stay for some time, if they meet the kind of condition that many of their fellow objects are subjected to today, I believe that if the art can speak, they would say, "take me back!"

Jos Museum was set up to collect and care for many of the objects found from the middle belt going up to Jos Plateau. I was at the Jos Museum in the fall of 2017, again for research. When I got to the museum, they had to start a little generator so that we could get electricity for the lights in order to view the pieces in the museum. Before I came, the generator was turned off, there was no electricity in the museum.

So if we take on the restitution debate, it will be very wise to look at both sides of the debate and be very realistic when we make judgments. My thinking was in line with Smooth Ugochukwu Nzewi’s—rather than taking it back to the country or culture or origin, individuals from those countries can actually buy them or create endowments for them. That way, they know that they have made an investment and will thus care for the pieces.

Indeed, it is in the open market. You have collectors in the West buying and donating to museums. Why can't Africans buy the work back and build their own museums or donate it to established institutions?

If I put my money in it, I'll be forced to care for it and ensure that it returns value.

Another suggestion, which I also like, is that of continuous rotation. Pieces stay 'x' number of years at one institution but then go back so that another set of works can be rotated. Maybe in the course of rotation, those at the royal palace get more engaged with museums. I believe that the discussion will start changing from that point on.

We have to also remember that many of those kingdoms and cultures from which works were created are no longer with us today, so are we giving it back to the country? That doesn't make sense. The people that are within kingdoms or societies that exist today are now disconnected from these objects. If we give pieces back to them, how will they react?

You grew up in Nigeria and I'm sure are aware of perceptions that still persist—juju, witchcraft—that this is not art but ritual objects. Is this still the case and if so how do we change perception in Africa?

Fairly recently, change has actually started coming. But before now I believe that that pattern of thinking was actually the product of modern Pentecostalism that swept across many African countries. That dealt a massive blow to many cultural artefacts in Nigeria. My late grandfather burned up his store full of ikenga and many of his cultural relics. I was in Benin City when my father came back from the village and said that his father had converted to Christianity and I was forced to come home, put petrol on those things, and set them ablaze. My late father was also a champion of keeping objects that were not Christian away from the house, away from your body.

When my father and I discussed what I planned to study, art history, he mentioned that I had not exhausted the cosy courses—law and medicine. And even within art history, he mentioned that I could have studied Western art and not Nigerian art history. I specialised in Olokun and the study of water spirits and shrines but to him, this was the most dangerous area of study. But with reasoning, the idea of art as an academic field of study started to filter through and then he finally came to understand the field. He understood that I was studying from an academic perspective which meant that the 'spirits' would not affect me the way he felt it would affect others. Finally, my father was the first to say, "It really looks as though we had a total misconception about ‘traditional things.’" I use him as an example of the changing mindset of the people. In the course of doing fieldwork, I have come across an increasing number of people, even pastors, that now have conversations about the art.

I've even come across people that have said, "Oh, I'm done with Christianity, I'm going back to my roots." A rethink is beginning to occur in the mind of many.

An interesting point from the Savoy-Sarr report is that ninety percent of African art is no longer in Africa. As more Africans go back to 'traditional' religions, do you believe that there is indeed no more historical art in Africa?

Yoruba art, Nigeria

Yoruba art, Nigeria

I don't think that argument holds water. We know that many functional objects, many of the things that we study here today as art, were created to be used and after use, they were discarded and new ones created. So with that in mind, I don't know how the argument adds up. I know for instance, among my father’s people, if a masquerade has served out its life cycle, another one is carved. They desacralise the previous one and sacralise the new. The new mask continues functioning while the old is left to rot, is broken up into firewood or simply thrown away. I think the '90%' comes from the introduction of authenticity in African art. The thinking goes that authentic art is that which was used in a religious function many, many years ago.

Among the questions you sent in advance of our discussion was what my favourite piece is in the museum's collection. This is an object that came from the Kalabari region of the Cross-River State in Nigeria. It the duein fubara ancestral screen. In the early twentieth-century, Percy Amaury Talbot, a British colonial district officer and anthropologist, took them away from the Kalabari people. It was a priest, I believe a Catholic priest, who was in cahoots with some Kalabari people that had converted to Christianity. They were literally burning all objects associated with traditional religions. Talbot, in a rescue mission, asked for some objects to be sent to the UK and donated them to the Pitt Rivers Museum. The pieces have since moved on but a doctorate student at the University of Port Harcourt, Prince Soduate is currently studying duein fubara screens and has discovered that these screens are still being made today. Nigel Bailey, in a number of books, has written so conclusively that the Kalabari people discontinued that practice. But that practice is still going on today.

