The Native Art Market Returns to New York City

Over 30 artists will gather in Lower Manhattan on December 2 and 3 this weekend to sell their work at the National Museum of the American Indian’s (NMAI) annual Native Art Market. Another iteration of the fair will take place simultaneously at NMAI’s second location on the National Mall in Washington, DC.

Creators from across the country will showcase art ranging from basketry to beadwork to painting, selected by curators and scholars at the museum from a wide-ranging group of artist applicants. The New York edition of the fair started in 2005 and has taken place annually ever since, attracting 2,000 visitors last year. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, artists shared their stories over Zoom instead.

Painter Nate Nez, a member of the Navajo tribe based in Albuquerque, will be selling his paintings at the NMAI for the first time. “My hope is that I make an impact with my art,” Nez said, adding that he’s excited to show New Yorkers his interpretations of traditional Navajo art.

Joe Don Brave, “Enduring (Osage Family going to traditional dances in June)” (2022), oil on canvas, 20 x 20 inches

Joe Don Brave, an artist of Osage and Cherokee descent who used to work for NMAI back in the 1990s, will present his vibrant canvases of Osage traditions. In one work, Brave depicts elders and warriors telling stories around a campfire; another portrays the annual Sesquicentennial Celebration, where he has danced each June for 47 years.

Brave has since settled in Oklahoma, where he lives with his wife and son. He traveled frequently for artist markets until the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I have always vowed I was going back to New York with my art, to a show,” Brave told Hyperallergic. “And after so many bumps over the last years with the lockdowns, this year all the stars aligned, and here I am.”

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“Winyan Wánakikśin” (“Women Defenders of Others”) (2018), buffalo horn belt, made by Kevin Pourier (Oglala Lakota) and Valerie Pourier (Ogala Lakota), Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota

The United States Department of the Interior features the NMAI fair in its list of authentic Native art markets, guaranteeing that works described as “Native” are indeed made by artists of Indigenous descent. The sale of fake Native art, which is illegal under the Indian Arts and Crafts Act, plagues communities across the country. Last month, a Washington man was sentenced to community service and probation for selling work he represented as Native while falsely claiming he was a member of San Carlos Apache Tribe.

The NMAI Native Art Market is open December 2 and 3 from 10am to 5pm at One Bowling Green in Manhattan. The event is free and open to the public.

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