A 21stCentury Guide to the Woodland Art Movement
R.R. Sinclair © 1999/2006
Canada is an attractive market that entices foreign investment from the Far East, Europe and the United States. With the Canadian dollar valued at two thirds of the American dollar and an accessible marketplace, Canada remains the ideal shopping mall for American interests. The tried and trusted compatibility of two advanced cultures make this the safest market anywhere in the world for American foreign investment. In their own ways, both countries provide leadership to the world. For example, Canada and the U.S. are still global leaders in utilizing the internet educationally, socially and commercially.
The international community's fascination with the Canadian artistic persona continues to increase. In America, Canadian artists are thriving in virtually every aspect of the arts and new media with the lone exception of fine art painting. First Nations artists from Canada, however, have now penetrated the American mainstream with music, theatre, movies, books, dance, and above all, ceremonial art. The time has never been better to buy Canadian, particularly Native Canadian art.
In February of 1998 the world class art of Morrisseau found its way to Santa Fe, the Mecca of American Native art. This was the first aboriginal arts gathering in the United States with a focus solely on Canadian art. Morrisseau's appearance at the gathering created such a stir that it was broadcast as national news in Canada. To the average Canadian, there is nothing more interesting or critically important to them than seeing what Americans think of their heroes, especially national treasures like Morrisseau. Often it requires the prior acceptance of the American public before Canada will accept its cultural icons as icons.
In all things native, times have changed. Though the Canadian embarrassment of their strained relations with the Aboriginal people remains an acute issue, it no longer hides in the proverbial closet. It required a delegation of Chiefs from Northern Quebec, arriving at New York City harbour in a traditional Grand Canoe, to catalyse change.
They had traveled to lobby the American people to assist them in a quest to stop the Quebec provincial government from flooding much of Northern Quebec. By refusing the opportunity to purchase Quebec hydro-electric power, the American people put an end to the development of the project. New York based environmental lawyer, Robert Kennedy Jr., took up the cause in galvanizing the support of New Yorkers, who overwhelmingly supported the Aboriginal initiative. The Hydro deal was finally shelved.
As a result of this catalyst and other similar catalysts, like the 1992 Oka cross-border crisis, there has been a steady emergence of Canadian Nativism into the American mainstream. Environmental consciousness has become a valued resource in the United States. Canadian natives artists have shown leadership, and are therefore becoming increasingly influential in Native American communities. The creative flood of Canadian Native conscience, eloquently and artistically presented, has barely begun.
The art of collecting art is an art unto itself. Knowing where to look, what to look for, when to buy or sell and for how much, is at the very least a learned skill. The craft of the collector has traditionally been the domain of the elite of a society. Those who would attend the Opera were also those who collected art. With the arrival of printing art, the number of collectors grew to include the rich intelligentsia.
The internet and new communications media accommodate everyone, extending the craft of collecting to the next level. The internet provides an exceptional forum for the fledgling collector to keep up-to-date and informed. As a visual medium, the internet is ideal for viewing artwork while simultaneously providing a suitable environment for resale. The internet provides the novice collector, who would never frequent a Sotheby's auction house, with the perfect investment environment.
Online auctions are an early web success story, pointing out the profound potential of the internet to fuel sales, especially in the area of collectibles. As transaction facilities become secure, art dealers are opening online galleries with escrow accounts to facilitate sales. In cyberspace, a collector can have a gallery where they exhibit, sell and buy artwork. Moreover, they find themselves listed on internet search engines with reputable museums and galleries who also vie for the public's attention. On the Web, you have an international audience with access to visual and written information and transactional application. The 21st Century collector uses the internet to take care of business.
Searching the web for Woodland Gold will turn up visuals and pieces for sale from approximately forty of the leading artists. There are at least a dozen online galleries and Canadian Auction houses that present Woodland Art. New information about Woodland Artists, their art and movement, continue to surface on the internet. There is very little that you will need to know to become a collector of Woodland Art that you won't soon be able to access on the Web.
To dig for Woodland Gold will require no more than learning how to use search engines to research. When you have inquiries and questions, then contact dealers and collectors by e-mail to tell them of your interest and your desire to know and see more. The dynamic fluidity of the Web fuels a collectors market. Here there is room for bartering, trading, real-time bidding wars, discussions and speculation. Gold diggers have always been a community of aesthetic explorers; rugged individualists with taste.
