CIRI President and Chief Executive Officer Margie Brown is the granddaughter of Adams Hollis Twitchell, the Kuskokwim trader who acquired, circa 1905, a collection of Yup’ik masks on behalf of the Museum of American Indian in New York.
When the New York museum experienced financial troubles in the 1940s, they sold half of the masks in the Twitchell Collection. As Twitchell described in his notes that accompanied the collection, the mask Ungalaq (shown here) represents the south wind. It was eventually purchased by Enrico Donati, a surrealist artist who used the mask as inspiration. The south wind mask recently sold at auction for $2.5 million, believed to be a record price for a single piece of Native American art.
Many Twitchell Collection masks remain in the Museum of the American Indian, which is now a Smithsonian Institution museum. Other masks from the collection that were sold have been finding their way to museums in America and in Europe. Several pieces from the Twitchell Collection are currently housed in the recently opened Smithsonian’s Arctic Studies Center in the Anchorage Museum at the Rasmuson Center.