So thinking about the ninety percent stat, when the new duein fubara screens come on the market, many will call them inauthentic because they don't fall within the time frame set by the art market.

So in essence, the art market decided some date and said, "Anything that was created after that date in this country is tourist art, it's fake, it's made for Westerners,” even if it was still used in the culture.

Yeah, it's true. And that is why we can make that kind of totalising statement that ninety percent of African art is no longer there. If you talk to today’s practitioners—because at the end of the day those works were created for and given to practitioners of different kinds of rituals and ceremonies—if you bring them the old pieces, they might tell you "No, we don’t want these, we want new pieces." They also have this mindset of using and discarding things. So, are we saying that Africa remained static?

When I first came into the museum world, I saw that things were a little bit rigid there too. For instance, there was a show that we were working on, before they pulled the plug. We were working on a masking show and we had done a lot of very interesting research but then all of a sudden, we stopped at older masks, especially those that we already know well here. And as we were about to wrap it up planning, I was quick to tell everyone, "Hang on, Africa did not stop, Africa is continuing." Africa is continuing, and so it is still producing a lot of new types of masks, some never seen before.

Another example is with one of the shows that I did in Florida before I left. I consulted with the curator about Elusive Spirits. The curator stated that there is nothing new to write about masquerades in Africa. I'm like, "Hmm are you sure?" How can we make such totalising conclusions about art production in Africa?

Africa did not stop. A show must help visitors understand that. If not, then you are not giving a complete picture of what Africa is.

Nok and Sikoto Terracottas

Nok and Sikoto Terracottas

"Africa did not stop, Africa is continuing. It is still producing a lot of new types of masks, some never seen before."

The New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA)

Visit many museums and contemporary African art is quite separate from the rooms that display 'historical' African art. Contemporary African art sits in the contemporary art section of the museum; historical African art in the 'Africa' room. What are you thinking about as you look at the curation of African art at NOMA?

There is no point separating them. I believe that maybe some of those museums where they put contemporary art in the contemporary section, do so as a way of showing interdepartmentalism so that visitors can go see African art in the contemporary gallery.

But Carol Thompson at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta has brought it even closer, placing works of contemporary and historic art side by side in a kind of dialogue. That is the way going forward because Africa is continuing, so if you take away the contemporary from the historic, you are not telling a complete history. If you merge them, we can consciously begin to create that dialogue.

I believe that down the road, quite a number of other curators will begin this process of merging. This will increasingly be the case because scholars studying African art history, tend to back away from the historic—their perception being that there is nothing new to study, it's not important, it's not relevant. But go ask creative people, I am a creative person, I started as an artist. If you ask me where most of my creative inspiration comes from, I'll tell you that it's from works of historical art that we saw in books many years ago in college. And I'm sure that if I could get such inspiration, then I'm probably not alone, there are other artists that probably have the same kind of experience. So if artists are bold enough to engage with historic art to create, then as curators, why are we not bold enough to begin to put them in the same place and let them be in a conversionary position?

I am open to that kind of direction in the museum because I inherited a department that was curated by an Africanist, Bill Fagaly. He was the curator here for fifty years. He was the product of Roy Sieber, the first American professor of African art history. So most of his programs were modelled around what he learned from Sieber in the '50s and '60s, which was to continuously compartmentalise African art into geographic regions. So I took over an African section that has next to no contemporary art at all.

So then as you think about acquisition, are you looking to fill gaps in the museum's contemporary African art collection or continue to bolster its historical collection?

Well, in the long run, the idea will be to use contemporary art to bridge most of those gaps. But in the interim, I feel that one or two acquisitions from the contemporary side will actually begin to come into the heavily historic art department. In addition, the contemporary guys are also very, very happy and keen to collaborate. They are excited to see what I'm going to show them and see how it fits into their programme.

But the ultimate aim is to restructure the gallery to represent Africa's reality. Because it is a reality. I’m not here to continuously reinforce a narrative that I believe no longer holds water, the narrative that singles out historic arts claiming that "this is the art of Africa." That kind of narrative should actually begin to reconsider itself. And if you look at Smooth Ugochukwu, the [now former] curator of African art at the Cleveland Museum of Art, he is pro-contemporary African art, everybody knows that. But if you go to the Cleveland Museum, he is also being bold in challenging viewers to look at both sides, he's bringing them together.

