I am so fortunate that Reno is home to the nation's biggest and most successful auction of Western art! Every July, hundreds of collectors from Maine to Hawaii flock here to eagerly spend millions of dollars on important works by Frederic Remington, Charles M. Russell and other celebrated painters of the old west, as well as some works by more contemporary artists. I doubt if attending an auction at Sotheby's or Christie's could have been more exciting than attending the Coeur D'Alene Western and American Art Auction at the Peppermill Resort this past weekend. With some art valued in the millions of dollars and lots of art valued at several hundreds of thousands - it all set my heart to beating fast! Friday night was the auction preview and cocktail party. I read that over 45 private jets landed at Reno Airport with people flying in from all around the country to participate - that is why it was moved from Coeur d'Alene in 1999 - their airport could not handle all the traffic for the show.
I devoured the images and text in the auction catalog cover to cover so I could be somewhat familiar with the art and the artists as Western art is not my usual cup of tea. I had a lot to become familiar with and to learn. When I saw, rather incongruously, that a Fechin charcoal portrait drawing was on the auction block, I fell in love with it and rashly decided to register to bid. Paddle # 201 - that was me!
The 314 framed pieces and sculptures were set up in the Grand Exhibition Hall on long tables that circled and ran up and down the length of the room. All pieces were identified by their lot number so it was easy to follow along in the catalog if you so desired. The room was cavernous and the quantity of art overwhelming. I took the photos in a moment of relative quiet as the preview was very well attended but the crowd was not crushing. Beverage stations were set up with wine, mixed drinks, sodas and water and the cocktail table buffet opened up at 6. The food was very nice - mushroom caps stuffed with spinach and cheese, tiny quiche lorraine, lamb chops and chicken skewers with special sauces, carved beef and turkey, crab cakes - something for everyone.
As the auction proceeded, each piece was carefully brought up to the front and placed on a rotating table with its image projected onto two large screens at each side of the stage so every one had a great view. Located throughout the crowd were "yippers". These are auction employees who identify the people who are bidding for each piece and bring their bids to the attention of the auctioneer with a series of loud "yips"! When a lot of people are bidding on one piece, the exhibition hall was ringing with the sounds of the yippers and the constant patter of the auctioneer. I was amazed that everyone seemed to know exactly what they were doing and what the price was at each second of bidding - what a challenge!
|A "yipper" with his hand raised facilitates the bidding
This large, beautifully precise painting by Norman Rockwell was painted in 1940 and graced the cover of Boys' Life magazine in 1942. It generated some very frantic bidding and when the dust settled, the new owner paid $3.8 million dollars for it!
|A Scout is Loyal / 1940 / 39 x 27 / Norman Rockwell
Probably the most exciting event of the evening was the auctioning of Fredric Remington's breathtaking piece called Cutting Out Pony Herds (A Stampede) painted in 1908. Remington died in 1909 and this painting was kept by Collier's magazine until 1913 when it appeared on the February cover. The story of the painting is that an Army Trooper was sent to fire his revolver while riding around a herd of Indian ponies in hopes of stampeding them. This would make the Indians more vulnerable to attack. I don't think it took 45 seconds to sell this piece. There were many bidders but in the end one gentleman in the crowd purchased it for a long, cool $5 million dollars. Here is a photo of him after he had won the bid - he is the dark haired man standing in the back on the left.
And his prize!
|Fredric Remington / Cutting Out Pony Herds / 27 x 40
|A beautifully detailed and painted bronze sculpture by Earle Heikka. It is 49 inches long and would look so wonderful on a rustic mantle in a Montana or Wyoming ranch home!
|A small oil of a Vermont Landscape by Leon Gaspard.
|Howard Terpning / Telling of Legends / 32 x 52 / SOLD! for $1.5 million
|Bob Kuhn / acrylic / Battle on the Bern - Lions Share / 30 x 48
|Gerard Curtis Delano / The Fur Traders / 32 x 42
|Kenneth Riley / Shadows / 12x24
And finally, the very fetching Fechin that captivated me and I wanted for my own!