Every Navajo rug is a unique piece that starts with raising the sheep and goats for wool, which is then shorn, carded, spun, dyed, and finally woven, all by hand, into a rug using traditional, contemporary, and historic themes. Rugs are not just pieces of home décor but rather works of textile art highly prized by collectors that can fetch huge sums when sold.

The University of New Mexico’s Maxwell Museum of Anthropology will once again hold its annual Navajo rug auction fund-raiser. The rug auction is the result of a long-standing collaboration between the Maxwell Museum and R.B. Burnham & Company of Arizona, explained Carla Sinopoli, museum director and professor of Anthropology. The Burnhams have been trading with Diné (Navajo) and Pueblo artists for five generations.

"We are excited that the rug auction will be returning this year. In addition to being the Maxwell's most important fundraising event of the year, the Burnhams always bring a wonderful assortment of textiles, which, as a weaver myself, I love seeing,” Sinopoli said.

Preview: Friday, November 19, 5-7 p.m., at the Maxwell
Auction: Saturday, Nov. 20, at Prairie Star Restaurant, Santa Ana Pueblo; Viewing starts 11 a.m.; Bidding starts 1 p.m.

The Maxwell Museum receives the 10 percent buyer's premium at the auction, as well as the $10 per object appraisal fee at the Friday night clinic.

Navajo women weaving

“In addition, it is important to us, especially this year, that 80 percent of the sale price goes directly to the weavers,” Sinopoli added. “It is our largest fund-raiser of the year and the funds raised support public programs at the museum as well as general operating expenses.”

The event begins Friday, Nov. 19, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the museum on the UNM campus. Visitors can preview samples of auction objects and bring their own Native American artworks to be appraised. Experts from R.B. Burnham's will be on hand to identify and suggest the value of the items. Virginia Burnham will also feature her Native American jewelry trunk sale.

Appraisals are $10 per item (no more than three items per person). To sign up, call (505) 277-1830 or arrive at the Museum early to secure any remaining slots.

Events on Saturday, November 20, begin at 11 a.m. at the Prairie Star Restaurant on the Santa Ana Pueblo. Viewing takes place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and the auction will start at 1 p.m. sharp. 

“Whether you are a collector or just interested in learning about Navajo weaving and acquiring your first weaving, the auction offers a great opportunity to view a variety of styles. It is fast moving, fun, and exciting. Browse, bid, and take home a unique handmade textile,” Sinopoli urged.

Because the auction is on Santa Ana land; purchases are not subject to sales tax.

Please note: Face masks are required on the UNM campus and Santa Ana Pueblo. COVID-19 safe protocols will be enforced according to all guidelines of UNM, Santa Ana Pueblo, and the State of New Mexico. This may include, if necessary, canceling or postponing the event should conditions worsen.