You probably won't happen upon the Douglas Dawson Gallery while window-shopping. The unassuming exterior of the gallery is surrounded by the warehouses and potholes of Morgan Street in the West Loop. A tentative peek around the gate to the gallery's parking lot reveals a surprising Japanese-style sculpture garden, studded with Indonesian megaliths: You've found Shangri-la by the Salisbury Rubber Factory.
Additional surprises wait inside the gallery. A Burmese Bhudda sits in bhumisparsa mudra pose near a carved African door. An antique Japanese fireman's coat hangs over a Peruvian cloth. An Indonesian stone lingam stands next to a Zulu beer vessel. A Chinese camel sculpture rests beside a pre-Columbian ceramic figure.
The Douglas Dawson Gallery specializes in antiquities and traditional artifacts from Africa, Asia and the Americas. Over the last two decades, the gallery's inventory has expanded from textiles to include ceramics, sculpture, implements and furniture bearing ethnological as well as artistic merit, which explains why the gallery's customers are mainly museums and private collectors. Many of the pieces are unique, often obtained by the gallery from unusual sources such as colonial "adventurer's clubs" or small museums in Europe.
Though the gallery is obviously for the serious and knowledgeable (or at least well-funded) collector, it won't intimidate an interested visitor, especially if that visitor walked across an overpass to get there. The gallery space is open and inviting, with few partitions, glass boxes or velvet ropes to reduce the immediacy of encounters with the objects.
The gallery usually prepares two or three thematic exhibitions each year. The gallery's Web site provides details about the year's schedule of events.
Centerstage Reviewer: Alan Simmons