I don't know if I would say 2010 was a great year, but it was better than 2009 (except for Brett Favre). The art market took a hit just like everyone else in America, but 2010 felt like we were still recovering. That gives us optimism for 2011, as we'll be further along in our financial recovery. With all the tools and information available today, collectors are savvier than ever. Paintings are still selling, but people are holding out until they find a real gem before they pull the trigger. I'll be covering what I think are some key factors in evaluating a work of art soon, but a great painting will always sell compared to a mediocre one. A very wise Toad once told me that a "10" by a mediocre artist will always sell better than a "6" by a great artist, and I think that sums up today's market as collectors are holding out for the 9's and 10's. That's also something to keep in mind as you're building your own collection.
Oil, 22" x 33" sold for $123,000
The auction world has become extremely competitive with so many players in the game now. The heavyweights include the Coeur d'Alene Art Auction, Scottsdale Art Auction, Jackson Hole Art Auction, and the Santa Fe Art Auction. Of course, you can't leave out Sotheby's and Christies. After posting sales numbers in the 30 million range, the Coeur d'Alene Art Auction has come back down to earth. They led the way in 2010 with total sales of $9.2 million and their customary high sales percentage in the 90-95% range. Scottsdale Art Auction is on their heels and grow every year. They posted total sales of $8.8 million which puts them a good Charlie Russell painting away from catching them. The gentlemen at Scottsdale Art Auction might have found Coeur d'Alene's secret by serving up lamb chops, so just when you thought the battle would be for consigning better paintings, it might come down to who has better lamb chops and stronger drinks. The Jackson Hole Art Auction held their own with total sales of $6.2 million. If you've never been to Jackson for the Fall Arts Festival, I highly recommend it. It's gorgeous in Jackson that time of year and there are plenty of events between the auction, Western Visions Show, the gallery shows, and all the events for the Fall Arts Festival.
Oil, 24" x 18" sold for $114,000
Although Martin Grelle didn't have anything new for the auctions in 2010, his sales prices for resale pieces were consistently strong even in a down market. He continues to be one of the most sought after contemporary Western artists, and if you have an opportunity to add his work to your collection, you won't regret it. Kyle Sims is a contemporary wildlife artist who's demand continues to grow. His one man show was a huge success and he's won awards at the Prix de West and Best of Show at the Buffalo Bill Show in Cody, WY. I think the most impressive attribute about Kyle is his consistency in producing quality paintings. Bob Kuhn's auction records were strong with all the auction houses, and they have been since his passing. Bob Kuhn was a tremendous loss to the Wildlife art world, but his legacy will live on in his work.
Oil, 20" x 20" sold for $80,500
An artist who's worth keeping an eye on is James Bama. He's in his mid-80's and was an amazing illustrator and one of the best at capturing people with his photo-realistic style. Some impressive sales records include $123,000 for a 22" x 33" painting and $84,000 for a 24" x 21" painting both at the Coeur d'Alene Art Auction, $80,500 for a 20" x 20" painting at the Scottsdale Art Auction, and recently he fetched $114,000 at Altermann's for a 24" 18" oil. I think savvy collectors are realizing he's not painting anymore and there's no arguing with the quality of his work. Confidence is growing in buyers and sellers as a higher number of quality paintings are coming to auction compared to two years ago. Will the Coeur d'Alene Art Auction return to the amazing sales figures they once posted, or will the competition in the industry spread the wealth around? Either way, sellers will benefit with more competitive seller's premiums and collectors benefit by the large supply of quality paintings at potentially great values. Remember, if you can't make an auction or would like assistance in bidding on a painting, they don't call me the Western Art Dealer for nothing.