Coeur d'Alene Art Auction Recap - Still the King of the Hill

Here's the press release from the Coeur d'Alene Art Auction, then I will give you my personal take from my experience of attending.

Albert Bierstadt's Lander's Peak
WESTERN ART STAMPEDE TOPS $16.8 MILLION   -Courtesy of Coeur d'Alene Art Auction

A capacity crowd of over 600 buyers of Western Art filled the Grand Ballroom of the Silver Legacy Resort in Reno on July 23, 2011 for the 26th annual Coeur d'Alene Art Auction. In what has long been the single largest event in the field of Classic Western Art, prices soared from the beginning to the very end of the 304-lot sale, reaching a total of approximately $16.8 million with 90% of the lots selling.

Works by Charles M. Russell have always been the specialty of the Coeur d'Alene Art Auction and this year was no exception. Two major paintings, A Dangerous Sport and Water for Camp each sold strongly at $1,471,000. Additional works by the artist were soon to follow with Indian Signaling, a 10" x 14" watercolor selling for $263,250, and Poems to Wallace, a wonderful 7" x 4" illustrated letter at $117,000, among other works.

Albert Bierstadt was also well represented at the sale with four major works going across the block. Mount Rainier, a magnificent 54" x 83" oil was the highlight of the sale. Multiple bidders competed over it until the winning bid took it home at $2,143,000. Another highlight of the sale was Lander's Peak, Wyoming, a 36" x 26" oil of the Rocky Mountains. Expected to sell for $600,000-900,000, bidders completely disregarded the estimate and when the dust finally settled it hammered down at $1,863,000. Two other works by the artist also posted strong sales with Among the Bernese Alps selling for $321,750 and Mount Baker, Washington, a little gem of an oil, selling for $280,800. Additional strong results were posted for Henry Farny's Evening Camp, a 8" x 16" gouache at $468,000, Maynard Dixon's Sculptured Sandstone at $351,000, and John Clymer's Buffalo Crossing at $304,200.

These results show the Western Art market is definitely back on solid footing and the Coeur d'Alene Art Auction's continued dominance in the field of Classic Western and American Western Art.  Click here for full results of the sale.

Maynard Dixon's Sculptured Sandstone
Now, for my impression of the sale.  $17-million is an impressive number, especially since there were 100 fewer lots than Coeur d'Alene's closest competitor.  There is no denying that the energy and enthusiasm at the preview party was extremely high.  That energy carried over into the 5-hour auction where the bidding was fierce and competitive from the beginning all the way to the end.  Normally, there can be some buys at the end of a 5-hour sale, but not this year.  I was blown away by how many people were still on the sales floor until the hammer dropped on the final lot.  The weekend felt like the Coeur d'Alene Auction when it was posting sales in the $30-million range just a few years ago.  Kudos to Pete Stremmell and Troy Black and Associates for promising a 5-hour sale and over-achieving by a full minute.  Besides the paintings mentioned above, there were many more that exceeded their high estimates including Martin Grelle's "River's Edge".  Estimated $80,000-$120,000, sold for $257,400.  That just confirms that Grelle's market is just as strong as it was before what we like to call "the dark ages" or known by most as the recession.  Grelle's work has brought consistent results in the last few years while many others have struggled.  His one-man show continues to sell out, and just when you think he can get better, he continues to challenge himself as an artist.  I've been specializing in Grelle's work for a number of years now, so don't hesitate to contact me if you want to buy or sell one of his works.  Some other paintings that sold above their high estimates were the 3 James Bama paintings, Montague Dawson's "Swirling Foam-The Sovereign of the Seas", Henry Farny's Evening Camp, and George Carlson's "The Greeting".

While there were quite a few Edgar Paxsons available, I thought they held their own even though they didn't set any records.  In my opinion, Paxson's work is still affordable and is always worth adding to your collection if you find one you like.  He's an artist that contributed historically, and over the long haul, his work will continue to be bought and sold by collectors.  I was extremely surprised at how well the Marjorie Reeds did.  The Copley Library collection was by far the most extensive collection of Reed's work, and it took 3 years to sell all the paintings.  Many joked about how many there were, but when it's all said and done, Reed's work proved it can be collectable.  Her book, All Aboard is terrific and her unique painterly style and focus on the Butterfield Stagecoach gives her a firm footing in the Western art market.  Finally, I couldn't help but notice how many of the familiar faces I did NOT see, and how many new buyers participated in the sale this year.  While I hope to see some of those familiar faces next year, they sure missed one hell of a sale this year!

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