Published: April 24, 2018
Review by Laura Beach
GREAT FALLS, MONT. – Those looking for a respite from winter found it at the 31st annual March in Montana show and sale over the weekend of March 15-17. Organized by Manitou Auctions of Cheyenne, Wyo., and Coeur d’Alene Art Auction of Idaho, the popular gathering got underway at Elks Lodge No. 2014 in Great Falls in conjunction with local events honoring the birthday of cowboy artist Charles M. Russell. March in Montana caters to the breadth of Western taste, featuring historic art and sculpture, contemporary narrative art and cowboy and Indian antiques and collectibles. Works by members of the Cowboy Artists of America – founded in 1965 by artists Joe Beeler, Charlie Dye, John Hampton and George Phippen – were a highlight.
“We were very happy with the sale. The good things brought good money, indicating confidence in the market. We did about $1.8 million and were 89 percent sold by lot,” Manitou principal Charla Nelson told us. Close to 800 bidders registered for the sale, conducted live and by phone, internet and absentee bid.
“We see a good cross-section of seasoned and novice collectors, many of them from the West. Dealers show up hoping things will fall through the cracks. A few things always do,” Nelson said.
Session I on Friday, March 16, was the warm-up act. Highlights included the bronze “Hightailin’ It,” $7,260, by Sam Terakedis. The figure was the first cast in an edition of 20. A second bronze, “In the Wake of the Mountain Men,” from an edition of 30 by Grant Speed, achieved $7,260.
The auction partners saved higher-value items for the second session on Saturday, March 17. Topping all was a 1952 painting of the Smoky Hill River, which flows east from Colorado to Kansas, by Birger Sandzen, a Swedish-born Impressionist known for views of Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico. Auctioned for $60,500, the work, called “Autumn,” was from the collection of Dr and Mrs Bokelman of Doylestown, Penn., to whom the March in Montana sale was this year dedicated. Originally from Kansas, Delwin (1934-2017) and Karen (1936-2012) Bokelman began collecting in the early 1980s after meeting Bob and Charla Nelson.
The Bokelmans’ fine taste also revealed itself in the small watercolor “Laying Back on the Trail,” $27,225, by Frederic Remington and “Indian Maiden,” $20,570, by Gilbert Gaul. The Bokelman holdings are recorded in the book Precious Dreams: A Photo Essay of the Art Collection of Delwin and Karen Bokelman (2006), with photos by Jeff Sacks.
From other consignors came the sporting canvas “Duck Hunters,” $54,450, by Philip R. Goodwin, a painter of hunting, fishing and cowboy scenes who studied with Howard Pyle and illustrated for Collier’s.
Signed and dated 1930, “Squaw Woman” by William Henry Dethlef Koerner surpassed high estimate to bring $42,350. Koerner, who also studied with Pyle and illustrated volumes by Zane Grey and Hal Evarts, was born in Germany in 1878 and divided his time between a summer home in Montana and his main studio in New Jersey.
“Andy Thomas sells very well. He paints a special painting for us each year,” said Nelson, directing us to “Blackfeet Phantoms,” a dramatic depiction of formidable warriors on a raid, $39,325.
Another popular contemporary artist is David Nordahl (b 1941), whose oil “Hornet’s Nest” crossed the block at $14,520.
Colt Idol (b 1992) was here represented by the vivid sunset views “Golden Romance,” $4,236, and “Out of the Forest,” $6,050. “These were smaller paintings, so it shows how desirable Idol is,” Nelson said of the young Montana native.
Native American Art
In the Native American art category, a Cheyenne war shirt took top honors at $20,570. The late Nineteenth Century example on hide is decorated with beaded panels and painted detail.
A Chippewa child’s bandolier bag of red trade cloth embellished with a colorful pattern of loom-woven beaded panels was a nice buy at $2,420.
The sophisticated March in Montana audience also appreciated a Plateau beaded bag, $3,025, made of breechcloth with later beaded decoration.
Navajo rugs and blankets, more than one hundred in all, were distributed through the two sessions. Highlights included a Teec Nos Pos example woven in 1969 by Mary Clark, $11,495, and a circa 1920 Ganado weaving, $10,890.
A Bohlin saddle did slightly less than expected; the parade specimen made for Dick Dickson Jr claimed $18,150 against its $25/35,000 estimate. However, a miniature saddle set by William Heisman came in mid-estimate, selling for $13,310.
Prices are supplied by the auction house and include the applicable buyer’s premium.
Contact March in Montana at www.marchinmontana.com or 208-664-2091 for information.
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