An Honest Appraisal

Kowtynoo bird and seal

For the second year in a row, I took some of my Inuit art to the Inuit Art Museum appraisal as part of the annual Culture Days weekend. This time I brought in the Bird on a Seal carving pictured above and the banged up Walrus pictured below.

The bird and seal piece is signed in Roman and with a disc number. I thought I had figured out who the artist was but I wanted to know roughly when it was made. I’m glad I went in because it turns out that I had misinterpreted the disc number (the woman from the Inuit Art Museum did a rubbing of the carved signatures, making the markings easier to read). It turns out it is by an artist from Pond Inlet called Kowtynoo (1913 to 1964). While it is small and not by a super well-known artist, the appraisers seemed charmed by it, which of course fed my ego.


The walrus is unsigned, but the panel felt that it was a genuine Inuit carving. There was dissention on whether it was from Repulse Bay or Hull Beach, but they all agreed that it is likely made by an artist learning the craft and probably dates the 1980s or 1990s.

I watched some other appraisals of museum quality pieces and it was amazing to be able to sit in and watch the experts walk through how they determine who a piece is by, where it is from, how old it is and what qualities a carving has that makes it exceptional. And it’s always a delight to wander around the museum to take in its collections.