Published: August 29, 2017
Review and Onsite Photos By Laura Beach
SANTA FE, N.M. – Though they did not always care to be known that way, T.C. Cannon (1946-1978) and Fritz Scholder (1937-2005), two artists of Native American heritage and fine arts credentials, are often regarded as leaders of a Southwestern variant of the Pop art movement. Both had ties to Santa Fe and its Institute of American Indian Arts. Both grew more famous and more closely identified with one another in the public mind after the Smithsonian paired them in its 1972 exhibition and catalog “Two Painters: Fritz Scholder and T.C. Cannon.”
It was Cannon who rose to the top of Altermann Galleries’ August 11-12 auction, featuring works in a similar vein by Scholder, John Nieto (b 1936), Kevin Red Star (b 1943) and progenitor Andy Warhol (1928-1987).
An imposing 55¾ by 71½ inches, Cannon’s acid-toned “Beef Issue at Fort Sill” of 1973 achieved $180,000, selling to an institution for what appears to be a record auction price for the artist. In a nice bit of symmetry, some of the first psychedelic posters of the era are currently on view at the New Mexico History Museum in “Voices of Counterculture in the Southwest,” exploring the Summer of Love’s reverberations in the high desert.
“Beef Issue at Fort Sill” has long been recognized as a major work by Cannon. Offered first by Canyon Road dealer Zaplin-Lambert Gallery, it was subsequently featured in several museum displays. Its bright palette belies the darkness of its subject, a metaphorical exploration of the harshness of Federal policy toward Native Americans. Geronimo was among the Chiricahua Apache prisoners-of-war brought to Fort Sill in 1894.
As in past years, Altermann drew standing-room-only crowds of retail buyers eager to add Western paintings and bronzes, Pueblo and Hopi pots and Navajo weaving to their collections. Phone and internet bidding – Altermann partnered with LiveAuctioneers, Invaluable, Bidsquare and iCollector this round – were vigorous.
“It was the largest auction in the gallery’s history and contained the widest variety of material. We had good participation,” said Richard Altermann.
With distances long and populations sparse, a distinctive approach to selling has evolved in the West, a style Altermann Galleries helped pioneer. The firm, which also functions as a retail gallery in multiple locations, alternates its auctions between Scottsdale and Santa Fe, recruiting personnel to help with its seasonal events. Bidders were entertained this time by the affable, effective trio of E.C. Larkin, Charlie Wilson and Doak Lambert, Texans who cut their teeth in the cattle industry. Company head Richard Altermann was on the phone with clients for much of the sale. Patriarch Tony Altermann, who founded the company in 1978 and died earlier this year, was missed.
Prices include the buyer’s premium.
For more information, 855-945-0448 or www.altermann.com.
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