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Value of Older Inuit Art and Eskimo Sculpture

Older Inuit art and Eskimo sculpture are generally more primitive looking and not as intricately designed as many of today's contemporary Inuit art. Early Eskimo sculptures are often smaller pieces since Inuit people were more nomadic before many Inuit communities were permanently established. It just wasn't practical for Inuit artisans to carry larger pieces of their artwork around from camp to camp. The influence and market demand of the western world definitely changed Inuit art to what it is today. Inuit artists are producing Inuit art that is larger, more polished and more realistic looking with higher detail.

However, older and simpler designed Inuit art pieces are often valued more by some collectors as auction prices of such Eskimo sculpture have fetched high prices. Relatively high prices are often observed for older Inuit art including carvings and prints especially if the Inuit artists who produced the pieces are no longer living. This follows a similar pattern to that of other genres of art where the value of pieces by artists no longer with us can be much higher than pieces by current artists. Enthusiastic collectors of older artifacts including Inuit art and Eskimo sculpture that were made at least 25 years ago will likely continue to support a niche market for older pieces.

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Arctic ivory comes from tusks and teeth of walruses, tusks of narwhal whales and teeth of other types of whales. Jewelry and scrimshaw carvings are often made from ivory because of its smaller sizes compared to stone. Sometimes complex scenes such as polar bear hunts and Inuit villages are incised onto larger ivory pieces such as entire walrus tusks or even shoulder blades. The incised lines on these pieces are filled with soot, charcoal or India ink to bring out the detail. Miniature 3-D Inuit scenes such as dogsleds and Inuit families around igloos have also been constructed using ivory. Ivory can also be used as inlays on Inuit art pieces that are made primarily from other materials such as stone.

Free Spirit Gallery generally does not deal with older Inuit art and Eskimo sculpture since we focus on mainly authentic contemporary Inuit art. If you own a piece of Inuit art that you suspect is older and wish to investigate its value, we suggest that you first try to determine whether the Inuit art piece is authentic or not - see Authenticity of Inuit Art. If you believe your piece is indeed authentic, we suggest that you contact one of the established auction houses that deal with older Inuit art on a regular basis. One such auction house is Waddington's in Toronto (www.waddingtons.ca). They conduct auctions focusing on older Inuit art at least twice per year and are equipped to appraise your piece.

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If you have an Inuit art print or carving and wish to learn more about the artist, we suggest that you contact the Inuit Art Centre at the Canadian government's Ministry of Indian and Northern Affairs since they try to maintain a database of all Canadian aboriginal artists (http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/cnt/index_e.html).

Inuit artists are producing some stunning contemporary Inuit art these days. Imagine displaying such a carving in your home. See Inuit carvings or Inuit prints at very affordable online prices at Free Spirit Gallery.

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