Annual Navajo rug auction set for Saturday at museum

Approximately 200 rugs, weavings and blankets to draw bids

Mike Easterling
Director Bart Wilsey and Executive Administrative Assistant Penny Jew-Garcia examine some of the pieces that will be featured in this weekend's Navajo rug auction on Wednesday at the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park.

FARMINGTON — Bart Wilsey, the director of the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park, acknowledges that his institution is hardly the only one in the region that stages an annual Navajo rug auction.

But few, if any, others have been doing it for as long, and as successfully, as his museum has.

"It was a big success (from) the start," Wilsey said, recalling how former museum director and now Assistant City Manager Julie Baird started the event that benefits the Farmington Museum Foundation more than 15 years ago. "It was something that was new, different and unique."

Not surprisingly, the idea caught on. These days, Wilsey said, the Heard Museum in Phoenix and the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology in Albuquerque are among the organizations in the region that stage similar events.

Volunteer Becky Rhien folds one of the Navajo rugs on Wednesday that will be auctioned this weekend at the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park.

The Farmington Museum auction, which returns this weekend, isn't quite as financially successful as it was in its early days, yet another victim of the struggling local economy. But it remains a mainstay of the institution's offerings and continues to draw collectors from far and wide.

Wilsey expects between 175 and 200 rugs, weavings and blankets to be up for purchase by the highest bidder this weekend. Anyone interested in getting an early look at those items will have two chances to do so — from noon to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the museum, 3041 E. Main St. — before the auction gets started at 4 p.m. Saturday.

Even those who lack the means to purchase a rug are encouraged to attend the auction and watch the bidding process, which can be very competitive for some of the more elaborate rugs that go for as much as $6,000 or $7,000.

Approximately Navajo 200 rugs will be auctioned this weekend at the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park as part of an annual fundraiser for the museum.

Wilsey said the previews and the auction also provide museum visitors with the chance to appreciate the works themselves.

"It's wonderful to see the creativity behind these works of art, which is what they are," he said.

The rugs and other weavings come from individual artists and from local trading posts. Most of the money from the auction goes back to the artists and trading posts, but the museum foundation keeps a portion of those funds to support the institution's programs, exhibitions and collections.

While he doesn't count himself as a major collector, Wilsey said he has bought four large Navajo rugs over the years, and the days leading up to the annual auction are one of his favorite times at the museum, as he is as eager as anyone to get a look at the year's offerings.

This 1940s Yei rug will be among the items included in the annual Navajo rug auction taking place this weekend at the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park.

"At these auctions, you can find something for anybody from the collector to the absolute novice, from the big to the small, from the inexpensive to the quite expensive," Wilsey said. "It's just a question of who you are, what you like and how deep your pockets are."

Call 505-599-1174 for more information about Saturday's auction.

Mike Easterling is the night editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.


The San Juan College Spring Arts Student Exhibit opens with a reception at 5:30 p.m. Friday, April 7 in the Henderson Fine Arts Center Gallery on the college campus, 4601 College Blvd. in Farmington. The work will remain on display through April 21. Call 505-566-3464 for more information.

Wilkinson's Quartet — a swing, Western swing, country, jazz and jump blues outfit from Austin, Texas — will perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 7 at Crash Music at the Aztec Theater, 104 N. Main Ave. in Aztec. Tickets are $15 at or 505-427-6748.

A kite flying festival and health and wellness fair will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Sycamore Park Community Center, 1051 Sycamore St. in Farmington. The event features a variety of family-friendly activities, including door prizes, a blood drive, health screenings, and bicycle checks and tuneups. Admission is free. Call 505-592-0625.

Up with People presents its show "The Journey" at 2:30 p.m and 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Farmington Civic Center, 200 W. Arrington St. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for students and children. Call 505-599-1145.

The Farmington Cinematheque Series continues at 7 p.m. Saturday with a screening of the Oscar-winning Best Picture "Moonlight" in the Little Theatre on the San Juan College campus, 4601 College Blvd. in Farmington. Tickets are $5 at the college box office. Call 505-566-3430.

The San Juan Symphony concludes its season with "Full Throttle with Frautschi" at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Henderson Performance Hall on the San Juan College campus, 4601 College Blvd. in Farmington. Visit for tickets.

A reception and awards ceremony for the Four Corners Art Association's Spring Arts Show will be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Farmington Civic Center, 200 W. Arrington St. The show features 42 pieces and remains on display through April 29.

The Farmington Museum at Gateway Park, 3041 E. Main St., presents a guided, full moon hike at the Bisti/De Na-Zin Wilderness south of Farmington on Tuesday. The group leaves the museum at 5:15 p.m. Participation is limited to adults, and hikers are advised to dress warmly and bring a flashlight. Admission is $5 and includes transportation. Call 505-599-1400.