Crossing boundaries: the art of the art trade

Visions of the American West

CHAPTER 2: Crossing boundaries: the art of the art trade

Like today’s art market, systems of trade drove much art production in the nineteenth century. Navajo chief blankets, for example, were originally crafted for ceremonial reasons, but ultimately became valuable commercial items in their own right. The Schild Ledger Drawings, by contrast, were composed on sheets of accounting ledger paper obtained through trade between the Kiowa Indians and tourists arriving from the eastern states via the new transcontinental rail lines. The railroad precipitated other changes in art production, too: as mass-produced pottery arrived on trains from industrialized cities, a desire for finely crafted ceramics emerged. Maria Martinez’s beautiful black-on-black vessels were her strategic response to the sudden influx of these inexpensive goods in the West.

Image credit:
William Gilbert Gaul
The Land of the Free, circa 1900 (detail)
Oil on canvas
The Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin
Gift of C.R. Smith, 1976

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