It will eventually become a new normal. African art was created by artists from Africa in historic times. African art is currently being created by artists from that same Africa. It did not stop.

Okay, so you mentioned that the Kalabari duein fubara is your personal favourite in the NOMA collection. Which piece at the museum is the most important historical work of African art?

The most important, hmm... That is a really very complex question. It's a complex question because what is important here, may not be important elsewhere.

The previous curator said his favourite was a small terracotta house that came from Djenne. I wrote a short essay on it in the January–April 2019 edition of the NOMA Magazine. Before I joined NOMA, I was working alongside a team at the museum in Virginia to test the idea of 'probing beneath the surface' of African art. So as you can imagine, when I joined NOMA, I was very curious to know what was going on beneath the surface of that terracotta. But before I could investigate, I discovered that some other scholars have already conducted CT scans on the terracotta. The radiologist found eight vertical structures that he believed to be human beings in lying positions. A hand comes out of the door of the structure that the CT scan revealed to belong to a female figure, a pregnant woman in a child birthing position inside the structure as well. The curator at the Menil in Houston, Texas concluded that in that part of Africa—Mali and Burkina Faso—there was a ritual where they had to sacrifice pregnant women.

But again, looking at the pregnant women in the structure reminded me of a custom in the Kalabari region or in many Igbo societies of Nigeria, of fattening rooms where brides-to-be were taught what it was to be a woman. I believe that the lady posed in a birthing position could have been a model that was used to educate those eight bodies lying down beside her.

So that is a very interesting and 'important' object in the museum. But besides that, I cannot put one over the other. Individually, each and every one of the objects is important.

A CT scan was conducted to reveal the inside of the structure. In it are seven headless female forms, some appearing to be pregnant, strewn across the floor. Human sacrifice to serpents may have been practised in the region at the time this sculpture was created.

Thinking over the last year, what is your favourite show that you've seen recently?

One of the best shows I went to see last year was the 'Striking Iron' show at the Fowler Museum. The exhibition design was super and the variety of scholars that gave papers to show the importance of metal, of iron, was really fascinating. The exhibition showed how the smith has transformed metal in Africa through the generations even until today. It chimed into the discussion that Africa is a continuum. It did not present us a pristine Africa where blacksmith of the fifteenth and sixteenth-century created works and then abruptly stopped. No. It was very ambitious in trying to show the viewer metal works from the whole continent and not just from one part of Africa. It went as far as Morocco, going up to Tunisia, going up to Egypt.

In addition, they were able to attract scholars from the sciences, astronomy, African culture, and art. Rowland Abiodun was at the show as was Tom Joyce, one of the leading metal artists in the world. So that was one of my favourite shows although it is just one of many interesting shows that I’ve visited.

There is a lot buzz in the news right now about African arts. How do you think this field will evolve over the next five to ten years or what do you hope to see in the world of African art?

Interest in studying historical art of Africa is very, very low. And I think it comes with a reason. Barack Obama said that if you're doing the same thing for fifty years and it doesn't work, you have to try another way. So maybe the way we have staged the work to this point makes some say that there is nothing new to learn with historic African art. But if we make it more exciting I believe that some people might then feel the need to really look at it again and see something new, something different. I started from the premise that, when you look at an African artwork or object, if you look at it ten times you will learn ten new things. Perhaps that's due to the closeness I have to African art or maybe because of the way it animates me. Its animatedness comes with excitement. So if you make it exciting, I believe that it will attract people's attention and then if it attracts people’s attention, it'll gain a following.

When Roy Sieber became the first American professor of African arts in the U.S., oh, there was a buzz! Everybody wanted to emulate him. He raised a generation of scholars, the names we're all familiar with—Chris Kreamer, Babatunde Lawal, Cornelius Oyeleke Adepegba, and Robin Poynor. If it becomes exciting, people will be attracted to it and then it will become significant once again.

Charles and Valerie Diker Collection Metropolitan Museum Summer 2019

Exhibition Overview

James bay Cree 1865.jpg

This landmark exhibition in the Museum's American Wing showcases 116 masterworks representing the achievements of artists from more than fifty cultures across North America. Ranging in date from the second to the early twentieth century, the diverse works are promised gifts, donations, and loans to The Met from the pioneering collectors Charles and Valerie Diker. Long considered to be the most significant holdings of historical Native American art in private hands, the Diker Collection has particular strengths in sculpture from British Columbia and Alaska, California baskets, pottery from southwestern pueblos, Plains drawings and regalia, and rare accessories from the eastern Woodlands.

