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Major Pieces from Private Collections of American Indian Art Offered at Sotheby's
Oglala Sioux Beaded and Fringed Hide War Shirt. Est. $250/250,000. Photo: Sotheby's.

NEW YORK.- Sotheby’s 18 May 2011 sale of American Indian Art in New York will include major pieces from a number of distinguished private collections including The Bruce and Nancy Berman Collection of Navajo Blankets, paintings from the Hascoe Family Collection and the Davies-Cooke Collection. The standout highlight from the various owner section of the auction is an Oglala Sioux Beaded and Fringed Hide War Shirt which once belonged to Chief Black Bird, one of the most documented Native Americans of his generation. The shirt is made all the more remarkable by the existence of photographs showing it being worn by its original owner (est. $250/350,000).

Photographic documentation of an artifact as important as the Oglala Sioux Shirt is very rare. In this case though, several images exist of Chief Black Bird wearing the shirt, providing an important insight to its history and to the life of the Chief. Compared to other equivalent historical figures, much is known about this Sioux chief. He is recorded in the Crazy Horse Surrender Ledger, meaning he fought in the Great Sioux War of 1876-77, and is likely to have been present at the Battle of Little Bighorn. The photographs show him with his wife and a son in Omaha in 1899, in a photo entitled Little Wound and Sioux Chief's taken at the Indian Congress, Pan American Exposition in 1901 and in a promotional postcard for Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in which he participated in England in 1902. The shirt is made all the more remarkable by its distinguished provenance, having been in the collections of Amy Vanderbilt and later Ed Vebell.

The Bruce and Nancy Berman Collection of Navajo Blankets
Bruce Berman is widely known for his work as a Hollywood producer who has worked on hit movies including: The Matrix, Oceans Eleven and Grand Torino, among others. Along with his wife, Nancy, Mr. Berman is also a major art collector. The Bermans are best known for their legendary collection of Photographs which was the subject of the 2006 exhibition Where We Live: American Photographs from the Berman Collection which marked the opening of the expanded photography galleries at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. However, the couple’s collecting interests were first realized through the acquisition of American quilts and Navajo textiles.

Navajo textiles are known for their dazzling design and exuberance of color. The roots can be found in the forced exile of the Navajo at Bosque Redpndo in the mid-1860s. After being released the Navajos found a renewed sense of pride and quest for identity as well as unprecedented access to new materials. This style of blanket was revolutionary with new patterns, colors and even individualistic ideals. Among the highlights of the 40 blankets in the sale is a wedge weave Navajo Transitional Blanket (est. $25/35,000).

American Indian Art from the Hascoe Family Collection
Following the successful single owner sale of Property from the Hascoe Family Collection: Important American & English Furniture, Fine & Decorative Art in January, the sale will include several important works from the family collection by Paul Pletka. Pletka is a neo-surrealist painter living in Santa Fe, whose inspiration comes from his fascination with Native American costume, lore and artifacts. Among the highlights is A Lesson in the History of Pioneer Life, an apotheosis of all that transpired in the history of western artists who have pictured Native Americans since the 19th century (est. $60/80,000). The Hascoes set a record price for Pletka when they acquired this work at Sotheby’s 1998 auction of The Collection of Stanley & Linda Marcus.

Further highlights from the collection include a group of paintings by Fritz Scholder, an expressionist, who in the 1970s revolutionized the form and content of Native art. These are led by Indian With Tomahawk, an early and seminal painting by Scholder from his Indian Series and perhaps the most important example of his work ever to come to auction (est. $20/30,000).

The Davis-Cooke Collection
The Davis-Cooke Collection was put together by two generations of collectors including Colonel Davis-Cooke, a friend of Queen Victoria, it includes two early very fine pairs of moccasins from the 1840s. These Lorette-Huron Embroidered Hide Moccasins were purchased as gifts for his family in North Wales by Col BG Davies-Cooke while he was in Canada serving as the Aide-de-camp to Sir William Eyre (est. $12/18,000 and $10/15,000 each). Colonel Davis-Cooke’s son also took a keen interest in Native American art and added pieces to the collection including a Cheyenne Rifle Scabbard (est. $20/30,000).

The pre-sale exhibition opens on 14 May

*Estimates do not include buyers premium

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