Unusual finds included in this year's Navajo Rug Benefit Auction
Large-scale and Kokopelli rugs included in offerings
FARMINGTON — More than 200 weavings of all styles, sizes and shapes will be featured in the annual Navajo Rug Benefit Auction this weekend at the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park.
The auction, which has taken place nearly every year for the past two decades at the museum, features the work of weavers from across the Navajo Nation and attracts collectors from across the region. A portion of the proceeds raised from the event go to the Farmington Museum Foundation, while the balance of the sales goes to the artist or trading post submitting the weaving.
Museum staff members and volunteers began taking an inventory of this year's crop of rugs on Wednesday. Museum Director Bart Wilsey said there were several pleasant surprises included in the weavings. He said there was an unusual number of large rugs, which he defined as anything more than 4 feet by 6 feet, submitted for the auction, and he was delighted by the presence of two Kokopelli-theme rugs, considering he had only seen one other during his time at the museum.
The large rugs typically cover approximately 6 feet by 10 feet, he said, with many of them featuring colors of red, black, gray and white, which seem to be the most popular among collectors. But one large rug dating from the 1940s that was submitted this year not only features more-muted earth tones, it boasts a crystal pattern that is rarely seen, making it a rare find, Wilsey said.
He also displayed a large runner rug that features so-called "lazy lines" — a design feature that at first glance may appear to be a flaw, but which is an intentional part of the weaving process distinctive to Navajo artists, signaling its authenticity.
The auction draws dozens of serious collectors and onlookers alike, and has been known to result in past bidding wars that have seen some items fetch prices of $6,000 to $7,000. Wilsey said the event remains popular with collectors and weavers alike, despite the ability of Navajo artists to offer their work directly to buyers via the Internet these days.
"I think it's a matter of the elderly weavers having a relationship with the traders," Wilsey said, describing the dynamic that keeps the auction alive and thriving. "They're so used to going in and taking them their things. Some of these relationships have developed over a lifetime. There's something to be said for person-to-person dealings."
The auction begins at 4 p.m. Saturday at the museum. Rug viewing sessions will be held from noon to 4 p.m. Friday and noon to 3:45 p.m. Saturday.
The museum is located at 3041 E. Main St. in Farmington. Admission is free, and even those who are not interested in bidding are encouraged to attend. Call 505-599-1174 for more information.
Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610.