Accompanied by a catalogue.


The exhibition is made possible by The Peter Jay Sharp Foundation, the Diane W. and James E. Burke Fund, the Enterprise Holdings Endowment, and the Walton Family Foundation.

The catalogue is made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is situated in Lenapehoking, the homeland of Lenape peoples, and respectfully acknowledges their ongoing cultural and spiritual connections to the area.

Intrinsic to the American Wing's evolving collecting focus and expanding definition of historical American art is our long-term commitment to ongoing dialogues with source communities, artists, and scholars who inform and expand our understanding of diverse Indigenous cultures—a critical component of caring for and displaying these distinct expressions of culture and identity.

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 746

Social Media Summer 2019

We have had a very positive response to our Two ongoing posting Art, Just because Its Great and Our World Just Because Its Great. Both were inspired to have a brief departure from all the ugly and very negative postings on the internet. I hope we have given you a brief respite. You can follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. I have included below some of the images from the past..

Art, Just Because Its Great

Benin Head of An Oba, Nigeria 16th Century

Benin Head of An Oba, Nigeria 16th Century

Calima Gold Mask, Colombia 800 - 100 BBC

Calima Gold Mask, Colombia 800 - 100 BBC

Foo Dogs.jpg
Hellenistic Cameo 2768 - 269 BC

Hellenistic Cameo 2768 - 269 BC

Bamboo Basket Japan Wave Monden Kogyoku 1981

Bamboo Basket Japan Wave Monden Kogyoku 1981

Great Smokey Mts. - Buddy Mays

Great Smokey Mts. - Buddy Mays

Puerto Rio Tranquilo, Chile - Clane Gessel

Puerto Rio Tranquilo, Chile - Clane Gessel

Mouro Island, Spain - Oscar Martinez Diego

Mouro Island, Spain - Oscar Martinez Diego

Wanaka, New Zealand - Linda Cutche

Wanaka, New Zealand - Linda Cutche

Napali Coast Kauai, Hawaii - Lace Anderson

Napali Coast Kauai, Hawaii - Lace Anderson

Antiques Roadshow Monday Night May 20th

ARS Banner.jpg

John Buxton, now in his 23rd season on Antiques Roadshow, will appraise a Tuareg Takouba Sword, ca. 1910 recorded in Louisville and will appear in Churchill Downs Racetrack, Hour 3 episode of Antiques Roadshow airing May 20 at 8/7C PM on most PBS stations. 5/20/2019 on most PBS stations.

Giddy up for great appraisals at Churchill Downs Racetrack, such as a Chinese gilt bronze Bodhisattva, ca. 1650, a Nicolai Fechin oil portrait, and an 1861 Fred Kaiffer carved holly sewing box. Can you guess which is valued at $60,000-$150,000?

Antiques Roadshow will be live tweeting the episode at 8-9PM ET from the @RoadshowPBS Twitter account using the hashtag #antiquesroadshow. Join the conversation!


An Interns Retrospect


Upon entering this internship I had few expectations, except that I felt horribly underqualified for the position. I knew very little about African art, and even less about appraisals. Fortunately, I found that approaching each task with enthusiasm was enough as John was excellent in providing instructions. In retrospect, my time here at Shango has diversified my interest in varying types of art, deepened my understanding of art valuation and appraisal, and given me a more holistic approach to viewing art both within the market and in nonprofit institutions. After learning some of the methodology of art authentication by listening to John, I can no longer go to a museum without considering what types of tests a particular work of art had to endure in order to be accepted as part of the collection. Similarly, when I read about a notable object to be featured in an upcoming auction I wonder about the security of its provenance and how this affects the overall price. Lastly, after writing numerous object description for the Shango database I am now able to perceived an object apart from it’s function as a statue or headdress, and instead I can see it as a compilation of form, tension, and rhythmic design. After interning for the past eight months, I have learned more from listening to John explain the art market and museum system that I ever could in a structured class. Furthermore, our numerous excursions to various art-related institutions including the Kimbel, Art Restoration, Heritage Auctions, and even private collections made the learning experience very tangible. I can confidently say that I will continue to use the knowledge and experience I have gained while working at Shango in my future career in the arts.