Woodland Art, visually suited as it is to the internet, is nothing short of breathtaking when viewed in person. The galleries and museums that promote and sell it are not all online, though many are, or will be in the near future. The art and artifacts of Canada's indigenous artistic movements; the Inuit, the West Coast Haida, and The Woodland Ojibwa, find a multitude of special venues that are outside of the artistic mainstream.
There are many museums and cultural centres in the province of Ontario that have wonderful collections of Woodland Art. Some of the best collections, however, are owned by collectors like the billionaire Bronfman brothers, who reputedly own an extensive Woodland Art collection along with a sizeable chunk of downtown New York and London.
The Woodland School's credibility as an investment, and as an international artistic force to be reckoned with, finds foundation in the incredible number of private collectors who possess quality collections, in tandemn with the prolific nature of the Woodland School painters. Canadian National Galleries have only recently recognized native art as a contemporary phenomenon. It took Morrisseau himself more than 20 years of fame and selling out exhibits before the elite Art Gallery of Ontario recognized him with an exhibition.
The McMichael Gallery possesses a quality body of work that they exhibit in drabs and dribbles. To make matters worse, the McMichael Canadian Collection's Board of Directors had the thoughtlessness to bring out a bottle of wine with a fabulous Morrisseau image on the label. The label asks the consumer to support Canadian art to the tune of two dollars per bottle. After a lengthy background on Canadian Artist, Norval Morrisseau, it goes on to say in small print that proceeds go to the McMichael Canadian Collection.
Upon further investigation it was disclosed that Morrisseau turned over his copyright on this piece, and others, to the McMichael Canadian Collection. He therefore receives no royalties while the gallery persists in liberally using these images on their promotional paraphernalia. Even more outrageous than the fact that they solicit funds and don't pay the artist, is the fact that they have the audacity to perpetuate the myth of the alcoholic Indian, a myth that already unfairly saddles Morrisseau, by putting his images on wine bottles. The image itself, a portrayal of a woman cradling a child, hardly belongs on a wine bottle.
The myopic perspective of various elitist organizations in Canada fail to recognize the insolence of their attitude. They therefore miss the opportunity to enjoy the magnificence of Norval Morrisseau. Not so with the man on the street. The Canadian public is a great fan of the Woodland School. The size and grandeur of Woodland Art make it ideal for hotel and office tower installations. If you travel Canada, especially Ontario, you will see Woodland Art everywhere. The Canadian middle class are particularly fond of building quality collections of Woodland Originals and Prints, because they enhance environments so nicely. Doctors, lawyers and corporations like Woodland Art for their offices because of its universal appeal and its Canadian feel.
Prints are often as popular as originals. Servicing the print market you will find a diverse array of small to medium sized galleries that promote, exhibit, buy and sell Woodland Art as well as prints. The best private galleries in Canada are located in Ontario, though Woodland Art is available throughout the country.
Woodland originals are priced from as low as $200 u.s., for a relatively unknown artist, all the way up to $20,000 u.s. for some of the older and more sought after Morrisseau's. Private dealers are often collectors themselves who facilitate the process of building their own collections by buying and selling art, often showcasing their "for sale" work in small, rented galleries in urban areas.
In the Greater Toronto area there are a dozen major galleries that carry Woodland originals, as well as many minor galleries. Collectors who mine Woodland Gold frequent the gallery circuit, often showing up for new exhibitions and auctions. Typically, the elite connoisseurs of fine art have been people of taste and refined culture. Today, the tourist and the elite collector alike join in adventuring to openings, museums and even auctions.
To the novice Woodland Art collector, there can be nothing as awe inspiring as taking a trip to the province of Ontario to see for yourself. The natural wonder of Ontario's landscape, along with showcases of contemporary Woodland Art permanently displayed at prominent tourist locations, make such a journey attractive.
When traveling in Canada, Americans benefit from the monetary exchange rate differential. Most things in Canada, including Woodland Art, are two-thirds the price. Moreover, one can count on safe traveling in Canada, with well kept roads and lower speed limits. Autumn is spectacular in Ontario and therefore a prime time for art excursions.
Imagine enjoying a wonderful fall vacation in Ontario, and returning home to nestle in for the winter with your new Woodland School painting to fill your home with vibrancy and warmth. When in Ontario, also consider a side trip to Montreal, Quebec. In Quebec, though you may experience some language difficulties, the people are social and make up for communication barriers with their European flair for fine art and dining. To find Woodland Art in Quebec may take a little leg work, or perhaps a few phone calls from the hotel, but it is there and plentiful.
Woodland Gold miners are not so much explorers as they are adventurers. Adventurers questing for treasured art investments that will result in a lifetime of fond memories.
