Friday, March 11, 2016

Western Art Week 2016: The Russell and March in Montana

CdA Galleries Room #120
It's one of the best weeks in the Western art world!  While it's definitely not one of the best places (sorry residents of Great Falls), Western Art Week has something for everyone from original paintings, sculptures, Indian artifacts, guns, spurs, weavings, and anything else you may want to buy or trade.  Collectors, dealers, and artists converge from all over the country to socialize, buy and sell classic American Western art.  The weekend features events at multiple locations from the C.M. Russell Museum, the Civic Center, the Heritage Inn, the fairgrounds to the Townhouse Inn.  The big draw is The Russell: The Sale to Benefit the C.M. Russell Museum with a lively auction, Skull Society booths, and a wonderful quick finish event at the Meadowlark Country Club.  It's an incredibly busy weekend, so I will layout a schedule of events below for the major events.

Andy Thomas painting at Western Art Week
Another major event is the March in Montana Auction and Dealer show presented by Manitou Galleries and the Coeur d'Alene Art Auction at the Townhouse Inn.  You can visit me at this event in room #120.  Be sure to stop by and visit!  The March in Montana Auction has such a unique vibe that's casual, energetic, and just good ol' fashion fun!  Did I mention there's a ton of artwork available for sale?  It's heartbreaking that this will be the last year for the March in Montana Auction at the Townhouse Inn, because the owners of the Townhouse Inn have decided to bulldoze and build a gas station.  It will be tough to find a new venue that has the character and vibe that existed for the March in Montana Auction, but teaming up with the OutWest Show and the Heritage Inn sounds like a no-brainer to me. It would be a win-win for everyone involved.  It would consolidate two terrific shows into one location making it easier for patrons to enjoy more art with less travel from one location to another.  It would bring a tremendous amount of qualified traffic to the Heritage Inn which would be awesome for the exhibitors there, and the auction would add a lot of energy to the Heritage Inn.  Not to mention it's a perfect venue to host an auction, and the March in Montana sale is during the day, so it doesn't interfere with the C.M. Russell Museum's events.  Unfortunately, for some reason, the OutWest Show organizers don't want to entertain the idea....

The OutWest Show at the Heritage Inn features roughly 140 exhibitors including galleries and lots of artists.  It's always fun to meet the artists and check out a large variety of works in different styles and subject matters.  I've talked about training your eye as a collector, and all it means is look at a lot of art, and walking down the halls of the Heritage Inn, you will quickly recognize the different caliber of artists, and you'll easily identify what you like and don't like.

A schedule of events is below; however, if you're looking for some must-do's for the weekend, first, visit me in room #120 at the Townhouse Inn, then be sure to check out the Quick Finish event hosted by the C.M. Russell Museum.  The Thursday night preview party at the C.M. Russell Museum is always a highlight and great time.  The auctions through out the weekend always offer great values on quality works, and if you're looking for something at night, be sure to grab a drink at the historic Sip-n-Dip and wave to the mermaids!  You may or may not find me there too...
The Russell Auction & Skull Society Artist Booths

The Russell: The Sale to Benefit the C.M. Russell Museum Schedule of Events

Thurs, March 17- Art Preview Party:  6pm-8pm at the Museum
Friday, March 18- Art in Action:  10am-2pm at the Meadow Lark Country Club
Saturday, March 19- Live Auction:  4:30pm at the Mansfield Convention Center

March In Montana Schedule of Events
The Townhouse Inn, 1411 10th Ave. South, Great Falls, MT

Thurs, March 17- Dealer Show and Auction Preview:  9am-5pm
Friday, March 18- Dealer Show:  9am-5pm
Auction Preview:  9am-5pm
Auction:  Noon
Saturday, March 19- Dealer Show: 9am-5pm
Auction Preview:  9am-5pm
Auction:  Noon

