Today marks the beginning of Santa Fe’s Indian market. Known as the world’s largest exhibition event for Native American arts, the market hosts art from over 900 artists. During two days, it attracts over 100,000 visitors from all over the world.
The market is an amazing opportunity for artists to reach customers they would otherwise miss out on, and many artists count on profits from sales at the market to support them throughout the year.
However, at a market this size it is perhaps inevitable that some artistic nuances get lost, and perhaps some artists play into the hands of what they think the public might want a little too much.
Such is the opinion of Erin Joyce, who in 2015 wrote that :
The downside is that, although the event is well-intentioned and supports a myriad of artists and artisans, it’s not the best platform for new voices in Native American art. The market fosters stereotypes of “Nativeness” that don’t also take into account the American Indian artist as a contemporary individual who engages with mediums and concepts from both inside and outside their culture.
Perhaps such critique is the reason for a controversial decision taken by the management for this year’s market.
Since the early 1990s, the market has operated under a tenure policy that allowed some longtime established artists an automatic space at the market, without being approved by the selection committee.
Dallin Maybee, SWAIA’s (Southwestern Association of Indian Arts) chief operating officer, defends his decision to end tenure by claiming that it was never applied fairly and hopes its’ discontinuation will make room for new artistic talent.
Another sore spot of this year’s market has been the changes in it’s application system. Artist’s from the older generation have had trouble with the application process itself which is now exclusively digital. Other artist’s have found themselves rejected on vague criteria or without any explanation at all.
Whether these changes have had any bearing on the quality of the market remains to be seen and I will update you on my opinion as soon as I have processed the impressions of my visit.