Last weekend’s Navajo Rug Auction at the Museum of Northern Arizona was a record-breaker for Flagstaff. The Auction, which is produced in partnership between the Museum and the Flagstaff Arts Council, takes place each June.
The 2016 Rug Auction surpassed last year’s record-breaking Auction, a feat that wasn’t considered highly probable according to staff. Gross sales were $150,455.00, up from $146,477.00 in 2015. Bidding was active and robust, as several rugs received bidding battles from the audience of 200. Of the 300 rugs that went on the auction block, 62% sold. That is actually down from last year (74%), but several higher-priced weavings sold.
“This was a fun crowd of bidders,” said John Tannous, Executive Director of the Arts Council. “People were enjoying seeing the many great works of art and either watching or participating in competitive bids.”
Eighty percent of the sale of each weaving goes to the consignor, many of whom are weavers who are making new weavings year-round and make their living from the work. The other twenty percent, plus the buyer’s premium, covers the costs of producing and promoting the Auction. Remaining proceeds support the Museum of Northern Arizona and Flagstaff Arts Council.
“It’s an important event to support Navajo weavers,” said Tannous. “We saw one weaver’s rug that was listed with an estimated value of $1750-2000 sell for $2,900. People kept bidding, back and forth between several bidders. The auction serves as an important marketplace for weavers to sell their work and get them in front of a big audience.”
Auctioneers are from the R.B. Burnham & Company Trading Post in Sanders, Arizona. The Burnhams are a long standing family with native roots that have supported weavers on the reservation for generations. They produce similar auctions in Prescott, Phoenix, Indiana, California and on the reservation throughout the year.