Out West Art Show
Best Western Plus Heritage Inn

Wednesday, March 16th - Saturday, 19th

Monday, February 15, 2016

Masters of the American West 2016 - Autry Museum of the American West

February 6, 2016, marked the annual Masters of the American West Exhibition at the Autry Museum in Pasadena, CA.  Featuring 75 nationally recognized, contemporary Western artists challenge themselves to create and exhibit their very best work.  Stylistically and thematically diverse, their works represent the extraordinary range of subject matter that contemporary, historic, and mythic Western experiences inspire.  The 2016 Masters was dedicated to the life and legacy of longtime Autry trustee and Masters special advisor John J. Geraghty.  Geraghty passed away on May 27, 2015, following a battle with cancer.  During the annual "Artist's Dinner", a variety of emotions floated through the air from excitement to the somberness of Geraghty's absence.  Personal stories from artists quickly lifted the energy for the evening and carried it throughout the weekend.

Once again, the quality of works exhibited was impressive as the artists obviously attempted to put their best foot forward.  There were so many terrific works, but I thought the works by George Carlson, Logan Maxwell Hagege, Kyle Sims, Kyle Polzin, and Benjamin Wu really stood out. However, the consistency of Morgan Weistling, Z.S. Liang, John Fawcett, and Tim Shinabarger never ceases to amaze me.  The attendance was strong and the energy was high on opening night as nearly 50% of the 257 total works were sold, and more will surely sell before the exhibition is over. Howard Terpning's "The Honor of Being Pipe Carrier" measuring 40x32 inches sold for $811,000. Here are this year's award winners:

  • James R. Parks Trustees' Purchase Award:  Tammy Garcia, Gold
  • Thomas Moran Memorial Award:  Howard Terpning, The Honor of Being Pipe Carrier
  • Norris Foundation Award for Sculpture: Richard Greeves, Ni-U-Kon-Ska, Corps of Discovery
  • Watercolor Award:  Dean Mitchell, Trail Town Window
  • Bob Kuhn Wildlife Award:  Kyle Sims, Vertigo
  • Don B. Huntley Spirit of the West Award:  Logan Maxwell Hagege, Riding On Luck
  • Artist's Choice Award:  Len Chmiel, Portrait of Unseen Death Valley
Overall, I thought the show was very successful, and it goes to show that quality sells no matter what the market conditions are.  Collectors are more discerning now than ever, so artists have to continue to challenge themselves to put out the best paintings they can.  John Geraghty's passing is a tremendous loss to the Western art world, and the effects will be felt most at the Masters of the American West Show.  John Geraghty did so much to make that show one of the premier Western museum shows in the country, so it will be very interesting to see what's in store for the annual exhibition.
Me with legendary Stuart Johnson & his beautiful wife Melody

Buddy Le & Mark Maggiori (have to check out his work!)

Award-winning artist, Kyle Sims and Buddy Le

Tim & Roxane Shinabarger (best wildlife sculptor in the country)

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

5 Deceased Artists To Add To Your Collection In 2016

I am constantly asked for my opinion as to who I think are artists to watch for and worth adding to their collection.  There are a plethora of deceased artists to choose from, so with the annual C.M. Russell Show right around the corner, I've decided to lean towards Montana artists.  The Taos Founders will make up another conversation.  Here are 5 artists to consider for 2016.

1.  Edgar Paxson (1852-1919) - I've felt that Paxson has been a good value for several years now.  We love the historical significance of his life in Montana.  He was a good friend of Charlie Russell and his arrival to the frontier occured during the Nez Perce War.  With the rapid changes occurring in Montana, Paxson's goal was to capture the Old West as he knew it.  One of Paxson's most recognized paintings hangs at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center titled "Custer's Last Battle On The Little Big Horn."  The price points of his work make it highly collectable for all levels of collectors, but be sure to hold out for the finest example of his work.

