An in-depth interview with tribal art dealer Joel Cooner has just been posted on the Tribalmania website. Joel is known for his exquisite eye and his talent for arranging artefacts in such a way that the arrangements are works of art in their own right.
In the interview Cooner reveals his inspirations, and shares his advice for collectors. He talks straight, and with an earthy familiarity, as only a Texan can, mixing sophisticated art jargon with down-home metaphors. When you read the interview, imagine the words delivered with a warm Texan twang and you’ll get the feeling.
“I’m probably best known for my love of form. If you fall in love with a pure form in the beginning you will rarely get tired of it. I like my Oreos plain without the creamy center. I’m most influenced by the Japanese aesthetic. I like simple and restrained elegance, but then again I never say never.”
“My greatest teachers as far as influences have come from Japan. You know, the way they finish the back of an object and the attention to detail is amazing. When you study Mingei, the restraint, simplicity and the scraping away of the gingerbread is perfection.”
“I had a real life in Tokyo. I was modeling, doing television, commercials, teaching English, and playing three-chord country music in the subways of Shinjuku. I was called The Shinjuku Kid.”
Tribal art dealers are idiosyncratic characters, and some are downright irascible, it must be said. Joel’s the opposite. I recall my first tribal art show, in San Francisco, some years ago. It was a daunting experience, as one might expect. I went it alone, which made things even more difficult. There was one dealer who went out of his way to welcome me as the newbie, and who was generous with his time and his knowledge. Joel Cooner. His warmth and honesty are remarkable, and clients love it. But the real key to his success as a dealer is his exquisite eye.