Some dealers are collectors, but I like finding homes for things,” says Jed Foutz, a fifth-generation dealer in rare Native American textiles and artefacts, who operates from a six-room space overlooking the central plaza in Santa Fe, New Mexico. “I grew up here, on this land, and this art is a reflection of this very special place.” Indeed, Foutz’s gallery is called Shiprock after the sacred volcanic rock believed to have once been a bird that carried the Navajo people to New Mexico.
“It’s soulful,” adds Foutz of his collection that at any one time could include a classic and highly collectable 19th-century Navajo blanket ($55,000), a midcentury black-on-black ceramic vessel ($3,500) from San Ildefonso Pueblo, or a c1950 three-strand necklace ($9,500) of turquoise and coral nuggets. “This Southwestern art tends to speak to a certain kind of person,” says Foutz. “It isn’t for everyone.” Yet it’s an artisanal aesthetic that is attracting ever more aficionados: interior designers and Hollywood A-listers, as well as cultural institutions such as the National Museum of the American Indian, are among Shiprock’s dedicated clientele – and Foutz is known for finding the finest, most rare pieces.
The ultra-Instagrammable Rug Room alone is worth the trip, full as it is with historic hand-spun textiles in saturated hues of vermilion and indigo. Striking examples include a c1890 design ($7,800) boldly emblazoned with multicoloured zigzag bands, and a c1870 red, striped and patterned child’s blanket ($38,000). The Zen Room uses traditional Japanese Shoji screens to offset pottery, such as c1955 blackware long-necked vases (from $6,500) with a feather motif by acclaimed maker Maria Martinez, and c1900 double-spouted wedding vases (from $400) from Santa Clara Pueblo, while the Trading Post Room brims with an array of pieces including geometric-patterned baskets ($400-$2,500) from the Hopi, Pima and Apache tribes, and a mosaic-style silver tie clip ($300) inlaid with turquoise and mother-of-pearl by Charlie Bird, a contemporary artist from Santo Domingo Pueblo.
Curios – which at their most dramatic include Spanish colonial-style altar screens (small, $75,000; large, $180,000) from the 1860s and 1870s – are peppered to stylish effect among pared-back midcentury furniture by the likes of Kaare Klint, Charles and Ray Eames and George Nakashima. And the Shiprock mix takes a yet more contemporary turn with a menswear collection created with cult Japanese fashion label Visvim – a collaboration that came about after a chance meeting between Foutz and the brand’s designer Hiroki Nakamura at New York Fashion Week over 10 years ago. “He was interested in moccasin making and traditional teepee stitching using buffalo hides, so we took numerous road trips together,” says Foutz. The result is a range of thoughtful garments, such as the limited edition Navajo blanket-inspired Yukata jacket ($5,000) in green‑ and rust-coloured wool with a velvet trim. “Much like Native American makers, Hiroki won’t cut corners, and he is obsessed with methods and materials.”