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October 06 2006

Private Donors Enable Homecoming of Dundas Collection

The Vancouver Sun

Miro Cernetig of The Vancouver Sun announces that most of the masterpieces from the Dundas collection, one of the most important private collections of historical Northwest Coast First Nations art, ‘were saved from being scattered around the world Thursday when Canadian art dealer Donald Ellis showed up at Sotheby’s New York with more than $5.5 million.’ Representing three museums, himself, as well as two as of yet unidentified private donors from Canada, Ellis managed to purchase 28 of the 57 lots, of which at least 26 will return to Canada.

As Cernetig reports, ‘Ellis’s decades-long battle to keep the Dundas collection as intact as possible and in Canada also highlighted a cruel reality in today’s art market: If you don’t have the cash, you don’t get to carry anything home, even if it happens to be part of your national heritage.’

With prices for historical First Nations art fast rising, the tight acquisitions budget meant that most Canadian institutions were largely priced out. Even though the Royal B.C. Museum was working together with the Museum of Northern B.C. and the Canadian Museum of Civilization, they were only able to acquire five of the least costly works between them.

‘There’s no institution in Canada that has $7 million, or even $4 million, to apply to something Luke this,’ the article cites Andrea Laforet, director of Ethnology and Cultural Studies at the Canadian Museum of Civilization.

Yet the two unidentified donors represented by Ellis are expected to eventually donate their purchases to Canadian institutions. Ellis has already offered the four lots he acquired himself to Canadian museums. ‘The important thing is we stopped this collection from being scattered to the four corners of the earth,’ he is quoted.

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Private Donors Enable Homecoming of Dundas Collection