Humble Thank You and Farewell!

As a senior at the University of Dallas, I have taken so many art history courses on ancient and European art that I did not think I could cram anything else into my tiny brain. However, within the first thirty seconds of setting foot in Shango, I knew this experience would exceed any I had in a classroom. Hundreds of ethnographic pieces and thousands of books lined the walls from top to bottom, accompanied by shelves and shelves of auction catalogs. My first task was to get to know where everything was in the library and to organize the ominous piles of auction catalogs. At the end of the day, my first day jitters had subsided, I figured out the way the library was sorted and I successfully befriended Mr. Buxton’s two dogs.

My daily responsibilities consisted of research for the newsletter, museum and client visits, photography, and auction cataloging. Through updating the quarterly newsletter, I learned how fast paced the art industry is – everyday, a new headline, emerging artist or discovery. I was faced with challenging news of corrupt art sales which opened my eyes and allowed me to understand how the “Art World” works. I also learned some tidbits of authentication knowledge while here at Shango.

My plans after Shango? Well, I’m moving back to Austin, Texas, to ponder why I spent $200,000 on a degree in printmaking…kidding! (only partially)

Right now, my plan is to graduate on the 19th, find a job, and hopefully, in the future, apply to an MFA program. In my time here, John has been a huge supporter of my studio work and continues to encourage me to build my portfolio and network as much as I can. This internship has been a consistent highlight of my weekly routine and has laid down a foundation of knowledge, on which I can build upon in the future. I cannot put into words how grateful I am to Mr. Buxton for taking me on as an intern and will cherish the memories I have of Shango forever.

Thank you!

Molly McNab


Eklektos - A New Gallery - With Affordable Treasures - Spring 2019

With our work on Antiques Roadshow and our appraisal business we are seeing more objects than ever from many clients that are downsizing and asking for our help. I wanted to create a venue that would be apart from our regular online galleries but responsive quickly to the needs of our clients. On Eklektos you might see tribal art, folk art, or something from another area that looks interesting. The objects will be priced to sell below market prices. We hope you enjoy it and we look forward to your feedback. If you have an object you may want to include, send us an email at with good photos and dimensions with any collection history. JB

Eklektos Gallery.jpg

My Word Spring 2019

JB initials.jpg

Now in mid May we have taped two Roadshows - one in the Botanical Gardens in Scottsdale and the other at the McNay Museum in San Antonio. Both were very different and transitioning from pollen, dust and one rattlesnake sighting to a beautiful Spanish Colonial-Revival house converted to world class venue for some extraordinary art was an adventure. Both venues will be beautiful in their own way. Now we set our sights on the Crocker Museum and Sacramento which we visit in a week. .

This week we shall see out two interns Molly McNab and Ana Norman graduate and mover on to new challenges. At this point Ana will attend the Masters Program in Art History at Southern Methodist University. We thank both for their efforts in general and the newsletter in particular. In the next newsletter we will introduce our summer interns, Anna Sammons and Mary Hellerman.

In our Bits and Pieces we have noted the passing at 93 of Morton Sosland who was an important art collector in Kansas City and major supporter and benefactor of the Nelson Atkins. in the 190’s I sold him African; however, in tribal art he was know for his collection of superb Native American works donated to the museum. Having appraised this collection for this donation I came to know and respect Mr. Sosland as a tough advocate. I learned very quickly why he was so successful in business.

In this newsletter we have emphasized repatriation which is a very complicated issue that has been made far more difficult with unrelated political agendas. As a short cut you might note the You Tube segments we have located that do a fair job in summarizing the various arguments for and against.

The Salvator Mundi and the Hawaiian figure controversies continue and were included in this issue. We have noted that Millenniels are actually spending money for art, new excavations contiune under the Temple of the Moon at Teotihuacan, and we learn more about the back story of how the Temple of Dendur wound up at the Met instead of the Smithsonian. There is so much material in this issue that we were unable to include it all in the Newsletter. We invite you to browse the blog at JB

You Tube and Repatriation ~ Some thoughtful Remarks

James Cuno, President and  CEO  of the  J. Paul Getty Trust

James Cuno, President and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust

. Repatriation: You Tube reports:

This is a very complicated issue that unfortunately is driven politically by agendas that may or may not have any direct bearing on the issues



French President Macron

 Museums/Collector Perspective

Archaeologists and Historians

Terrorism and Retriation