Published: November 15, 2022
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy Hindman Auctions
DENVER, COLO. – On November 1, Western and contemporary Native American art came to auction at Hindman, featuring fine art created from the height of American westward expansion through the present. Works from master artists, such as Joseph Henry Sharp, Frederic Remington, Albert Bierstadt and others were saddlemates with pieces by some of the most important names in Modern and contemporary Native American fine art, including works by Fritz William Scholder V (1937-2005), Earl Biss and Jaune Quick-To-See Smith. Scholder’s “Horse and Rider” topped the November 1 session, realizing $175,000 against an $80/120,000 estimate. The acrylic on canvas was signed Scholder lower right and measured 80 by 68 inches. But it didn’t stop there. Six out of the auction’s top eight lots were by the artist who, despite reportedly at one point denying the significance of his Native American heritage, nevertheless influenced a generation of Native American students as a teacher at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, N.M.
Scholder, whose works combine Pop art and Abstract Expressionism, brought the mythology of the American Indian into contemporary settings, providing a powerful commentary on publicly held stereotypes. He was an enrolled member of the La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indians, a federally recognized tribe of Luiseños, a California Mission tribe. His position of prominence as an artist can be attributed to the extremely strong market, according to Alexandria Dreas, Hindman’s associate specialist for the Western art department. “Especially in the past 12 months, his works have just been soaring,” she said. “He’s really popular among all collectors. There are a number of important buyers – private, institutions and dealers – who are all seeking Fritz Scholder works right now. So it’s a competitive bidding market now, which helps us realize the prices we’re able to achieve.”
The sale totaled just under $2.7 million, with a 92 percent sell-through rate, according to Dreas. While she did not have an exact number for registered bidders, there were approximately 400 on Hindman’s proprietary platform and she said that on average there are between 800-1,000 registered bidders among the three online platforms in use, including LiveAuctioneers and Invaluable.
There were 11 Scholders available in the sale, and they did not come from the same collection. Said Dreas, “Given our success in May selling Scholder works, we had an insane amount of people reach out to us with incredible works in their collections, and knowing how strong his market is, they’ve reached out to us and we’re really happy to be the go-to place.”
While these may have stolen the performative spotlight, there were other artists, both traditional and contemporary. that did extremely well. Joseph Henry Sharp’s (American, 1859-1953) “Where the Deer Come,” an oil on board infused with afternoon autumnal light flooding the canyon floor, as a Taos Pueblo hunter awaits his quarry, sold for $137,500. The 16-by-20-inch work, which had been acquired from Fenn Galleries in Santa Fe, was signed J.H. Sharp lower right and titled verso.
Sporting art also attracted bidder interest with Percival Leonard Rosseau’s (American, 1859-1937) “Double Point,” 1925, an oil on canvas depicting a pair of setters attentive at meadow’s edge, bagging $87,500. Signed Rosseau and dated lower right and titled verso, the 20-by-40-inch painting had been commissioned by the consignor, a private Denver, Colo., collector.
A tranquil Clyde Aspevig (American, b 1951) work, “Winter Afternoon on the Yampa,” brought $46,875. From a private Arizona collection, the oil on canvas, 36 by 48 inches, was signed Aspevig lower left and signed and titled verso. Known for his loose, realistic depictions of the vast, open landscapes of Wyoming and Montana, Aspevig is in the company of painters like Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent and Anders Zorn, with a focus on the effects of light on landscape.
Known for his monumental subjects like elephants, British artist David Shepherd (1931-2017) was represented with “Two Elephants,” 1989, which towered over its $12/18,000 estimate, stampeding to $46,875.
A new world auction record was recorded for Emmi Whitehorse (Dine, b 1957). Her “Green Wood,” 1996, sold for $28,125 against a $3/5,000 estimate. The oil on paper, mounted on canvas, exhibiting her abstract, meditative and layered paintings evocative of nature, was signed III lower right, signed, titled and dated verso and measured 39½ by 51 inches.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. The next Western and contemporary Native American art sale is scheduled for May 4, 2023. For additional information, 715-573-7399 or www.hindmanauctions.com.
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