The New York Art Gallery: Collectors and Dealers

By: Travia Bell

Some New York art galleries are owned and operated by the collectors and dealers themselves, who exhibit and promote the sell of ethnic and contemporary art of various artists they have encountered, while traveling to different countries.

Often, New York art galleries act as a runway for foreign artists’ careers. Usually, there is a mutual relationship between the artist and the dealer, who acts as a bridge for the artist here, in the United States. Galleries are owned and operated by the collectors and dealers themselves, who exhibit and promote the sell of ethnic and contemporary art from various artists around the world.

Mr. David Stiffler, Owner of Ethnix Tribal Art Gallery, in Soho, NY, is an anthropologist, who has been collecting and dealing art for more than 20 years. He started out selling ethnic art illegally on the crowded streets of New York City until opening his own gallery 16 years ago. He has been to various countries across the globe, studying different cultures, traditions, and music.

Currently, in his gallery, Mr. Stiffler is showing a collection of molas made by the Kuna women of Panama.

The Kuna women are the indigenous people of Panama; the largest populations of the Kuna live on the San Blas Islands of panama also known as Kuna-land or Kuna-mountain.  “Mostly they are isolated and the Kuna Indians live on islands, the farms are on the mainland” (Stiffler).

The life of the Kuna economy is based on agriculture and fishing.  The sale of a few exported goods, migrant labor, and the sale of molas provide other sources of income. “It gives pocket money to the women, it gives that little cash that is needed” (Stiffler).

Most imported goods arrive from Colombia. “Once a month or once every two weeks, you’ll find boats from Colombia coming through and stopping at the island, selling women underwear or bras or whatever they need, make-up, toothpaste and medicine, so that they need money” (Stiffler).

Preserving the culture of the Kuna women is the significance of the mola. In the Kuna language, mola means, “blouse”.

The Kuna women are inspired by modern day and traditional resources around them to create ideas for their molas. Patterns of animals, people, landscapes and objects are sewn throughout. “There is always a variation. Unless you buy a mola that has just been made, all the molas are worn” (Stiffler).

With a collection of colorful threads and panels, the mola is an intricate piece of art. “There’s two panels, one in the front and one in the back and there always the same design. They will trace the design on the fabric before they start cutting and sewing. And the front and the back are almost identical” (Stiffler).

The significance of Ethnix Gallery is the belief that knowledge of a certain ethnic group, through their way of life leads to a greater awareness and public affection for their existence.

The next gallery is of contemporary fine art. The director of Contemporary African Art Gallery, Bill Karg has been in business for over 20 years.

Mr. Karg sells to a number of consumers such as, museums, individuals, and corporations, who wish to expand their own collection or knowledge of contemporary fine art.

The gallery is located inside of his beautiful multi-story brownstone home on the Upper Westside of Manhattan.

While given a tour of the Gallery space, the price tags on the beautiful acrylic paintings by Fode Comarad of Senegal, Africa caught my eye. Priced at several thousand dollars, his works: Ya Bone, Witnesses Passing in Turn, and Impression are exhibited and up for sale.

Mr. Karg and Mr. Stiffler have traveled and studied abroad, obtaining authority over the art they sell and the artist in which they represent.