The Art of Tiki show just wrapped up after a month-long run at La Luz de Jesus in Los Angeles. (Read Critiki News coverage of the show’s modern art, historic artifacts, and the book.) There was a lot to be excited about with this show, but being able to see Jordan Reichek’s collection of historic Polynesian Pop artifacts was a moving experience. The collection is huge, and even just one of these pieces would be most people’s once-in-a-lifetime find. Take a moment to peruse the entire collection at the La Luz de Jesus website. The prices were in line with their provenance and rarity: most items were in the $1,000 range, with some of the really special pieces priced into five figures. While there was some sticker shock, I am of the opinion that these pieces are special and important. But the question hung out in the air… was there enough demand, were pockets deep enough, was the market there?
Just before the show opened, a bombshell started to make its way through the grapevine: every single piece in the collection was sold, to one buyer (minus a scant few pieces that had already been sold). The total price was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The shocking news took a bit to sink in. For those of us who have dedicated a good chunk of our lives to preserving and honoring the history of Polynesian restaurants, to trying to share with people why they were–and are–important, a significant part of our culture’s history… this was emotional. There were tears. Validation. Massive validation.
Naturally people’s curiosity quickly turned to who. Pixar head John Lasseter was the first name that leapt to many people’s minds, but that was just as quickly shot down.
Now I get to bring you a CRITIKI EXCLUSIVE! (← obnoxious, yes, but let me have it) The buyer of the collection is Mark Sellers, the man behind TikiCat in Kansas City, recently ranked as the number one tiki bar in the world by Critiki’s members. Mark allowed the items to stay on display at La Luz for the entire month-long run of The Art of Tiki show, rather than the gallery’s original plan to have the pieces leave as soon as they were sold. This let more people enjoy the art. Speaking of… that was a big motivation for Mark to buy these pieces. As Mark told me,
“I really thought it was important that the collection stay together and available for public view, rather than ending up hidden away in storage and disappearing forever.”
He understands their broader cultural value, and he wants you to be able to enjoy them. The plan is not for them to be mothballed, the plan is for these pieces to get used once again for their original intended purpose: the decoration of a Polynesian-themed restaurant.
Some people rightly speculated that Mark was the collection’s buyer, but Mark wasn’t ready to talk about it yet. This new venture is still in its early stages–Mark hasn’t even chosen a town yet. But the combination of what Mark has accomplished at TikiCat, plus this incredible collection of art, points to something rather special–grand, even. His rough goal at this point is to open this new establishment sometime toward the end of 2018, but take that as a very loose estimate. TikiCat got its name because of its relationship to Mark’s chain of HopCat beer-focused bars, but this new restaurant will stand on its own, and have a new, to-be-determined name. I am so excited to see what takes shape.
What a time to be a tikiphile.