The Santa Fe Art Auction honors the descendants of one of Edward S. Curtis’s most famous photographs this weekend.
Christopher Cardozo, often anointed as the foremost private collector of works by Edward S. Curtis, couldn’t shake the nagging feeling of a white man owning thousands of photographs of Native Americans. Curtis, an American photographer and ethnologist, is known for his portraits of Indigenous people in the first half of the 20th century.
In 2014, Cardozo initiated the 10,000 Print Repatriation Project, which sought to find the descendants of Curtis’s portraits and give the families high-quality reproductions of their loved ones. (It’s said that Curtis took portraits of 10,000 Native people.)
“It was a huge legacy for Chris Cardozo, who was probably the most important and largest collector and dealer of Edward Curtis works for nearly fifty years,” says Gillian Blitch, president and CEO of Santa Fe Art Auction. “He invested quite a lot of his own money to locate the descendants of the subjects of Curtis’s portraits.”
Cardozo, who founded Cardozo Fine Art in Saint Paul, MN., passed away on February 21, 2021 at the age of seventy-two.
In preparation for its upcoming auction The Christopher Cardozo Collection of Edward S. Curtis, the Santa Fe Art Auction posted an image of one of Curtis’s most well-known works, Walpi Man (print year of 1903), on Instagram. Eventually, the post found its way to Orlando Allison, Walpi Man’s great, great grandson.
Allison will take part in an open-to-the-public panel discussion ahead of the latest event for the Santa Fe Art Auction, which has undergone significant changes.
In 1993, Gerald Peters founded the auction house, which has traditionally offered Western art and fine art during a big-time auction nearly every year. (This year’s annual in-person and virtual event is scheduled for Saturday, November 6.) Today, the auction operates out of an expanded and innovative facility in the Baca Railyard, where they’re scheduled to hold eleven auctions (many of them virtual) in 2021.
Along with expanding Native American art and photography offerings, Santa Fe Art Auction, based in the country’s third-largest art market, started taking in private, single-owner collections of substantial volumes.
“We’ve probably quadrupled in size,” says Blitch, who adds that she’s noticed a trend in art collectors that the auction works with.
“There’s a generational shift happening in the Western art world as many of our traditional collectors of classical Western art are beginning to age out,” says Blitch, who joined the organization in 2017. “Since I’ve been onboard, there’s been much more interest in mid-20th century art.”
Every piece from The Christopher Cardozo Collection of Edward S. Curtis is currently on display in exhibition format at the Santa Fe Art Auction (932 Railfan Rd), which is open from 10 am to 5 pm and by appointment through Friday, June 25.
Friday’s panel discussion from 4 to 5 pm, which will be an in-person and Zoom event, will also include Tlingit photographer Zoe Urness, Peter Bernardy from Cardozo Fine Art, and Blitch. A public opening reception follows from 5 to 7 pm, and the live auction is slated for two sessions at 10 am and 1:30 pm Saturday, June 26.
Allison, the great, great grandson of Walpi Man, who was an important Hopi leader named Meator, will also be honored. Approximately eleven family members will receive the highest quality reproductions of an original print, which will be part of Saturday’s auction.
“It’s really cool to make a presentation to the descendants of one of the greatest portraits of all time,” says Blitch.