2.  Olaf Seltzer (1877-1957) - It is getting more and more difficult for collectors to acquire a quality painting by O.C. Seltzer.  Fewer and fewer works by Seltzer are hitting the open market, and when a fantastic example presents itself, it typically sells for an impressive price.  For years, I thought Seltzer's work was under valued, but his prices at auction for quality works has steadily grown over the past 3-4 years.  Seltzer lived in Great Falls, MT and was heavily influenced by another Great Falls artist by the name of Charles Russell.  Russell's influence is evident in Seltzers work and in 1926, Seltzer moved to New York to complete several Russell commissions and further his own career.  While Russell's prices continue to climb, it inevitably lifts the value of artists like O. C. Seltzer.  If you've ever considered adding a Seltzer to your collection, sooner rather than later would be my advice.

3.  John Fery (1859-1934) - It's been an eventful year in the market for John Fery's work.  First, there was a fantastic book released on his life and work.  The book was wonderfully written by Larry Len Peterson who gave us the Philip Goodwin book, The Call of the Mountains, and Photographing a Legend, the more recent Charles Russell in photographs book.  Next, was the world record price set at the Coeur d'Alene Art Auction in Reno for "Avalanche Lake" which sold for $117,000 in July.  We feel that the addition of a John Fery painting should be done with caution as condition and subject matter can be an unpleasant surprise and affect values from one painting to the next.  Don't hesitate to use me as a resource if you have any questions on purchasing or selling Fery's work.

4.  George Browne (1918-1958) - George Browne is our sleeper pick for 2016.  A nice oil of George Browne's is VERY hard to come by so act accordingly.  The fact that he died at the young age of 40 limits the supply of his work.  You can still come across a great piece of his if you are patient and strike when the opportunity presents itself.  Any artist who gets a recommendation from Carl Rungius is, in our opinion, a must add for any collection.  George was a full blown adventurer and was the first person to survive a parachute jump from 40,000 feet.  There is a great book on the life of George Browne and his father Belmore Browne that you can purchase HERE.

5.  William Standing (1904-1951) - When you take a look at the life of an artist, they all pale in comparison to the life of William Standing.  He was a full blood Assiniboine Indian living on the reservation in eastern Montana.  His life and art are chocked full of statements about the plight of the life on the reservation during the first half of the twentieth century.  My gallery has been very active in the Standing market as we feel his story is one worth telling.  His life was also shortened when he passed away in an auto accident in 1951.  While Standing's work is not to the level of the artists mentioned above, his value and collect-ability are ideal for anyone looking to break into collecting deceased Western artists from Montana.

Honorable Mention

Winold Reiss (1886-1953) - In 1919, Reiss became an honorary member of the Blackfeet Indians who called him "Beaver Child."  Reiss studied at the Royal Academy of Munich and was inspired by the novels of James Fenimore Cooper.  The Great Northern Railway purchased 81 of his Indian portraits and used his work in a variety of their marketing materials.  Reiss worked in pastels and his colorful interpretations were a reflection of his compassion towards people of different races.  Until 2015, very few works by Reiss come to the market, and when a good selection sold at the Coeur d'Alene Art Auction in 2015, they sold very well.

As a collector of Classic Western art,  if you would like to discuss how we can help you build a collection that will withstand the test of time, give us a call.  We are always on the lookout for great pieces and would love to include you when we come across any gems.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

2016 Western Art Auction Guide

It's hard to believe that I've been in the Western art industry for 10 years!  I've seen a lot in those ten years, but a few things that stand out to me are how many more auctions there are today compared to ten years ago, and the impact of having information at our fingertips.  Collectors are more savvy than ever, and the days of dealers purchasing rare works and selling them at exorbitant mark ups is all but over.  It's as easy as whipping out your phone to find out what works by specific artists go for, and to gauge the market for deceased artists.  That's why I take the approach of education, where if you know as much as me, then you understand why a painting is priced the way it is.  In the American Western art market, specialized auctions play a huge role in the acquisition and liquidation of Western and wildlife art.  Not all auctions are created equal, so consider all your options if you're considering selling.  Here is a breakdown of the major Western art auctions for 2016, so you can plan your travels accordingly, and if you can't make it to a sale, contact me and I am happy to represent you in bidding, inspection, and research for works you may be interested in adding to your collection. Stay tuned, because I'll be following this up with the Museum calendar of events.  I hope to see you on the Western art trail!

