The Library and Selected Artifacts from the Personal Collection of Jim Haas

  • Live Online Auction: Sunday, November 13, at 11:30 PDT
  • Online Preview: Through November 13

Turner Auctions + Appraisals is pleased to offer the library and selected artifacts from the personal collection of Jim Haas, the noted, long-time specialist in Native American and Ethnographic Arts, who recently retired from Bonhams after 31 years with the company and its predecessor.  Featuring over 360 lots, the sale also includes property from a major Southwest museum and estates of two long-time collectors:  the Furgatch Collection features contemporary Southwest pottery; the Nancy Florsheim Estate, Part 2, offers contemporary and prehistoric pottery and Southwest jewelry.  

Reflecting Jim Haas’s 30+ years as a professional appraiser and expert in the arts, his printed collection is a working library of art reference books and auction catalogs.  It includes volumes that are older and in some cases rare; along with materials on oriental rugs, old-world antiquities, and photography, an interest of his wife Claudia.  Although there is a focus on the Native American and Ethnographic Arts books used in his profession, his collection is a sizable reference library in many areas that would be difficult to put together today.  Collectors, scholars and researchers will find the library to be of great interest.  The sale features several hundred volumes grouped into 53 lots.

In addition to the working library, items at auction from Jim Haas’s personal collection include oriental rugs and ethnographic esoterica such as Australian Aboriginal spear throwers, a Greek orthodox religious staff, a Bedouin outfit from Egypt, a mid-19th-century Turkmen tent band, and more.  While these items are sure to attract serious collectors, the sale is affordably priced to interest novice enthusiasts or retailers.

Jim Haas began his long and acclaimed career in the arts through serendipity and chutzpah.  A graduate of University of Wisconsin-Madison with a master’s degree in Communication Arts and a focus on media production, he came to San Francisco in 1984 and was unable to find a job in that field.  Out and about one day, he walked by the Butterfield & Butterfield auction house and saw an Oriental rug auction was underway.  He went in, was fascinated, and asked to see Bernard Osher, Butterfield’s owner.  Mr. Osher, perhaps thinking he was a member of the prominent San Francisco Haas family (he’s not), granted him an audience.  Jim pitched himself with enthusiasm and zeal, resulting in a job first as a preview worker, then at the front desk.  Although Jim Haas’s career path was different than he intended, it was not without personal interest:  he recalls many weekends as a teenager getting up early to go treasure hunting at a Milwaukee flea market while his boyhood friends slept off the previous night’s escapades. 

At Butterfields, his good luck continued when the Ethnographic Department head quit and Jim assumed the position, becoming a specialist and respected expert through the years.  During his 31 years at Butterfields, later acquired by Bonhams, Jim spent 20 years as Director of the Ethnographic Art Department, which included Native American, African, Oceanic, Southeast Asian tribal and pre-Columbian art.  During the first five years, he also worked simultaneously as Director of the Oriental Rug Department, focused on tribal and rural weaving traditions of village and nomadic people of the east.  For the last decade, Jim has focused strictly on Native American art.  Over the length of his career, he estimates he oversaw about 75 sales that generated some $65-$70 million for the company.

Now, after retiring in June from his long career at Butterfields/Bonhams, Jim has decided to downsize many of the items he’s accumulated, saying “If they’re not appreciated on a daily basis, why own them?”  Nonetheless, despite reducing the collection he’s amassed, Jim Haas expects to remain very active in the Native American art field as an appraiser, consultant and broker.

In addition to the Jim Haas Collection, the upcoming sale also features works from three other sources:

•   The property deaccessioned from a major Southwestern museum features semi-antique basketry from the Apache, Pima and Papago, and some antique Plains beadwork.  Because of their focus on local Native American arts and material culture, the Pima and Papago are no longer germane to the museum’s current mission.  Sale highlights include beaded items and Southwest basketry.

•   The Furgatch Collection of Contemporary Southwest Pottery includes works by Camilio Sunflower Tafoya, Lucy Lewis, Lois and Derek Gutierrez, and numerous other noted artists.  Residents of the east coast, the Furgatchs enjoyed going to the Southwest and meeting with local potters.  They formed a lengthy friendship, in particular, with Lois and Derek Gutierrez of Santa Clara, New Mexico, a number of whose works are included in the sale.

•   Nancy Florsheim of Lake Forest, Illinois, amassed one of the best collections of Southwestern pottery in the U.S., according to one expert.  While she often acquired the finest works, she also enjoyed collecting more modest pieces, including those offered in this sale – and at prices estimated to be well within most enthusiasts’ means. A regular attendee of the annual Indian Market in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Nancy Florsheim loved meeting the artists, buying from them directly and supporting their work. Of note are offerings from well-known potters such as Maria Martinez, Joy Navasie and Helen Naha; and from jewelry-maker and silversmith Joe H. Quintana.

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