Coeur d'Alene Art Auction - The Super Bowl of Western Art?

This weekend is the annual Coeur d'Alene Art Auction at the Silver Legacy Resort in Reno, NV.  Friday, July 22, 2011, there will be a cocktail preview which is always a blast because collectors, dealers, artists, and everyone in the Western Art world converge for lamb chops, cocktails and wonderful conversation while being surrounded by some of the best in historical and contemporary Western, Wildlife and Sporting art in the country.  The gentlemen from the Coeur d'Alene Art Auction, which is made up of Mike Overby, Stuart Johnson, and Peter Stremmel, never cease to amaze with the collection of works they gather for their annual sale.  While Bob Drummond was one of the original founders along with Johnson and Stremmel, they all contribute a wealth of expertise and experience.  The sale begins at high Noon on Saturday, July 23, 2011, where there's sure to be some great showdowns between bidders from all over the country.  You can view the online catalog at and you can sign up to bid online if you can't attend in person by clicking here.  There's also an addendum of 7 additional works and you can view them by clicking here.  Of course, if you can't attend in person, don't want to put in an absentee bid and can't bid online, then call ME, and I will bid over the phone with you or bid in your proxy.
Albert Bierstadt "Mount Rainier" 54" x 83"

Now that we have all the pertinent facts out of the way, let's talk about the art!  The painting that immediately grabs my attention is Albert Bierstadt's "Mount Rainier" painted in 1890.  I can not wait to see this in person, because I think the size (54" x 83") will surprise people.  I also think it's ironic that Bierstadt originally painted Mount Rainier with J.J. Hill, head of the Northern Pacific Railroad, in mind and nearly 100 years later, the painting belongs to his successor, Richard Bressler.  Personally, I think Coeur d'Alene's sale is stronger this year than it was last year.  Being in a recession, historical works are safe bets to add to your collection because there's a finite amount and often times, they're going to hold their values in the long run.  When you look at the supply and demand of collecting art, if you collect works by deceased artists, there's always going to be a limited supply, especially for high-quality works, whereas with contemporary artists, they're going to continue to produce new works.  It can be extremely difficult to find quality works by deceased artists, and if you come across one you like, I recommend jumping at the opportunity to purchase it because you may never get another chance.  My initial impression of the Coeur d'Alene Art Auction was "they went back to their roots" focusing on quality deceased works.  There's an excellent selection of quality works by many of the Western 'household' names like the Taos Founders, Charles Russell, Frederic Remington, Albert Bierstadt, Edgar Paxson, Carl Rungius, Edward Borein, John Clymer, John Fery, William Leigh, W.H.D. Koerner, many of the great Alaskan artists, and even some of the recently passed artists like Bob Kuhn, Clark Hulings and Harry Jackson.  The sale also has works by today's leading contemporary artists like Martin Grelle, Mian Situ, Z.S. Liang, Andy Thomas, Bill Anton, G. Harvey and William Acheff, but it's obvious the focus of the sale is on quality works by deceased artists.
Martin Grelle "River's Edge" 38" x 64"

One of the most important "Collection Factors" is the provenance of your painting.  Another strength of this year's Coeur d'Alene Art Auction are the collections in which some of the works have come from.  Most notably, the Estate of Harry Jackson, the Collection of Paul and Doris Masa, and the Estate of Ray and Shirley Paxson.  There's actually a pretty good size list of important collections that many of the works have come from, but I really just want to point out that the provenance of your painting is an important collection factor and there are some great collections that have contributed to this sale.  As you go through the catalog, you might also notice the number of Edgar Paxson paintings available.  I've long thought that Paxson's work was a little undervalued and with the Estate of Ray and Shirley Paxson coming to the market, this is an extraordinary opportunity to acquire some very nice pieces by Edgar S. Paxson.
Edgar Paxson "White Magpie"

Do you believe the Coeur d'Alene Art Auction is the Super Bowl of Western Art?  I think it was for a long time, but today, the auction world has become extremely competitive.  The biggest competitor of the Coeur d'Alene Art Auction has to be the Scottsdale Art Auction, who posted $15,250,000 at their 2011 sale in Scottsdale.  The team of Michael Frost, Jack Morris Jr., and Brad Richardson make up a formidable team and have grown their sale tremendously since their first sale 6 years ago.  For the longest time, The Coeur d'Alene Art Auction was the only game in town; however, over the past 5-7 years, competitors have dipped into the auction pie.  There are many reputable auctions specializing in Western, Wildlife and Sporting art including the Jackson Hole Art Auction, the Santa Fe Art Auction, Altermann's, and Copley's, all fighting for a piece of the pie.  Of course there's the heavyweights in Sotheby's and Christy's, and even Bonhams and Heritage have American and Western sales.  There's no shortage of auctions if you want to buy Western art, as John Moran's Auctioneers, Dallas Fine Art Auctions, the Buffalo Bill Show, High Noon, and The Russell all host auctions specializing in the genre.  At the end of the day, they're not only competing for quality works of art to sell, but they're also competing for buyers.  Yes, you can say the recession has contributed to the decline in Coeur d'Alene's numbers, but I think it's important to look at all the variables including all the auction houses taking a piece of the pie and the playing field leveling out with quality works being spread around to all the different auctions.  I'll let you answer whether it's the Super Bowl of Western Art, but I know it's an event you don't want to miss if you collect Western art.  While I don't think anyone can compete with Coeur d'Alene's lamb chops, I think they've got the right idea in focusing on their bread and butter, and that's the historical works.  Moving back to Coeur d'Alene might not hurt either.  Have you ever been to Coeur d'Alene in July?  I can't imagine spending a weekend anywhere else!

Charles Russell "A Dangerous Sport"
Carl Rungius "A Delay on the Trail"
Bob Kuhn "A Matter of Odds"
Nick Eggenhofer "On The Move"


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