Brian Lebel's Old West Events
January 23, 2016  ~  Mesa, Arizona

The Russell:  An Exhibition & Sale to Benefit the C.M. Russell Museum
March 17-19, 2016  ~  Great Falls, Montana

March in Montana:  Presented by Manitou Galleries & The Coeur d'Alene Art Auction
March 17-19, 2016  ~  Great Falls, Montana

Altermann Auctions
March 31 & April 1, 2016  ~  Scottsdale, Arizona
August 12-13, 2016  ~  Santa Fe, New Mexico
November 13, 2016  ~  Santa Fe, New Mexico

Scottsdale Art Auction
April 2, 2016  ~  Scottsdale, Arizona

Bonhams: California & Western Paintings/Sculpture Auction
April 12, 2016  ~  Los Angeles, CA

Fredericksburg Art Auction
April 30, 2016  ~  Fredericksburg, Texas

Heritage Auctions:  American Art Signature Auction
May 7, 2016  ~  Dallas, Texas

Coeur d'Alene Art Auction
July 23, 2016  ~  Reno, Nevada

Jackson Hole Art Auction
September 16-17, 2016  ~  Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Buffalo Bill Art Show & Sale
September 23-24, 2016  ~  Cody, Wyoming

Great American West Auction
October 29, 2016  ~  Grapevine, Texas

Santa Fe Art Auction
Fall 2016 - Date to be Announced  ~  Santa Fe, New Mexico

Phew! Remember, don't hesitate to comment below and share your thoughts!

Friday, January 15, 2016

3 Factors Affecting the Art Market in 2016

Happy  New Year!  I thought the turning of the calendar to a new year was a great time for us to take a look at trends and events we think will affect the western art market in the upcoming year.  Stay tuned for the 2016 auction calendar of events, museums to visit, artists to watch in both the historical Western market and contemporary Western market, and of course, ideas and art news on building a valuable lasting collection.  Let me begin with three factors I think will affect the Western art market in 2016.

Black Gold by Andy Thomas
The first factor is the price of oil.  While there are some in the market who will disagree, I think this is by far the biggest factor to impact not only prices but the supply of western art to hit the market.  Over the last few years many of the new collectors that have come into the market have been from the oil sector.  We have seen this trend in our dealings at the Charles Russell western art week in Great Falls, various auctions, and through my conversations with collectors. New found wealth from North Dakota has provided new buyers the last few years. The question is will those buyers be back?

The second factor is the rise of more art auctions specializing in Western art.  While The Coeur d'Alene Art Auction remains the premier auction, with the Scottsdale sale following them, there have been several new auctions hitting the scene including the Fredericksburg auction, Great American West auction, and a renewed focus on classic Western art by larger auction houses like Christies, Sothebys, Bonhams and Heritage. All of these sales are fighting for top quality works and there just aren't enough great paintings to go around.  In our circle of collectors, we hear more and more grumbling because of the high premiums charged to both the buyer and sellers (in fact - the commissions I charge to liquidate a collection or a single painting is often less than most auctions houses charge). I've also noticed the buy-in rate or pass rate at auctions is increasing.  Academic research by Beggs and Graddy shows that a pass on a painting at auction will in effect have a 30% decline in the value of the painting.  Another effect from the glut of auctions is the amount of sub-par works that are being offered.

Finally, the third factor is the increased competition for quality works by sought after artists.  Where getting works to their galleries used to be a high priority for artists, now there are museum shows, the above mentioned auctions, and an increased number of commissions.  As the collection factors for artists grow, so do the demands placed on them.  Whether you're purchasing from a gallery, auction, museum show, or directly from the artist, explore all your options when acquiring new works.  Lean on your trusted resources in the industry, and as I always say, don't hesitate to pull the trigger!