Woodland original paintings are like gold nuggets, having both inspirational value and material investment value. They are significant in that they are not only beautiful to look at but they speak of, and to, the web of life. They remind us of beauty and abundance, two natural but often forgotten principles.
To own an original piece of Woodland Gold does not mean that you have the right to reproduce it without the artistís permission. You do, however, have the right to display it where you want. In a good location, a piece of Woodland Art can provide a valuable source of inspiration. Consider displaying your Woodland Gold in a school or rent it out to a corporation to enhance the high touch feel of their lobby. While your investment appreciates, you collect rent.
Woodland Gold is mobile real estate. One of the drawbacks in owning real estate is the fact that you are stuck with your location. If the authorities discover a toxic dump under your property, or the Hell's Angels move down the block from your property, you are saddled with a devalued investment. If someone burns your home down or steals your Van Gogh original, insurance will cover it. If things change in your neighbourhood, however, you are out of luck. To own an original painting is to own an artwork that you can take with you, yet at the same time it remains integrated into the total reserve of the Woodland School community.
When a piece of Woodland Art sells, the Woodland School community is affected. When exposure goes up for one artist, and with it his prices, it creates exposure for other Woodland Artists, thereby lifting their art valuations. Investments in Woodland Art are assured to appreciate across the board because of this phenomena.
Owning an original painting, especially a quality piece that may be printed, is a good investment. Once printed, the collectible value of the original goes up. The reason for this, once again, is exposure. To the thousand minor collectors who may own a limited edition print, one has a thousand potential collectors who appreciate the image.
Demand = a higher resale value.
To the real entrepreneur it is not beyond the realm of possibility to collaborate with the artist in creating a print. The mechanics of creating and distributing prints are already taken care of by the appropriate industries. The cost to print can be recovered solely in the fact of the resale price of the original doubling in value, simply because of your initiative.
Fully eighty percent of Woodland paintings are acrylic, with a shelf life of well over three hundred years. The remaining twenty percent are primarily ceremonial items, sculptures and oil paintings, all made to endure. Long after the six billion of us who live here today have passed on, these nuggets of original inspiration will probably still be around doing just what they do so well now, for others. Now that's an investment in the future!
When one considers the inherent value of Woodland Art, one must consider the wide cross-cultural appeal and the striking suitability of this type of art when printed and reproduced. From an advertising perspective, what could be better? The colour appeal alone makes the Woodland style effective.
The impact of printed Woodland Art is superior. The black outline and pure colour inlay lend themselves well to the printing process and to size reduction. Already on the market are several dozen Morrisseau prints. Many are limited editions numbering three hundred or less. Limited editions increase collectibility, and therefore generally increase in price faster than open (unlimited) editions. Many of Morrisseau's prints that are priced over $1000 u.s. are of the highest quality, and are a bargain buy for serious collectors. Other Woodland Artists have produced a variety of prints of their own. Most are impressively elegant, colourful and inexpensive. The usual paraphernalia such as gift cards are available in most tourist shops and hotels in Canada, but to get prints, one must go to the Galleries or shop on the web.
A quick search on the web for Woodland "gold dust" will reveal several online galleries with Woodland prints available, representing a small portion of the available choice. Norval Morrisseau's second art book was a hit in Canada with a third book set to release Autumn 2005. His books are available at major online book sellers, and this time Morrisseau does get royalties! The new books are semi-autobiographical, with a focus on inspiring the childlike simplicity that exists within each one of us. Also available online are Woodland Artist, Ritchie Sinclair's "Algonquin Teas". Sinclair's images on the boxes have been credited with producing brisk sales of these wild crafted tea blends.
New prints are needed because most of the quality limited editions were sold to, and are now coveted by, the Canadian middle class. Already in collector's stratosphere are the limited edition Morrisseau's from the late 1970's and early 1980's. The series of "Four Seasons" collector plates are now worth many thousands a set, in part because more than half the firings were destroyed. Many of these prints, and plates found their way to Europe in the early 1980's. Morrisseau's first art book, "The Art of Norval Morrisseau", was also released as a limited edition series of leather encased books at $2000u.s. each, and are now worth many times that amount.
The collectibility of Woodland Gold Dust from a financial perspective makes sense. The difference in price between a quality print that is rare, and an original painting, may even be negligible. You, the collector, must make the choice from an informed position, and from a place of appreciation for the work in question. Even if it means just collecting cards, calendars, t-shirts, tea boxes and exhibition posters, anyone can begin a collection of Woodland Gold.