The Western Art season starts north and works its way south for some counter-intuitive reason, probably because Charlie Russell’s birthday, which was the original inspiration for the CMR Auction, falls on March 19, 1864. The auction began as the inspiration of the Great Falls Ad Club, particularly its spearhead personality Norma Ashby. The thing grew and grew until the little corner building that once sheltered the collection of personal objects owned by a little old lady librarian fan of Charlie’s had become one of the swarm of massive Western art institutions across the USA. Now the institution is a huge building, very expensive to maintain, and really NEEDS the auction.
The most recent development is the split of the auction into two parts. (This is not the same as the half-dozen me-too satellite shows and auctions.) Eric Newhouse writes in the Great Falls Tribune of January 20, that “Both of the art auctions named for famed cowboy artist C.M. Russell introduced their catalogs electronically this week with each presenting a wide range of artwork.” You can access both through the newspaper: www.gftrib.com, then click on the Western Art Week icon, which is a buffalo skull. Or you can enter www.greatfallstribune.com/museumartauction for the “new” auction or www.greatfallstribune.com/adclubart for the "old" one.
Eric’s story emphasizes that there is an assortment of good art at each location, and I’m willing to believe that except that radical difference in the software of the two locations rather complicates the matter. The Museum Art Auction program works smoothly, one piece of art following the next quickly. (I’m on Mac OSX 10.3.9.) The Ad Club Auction program is slow, balky, doesn’t show pictures, and is full of bugs. This is not new. And the difference is a quick computer demonstration of what is going on. The short version is that the Museum is the Big Boys of Western Art with major resources and the Ad Club is working with volunteer amateurs locally. The latter might be more lovable, but the former is far more powerful.
Eric reports, “The museum’s events will begin with a wall art sale and reception from 5 to 8 PM Thursday, March 18.” The paintings are hung and lit, I presume, which saves all those girls in high heels from having to stagger down the catwalk with them.
“Thirteen of the pieces will go to the highest bidder above a set minimum, opening with a Russell watercolor/pen and ink, “Happy New Year Greeting,” which starts at $90,000.
“There’s also a 25-inch-30-inch oil on canvas, “Canyon del Muerto -- Coronado Rock,” by Maynard Dixon that has a minimum asking price of $750.000, and there’s an oil on board, “Archer Beside a Lake,” by Eanger Irving Couse that requires at least $100,000 s an opening bid. Among the 13 sealed-bid pieces of art are four other Dixons. . .
“The remainder of the 132 pieces in the fixed wall sale have set prices. . .
“Among the pieces are a mixed media on canvas, “Winter Kill Shaker” by Oleg Stavrowsky for $65,000, an oil on canvas, “Montana Morning,” by Gary Lynn Roberts for $30,000; an oil, “Bargaining for a Bride,” by Steve Seltzer for $18,500; and an oil on canvas tepee, “L’Avocet,” by Tom Gilleon for $15,000.”
The second auction is at the museum from 11AM until 2PM on Saturday. “Among the highlights of that show will be “Ah Wah Cous,” a 60”X60” oil by Gilleon that features Russell among Indians -- it’s valued at $65,000 to $75,000.
“A pen and ink by Russell, “The Medicine Man No. 3” is estimated at $80,000 to $85,000.
“A big oil by Roberts, “The Scouts,” is valued at $25,000 to $30,000, while another big oil by Andy Thomas, “Stampede Stampede!” is pegged at $52,000 to $58,000. Charlie Fritz adds another big oil, “Emerging from a Storm -- the Packet Benton on the Upper Missouri River,” which is estimated at $14,000 to $15,000.”
On the Ad Club side, the list includes:
Several small Russell Bronzes.
O.C. Seltzer 18”X22” oil, “The Mad Cow”
Several unspecified paintings by Steve Seltzer, Bob Morgan and Ace Powell (including a 20”X30” painting called “Prairie Powwow”).
Gary Lynn Thomas: 30”X45” oil, “Ambush on the Bandit Trail” and 24”X36” oil, “Pride.”
Tom Gilleon: 30”X30” oil, “Mountain Crow Horses.” (Eric says it’s an “iconoclastic tepee” which is a slip. Gilleon’s tepees are actually ICONIC, simplified and idealized images.)
Larry Zabel: 30”X40” acrylic “The Buckskin”
Tara Moore: “Roping Duo and “Hold Your Horses” (no sizes given)
Carol Hagen: “Don’t Mess with Momma” and “Brown Noser”
Sherry Salari Sander: 38”X18” bronze, “Horses of the Mountain.”
“Art by many newcomers.”
Alert onlookers could have spotted developments as soon as B. Byron Price showed up with his CMR Catalogue Raisonee. Over the last decade he has managed to encircle and dominate CMR matters. Here is his bio from the University of Oklahoma website:
“B. Byron Price currently holds the Charles Marion Russell Memorial Chair and is Director of Charles M. Russell Center for the Study of Art of the American West [funded by Nancy Russell’s estate] at the University of Oklahoma. He is a 1970 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and earned an MA in Museum Science at Texas Tech University in 1977. [plus a quick one-year art degree.]
“Before taking his current position, Price spent nearly 25 years in the museum profession. He served as executive director of the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum in Canyon, Texas (1982-1986); the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center in Oklahoma City (1987-1996); and the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming (1996-2001).
“Price is the author of more than three dozen journal articles on western American history and art and has written several books including Fine Art of the West (2004); The Chuck Wagon Cook Book: Recipes from the Ranch and Range for Today’s Kitchen (2004); Cowboys of the American West (1996) and Erwin E. Smith: Cowboy Photographer (1997). Price is currently editing the Charles M. Russell catalog raisonné.
“In addition to his published works, he has served as a consultant for several television series on the History and Discovery Channels, most recently: Unsolved History:The Gunfight at the OK Corral and Cowboy Tech.
“In August 2007, Price also became the Director of the University of Oklahoma Press.”
Put the photo of his “mini-me” Darrell Beauchamp [formerly the owner of an art gallery] next to the photo of B. Byron Price. They represent a particular kind of enthusiast of Western matters: the cavalry side.