The artwork on view at Saturday night’s Tináa Art Auction at Centennial Hall highlighted the vibrancy and range of what’s been happening recently in the world of Northwest Coast art, while paving the way for a project that will help carry that energy forward into the future.
Tináa, Sealaska Heritage Institute’s first-ever art auction, drew a sold-out, black-tie crowd of more than 300 people, who collectively raised more than $300,000 for the Walter Soboleff Center, currently under construction on Front Street downtown. The building, named for a highly influential Tlingit elder and spiritual leader who died in 2011 at age 102, will house an array of art programs, as well as performance and exhibit spaces and a retail shop.
Excitement about the new building, and for the quality of the work on display, was very much in evidence at Saturday night’s high-energy event, which combined aspects of a museum opening, a gourmet dinner, a runway fashion show and a high-end art auction. Auctioneer David Karp of Nome kept the tone playful and personal, calling to audience members by name as he shepherded the crowd through the 13 live auction items. A silent auction featured nearly 40 additional pieces, from jewelry to basketry to sculpture.
Many of the internationally celebrated artists who donated works to the auction were in attendance, and several took turns at the microphone to share their enthusiasm for the Soboleff Center and for the man himself. Among them were David Boxley, a Tsimshian carver whose bentwood chest was among the largest items in the live auction, and Haida artist Robert Davidson, who donated another major piece, a black and red painting called “Greatest Echo.” Another big-ticket item in the auction was a rare 14-foot spruce river canoe carved by Tlingit artist Fred Bemis of Yakutat, so light that it requires ballast when operated by only one person.
The live auction also featured work by Nicholas Galanin, Preston Singletary, Steve Brown, Chloe French, Louise Kadinger, Duane Bosch, TJ Young, Delores Churchill, David R. Boxley and Sonya Kelliher-Combs.
Prior to the auction, a runway show of innovative Northwest Coast fashion was presented to whistles and cheers from the audience. Among the items on view was a salmon skin dress created from 35 Kenai river salmon and a luxurious coat made from sea otter fur (sea otters have the densest fur of any animal, with up to 1 million hairs per square inch). Designers who participated in the fashion show were Janice Jackson, Kandi McGilton, Ricky Tagaban, Brenda Lee Asp, Joel Isaak, Marcus Gho, Shaadoo’tlaa.Gunaaxoo’Kwaan and Louise Kadinger.
The title of the event, Tináa, is a Tlingit word that refers to a traditional copper shield representing wealth and trade. In planning the auction, SHI drew on longterm research of the Sante Fe Indian Market, an annual event held since 1922 that draws more than 150,000 people to Sante Fe, N.M., every August.
A beaming Rosita Worl, addressing the crowd at the end of the evening, said she sometimes hears that Juneau is a divided community, but that the outpouring of support for the Soboleff building from so many individuals and businesses has been an overwhelmingly positive example of how we can work together for a common goal of creating a regional hub in Juneau for Northwest Coast art.
“We are going to make this the Northwest Coast art capital of the world,” Worl said.
• To read more about this event, visit juneauempire.com/art/2014-01-16/atreasure-trove-shis-tin%C3%A1-auction-brings-together-works-major-northwest-coast-artists and www.sealaskaheritage.org/programs/Art/TinaaArtAuction.html.
For more on the Soboleff Center, visit www.sealaskaheritagecenter.com/about-center/tribute-dr-walter-soboleff.