UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The contemporary northwest coast Indian art market Duffek, Karen Erica


In the 1960's a revival of Northwest Coast Indian art began to take place in British Columbia, following several decades of decline in art production that resulted from effects of European contact on traditional native social structure. By the late 1970's the Indian art market had become a several million dollar industry, involving several hundred native artists, and supported by a primarily non-Indian consumer public. This thesis examines the contemporary Northwest Coast Indian art market in terms of the role and significance of the art within its contemporary social context, focusing on the relationship between the consumers and the art they collect. The history of the Indian art revival, the development of the market, changes that Northwest Coast art has undergone in response to its new purpose for production, and consumer expectations and buying preferences are discussed. This thesis shows that the revival of Northwest Coast art has involved not only the artists who create the contemporary work, but also the consumers, anthropologists, museums, and dealers, who have participated with the artists in a reconstruction and redefinition of "Indianness" and tradition, and in the development of an audience to support art production. Surveys of consumers and museum visitors conducted for the thesis suggest that an important and valued quality of contemporary Northwest Coast art is its "otherness" or Indianness. Today, Northwest Coast art traditions are used in a contemporary expression that refers to the value of tradition and heritage not only to the consumers, but to native society as well. The concept of acculturated arts is used in this study of Northwest Coast Indian art, providing a comparative context of changing art forms brought about by culture contact, and illustrating the transformation of traditional cultural elements into marketable commodities for non-native tourists and collectors. This thesis is a contribution to the literature on Northwest Coast Indian art in particular, and acculturated arts in general.

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