Scottsdale Art Auction 2015 Cruises to $13.7 Million

Martin Grelle's "Snake River Culture" 48x60 inches
The 2015 Scottsdale Art Auction posted their second highest sale ever on their way to $13.7 million. As usual, the Scottsdale Art Auction was split up into two sessions offering 339 lots. I thought the first session had its biggest crowd since the auction started doing two sessions. While it's nice to have the 90 minute break between sessions, it still makes for a very long day, but Jason Brooks, the auctioneer, kept a rapid and steady pace.  Without any works estimated over $1,000,000, the partners at the Scottsdale Art Auction have to be extremely pleased with posting their second highest total since their initial sale in 2005. The prices overall were pretty strong, and I was surprised to see so many living artists carrying the sale.  Artists like Howard Terpning, Martin Grelle, G. Harvey, and Kyle Polzin realized big prices that were well over their high estimates.  G. Harvey's "History in the Making" measuring 36x48 inches set a new world record for the artist realizing $409,500.  Kyle Polzin had three works in the sale and all three sky-rocketed beyond their high estimates.

Kyle Polzin's "Home is Where You Hang Your Hat"
There were a number of dealers in the room shaking their heads trying to figure out who Kyle Polzin is, but over the past 7-8 years, the frenzy for Polzin's work has grown like the U.S. deficit.  When an artist sets a record for their own work like Polzin did last year selling for $287,500, it captures the attention of collectors, but it's important to see if it was an anomaly or the beginning of a major trend upwards in his prices.  The frenzy and hype around Kyle Polzin's work is reminiscent to another amazing artist by the name of Martin Grelle.  Martin Grelle's market continues to be as strong as ever, and just when most people think the prices for Martin's work is going to hit a ceiling, a dozen works will sell at auction for well above the high estimates.  If you want to add a Grelle painting to your collection, my advice, be aggressive...or call me!  Martin Grelle's "Snake River Culture" measuring 48x60 inches sold for $549,900.

Who wants cookies?
There were plenty of deceased artists that did very well too.  The Bob Kuhn market continues to lead the wildlife market, and Charlie Russell's contemporary Olaf Seltzer is in high demand. There were come gorgeous Joseph Sharp works painted in Montana that sold well including "Evening on the Big Horn" measuring 12 x 18 inches and realizing $228,150 on a $90,000-$120,000 estimate.  Midway through the sale, people got up out of their seats and started streaming towards the exit like someone pulled the fire alarm.  I quickly realized that it was just the highly-anticipated chocolate chip cookies to give bidders a nice little sugar rush.

I found it interesting that there was a buzz from patrons about the abundance of Western art auctions across the country.  I've said before that the Western genre is rapidly growing, and the total number of Western works that have and will sell in the first 5 months at auction supports that growth.  The Western works are not only selling, but they're selling for good prices.  So far in 2015, we've had the March in Montana auction, The Russell: the Sale to Benefit the C.M. Russell Museum, Altermanns Auction, Scottsdale Art Auction, and this weekend we have a good sale at Heritage Auctions and the inaugural Fredericksburg Art Auction.  We can't forget about the works Bonhams presented and the highly-anticipated Christie's auction featuring select works from the Bill Koch collection.  When you tally it all up, that's over 2,500 lots!  We still have the Coeur d'Alene Art Auction in July, the Jackson Hole Art Auction in September, and the Santa Fe Art Auction in November.  Between all the auctions and museum shows, it's no wonder why the gallery business is getting squeezed.  However, is the pendulum swinging?  We're seeing more and more private treaty sales, because collectors like the confidentiality, and some of the best quality works rarely make it to auction, because they're sold privately.

Joseph H. Sharp "Evening on the Big Horn" Sold for: $228,150

Philip Goodwin "Their Lucky Day" Sold for: $198,900

G. Harvey "History in the Making" sold for: $409,500

William R. Leigh "Scouting The Crags" Sold for: $468,000

Chad Poppleton "Market Fresh" Sold for: $10,530


  1. My good friend is going to school to be an art dealer one day. She is very passionate about it and is working hard to hit her goal. This article has some good insights on how these auctions work and I think it would be something that could help her out with what she's studying.


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