Published: May 2, 2023
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy Scottsdale Art Auction
SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. — Though Scottsdale Art Auctions’ (SAA) annual April auction was slightly smaller than it was in 2022, it was the second year in a row when the event, this year conducted April 14-15, had a sell-through rate of 98 percent. About half the sale was offered without reserves and by the time the final gavel fell, the sale earned an impressive $13,816,289.
“We’re very pleased,” SAA partner Brad Richardson said. “Not only did our total results exceed $13.8 million but the total surpassed our aggregate high estimates. We had a very strong crowd and a lot of new buyers — about 400 people in the audience. We had tremendous success with the Taos Founders, and a good representation of young up-and-coming artists, which have a strong following by younger collectors.”
Several records were set over the course of the two-day event, for artists across a wide variety of price points, including at the apex of the sale. Earning the distinction of the auction’s “Best in Show” was “The Hunters, Taos” by Oscar Berninghaus (1874-1952), which sold to a buyer in the room for $1,562,000. The result outdistanced the artist’s previous record of $1,471,000, a record that had stood since 2008.
As the auction’s catalog explains, Berninghaus’ “greatest paintings can be isolated down to two themes: the harvest and the hunt.” “The Hunters, Taos” links visually with his 1926 “A Hunter of Taos Pueblo,” which won the Altman Prize at the National Academy of Design.
“Taos Love Call,” painted by Eanger Irving Couse (1866-1936), earned an impressive $702,000 from a floor bid, a sizeable increase over the oil on board’s $300/500,000 estimate. The artist is considered one of Taos artists who most romanticized the pueblo and its people, a subject he returned to over and over.
“Taos Love Call” was one of five works in the sale by the artist, whose next priciest work, “Indian Boy and Brave Looking at a Blanket,” also exceeded expectations, with a buyer in the room taking it home for $526,500.
A price Richardson said was “strong but not a record” was the $555,750 achieved for John Clymer’s (1907-1989) “Welcoming the Trade Boat,” a sweeping landscape that was accompanied by the book it was published in: The West of John Clymer (National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center, 1991).
Another work by Clymer that was also illustrated in The West of John Clymer and achieved a high result was “Wood Smoke Tales,” a highly detailed work characteristic of his style and a companion to one of his most famous works, “Alouette.” Painted in 1976 and measuring 30 by 40 inches, the scene sold within estimate to a buyer in the audience, for $286,650.
Other artists for which SAA established new auction records included John Stobart (b 1929), whose previous auction record of $108,000 had been established in 2005. Offered with an estimate of $45/65,000, “San Francisco in 1849 (Vicar of Bray) Unloading in Yerba Buena Cove” from 1975 sailed to $128,700.
“Startling Moment” depicts a horse bucking in surprise at spooked birds and nearly unseating its rider; it appealed to bidders, who pushed George Phippen’s (1915-1966) 1954 oil on canvas masterpiece to $46,800, another personal best for the artist, who was a founding member of the Cowboy Artists of America (CAA).
Another CAA artist — John Coleman (b 1949) — saw the exceptional record-breaking result of $245,700 for “Gall, Sitting Bull, & Crazy Horse, 1876,” a 36-inch-long bronze figural work that numbered eight from an edition of nine.
Not to be outdone, Bill Owen’s (1942-2013) “Laying a Heel Trap,” painted in 1973, the same year Owens was voted into the CAA, snared the artist’s new top price of $76,050. The title of the painting referred to the type of throw used in roping cattle, in which the rope scoops to ensnare the rear legs of a cow.
The sale offered seven works by G. Harvey (1933-2017), led at $292,500 by “Snowflakes,” a simple scene depicting horses in a snowfall illuminated by lamps in the adjacent house. One of Harvey’s works that Richardson might have set a record for value per square inch was “KCGR Black Gold,” which measured just 16 by 12 inches and brought $128,700.
Just three works by contemporary master Howard Terpning (b 1927) were on offer but only one of them sold, a mixed media composition depicting native horseback riders awaiting their quarry. The 1983 piece, which measured 29 by 43 inches, had been exhibited in 1983 at the Phoenix Art Museum — when it won the silver medal award — and, in 1999, at the Phippen Museum’s exhibition, “A Collector’s Dream: The Walter E. Kessler Collection.” The lot was accompanied by miscellaneous papers related to the painting and sold to an online buyer for $269,100. The result may be a record for a mixed-media composition by Terpning.
Another online buyer prevailed to pay $175,500 for “Sons of Blue Lake,” by one of the “up-and-coming” artists in the sale was French-born Mark Maggiori (b 1977), who had four works in the auction. The 28-by-36-inch oil on board composition exhibited the dramatic cloud formations which are seen in some of his best-known and highest-selling works.
Joseph Henry Sharp (1859-1953) was represented in the sale by four works and led at $234,000 by “Houses Where the Penitentes Live,” a colorful landscape painted after 1915, when Sharp focused on the Hispanic subjects of Northern New Mexico. According to the catalog, the Penitente associations were known for their elaborate and secretive ceremonies, some of which included processions and rituals Sharp would use as the subject of several paintings done in the 1920s and 1930s
Scottsdale Art Auctions’ next sale will be online and is scheduled for August 26.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. For information, www.scottsdaleartauction.com or 480-945-0225.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm