Scottsdale Art Auction Exhibition Gallery, April 2
This story was featured in the April 2016 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art April 2016 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.
You might not think of art auctions as an exciting spectator sport. But consider the thrills likely to occur at the 11th annual Scottsdale Art Auction on Saturday, April 2.
A total of 385 different lots come on the block during two sessions: the first from 9:30 a.m. to around noon, and the second, following a generous sandwich buffet, from 1 to around 5 p.m. That works out to roughly one lot sold per minute. “Buyers have got to pay attention. You’ve got 60 seconds to make up your mind to buy or not to buy. You better be ready,” advises Jack A. Morris Jr., one of three partners in the event along with Michael Frost of J.N. Bartfield Galleries in New York and Brad Richardson of Legacy Gallery in Scottsdale, Bozeman, and Jackson.
Furthermore, records may be broken right before the eyes of the 500 attendees experiencing the event live, plus 200 more bidding by phone and countless more watching it streamed on the Internet. Consider past records set, including the top price ever paid for a work by Howard Terpning ($1,934,000 at the 2012 event for his CAPTURED PONIES, which had been estimated to sell for between $400,000 and $600,000) and the highest ever for a work by Martin Grelle ($575,000 in 2014 for DUST IN THE DISTANCE, estimated at $200,000 to $300,000). “We try to be conservative in our estimates and then overachieve,” notes Morris.
Achievements may well exceed expectations again this year, thanks to a plethora of major pieces in several categories. Works by members of the famed early 20th-century Taos Society of Artists include, says Morris, “the most important Walter Ufer painting to come on the market in many, many years”: TRAILING HOMEWARDS, estimated at $500,000 to $700,000—“though that could do eight hundred thousand, nine, or even better.” Expect many works from members of the Cowboy Artists of America, including Terpning, whose APACHE WAR PARTY is estimated at $200,000 to $300,000. Add to that exceptional works by wildlife and sporting artists including Carl Rungius and Bob Kuhn; acclaimed landscape painters like Clyde Aspevig and Edgar Payne; still-life masters such as Richard Schmid, William Acheff, and Kyle Polzin; and acclaimed masters of the Old West including Henry Farny, Olaf Seltzer, C.M. Russell, and Frederic Remington.
As if the quality of the offerings, the expected sale prices, and the frenetic speed weren’t enough to keep attendees at the edges of their seats, Morris notes that he and his partners also pay great attention to every rhythm of the day. “We try to arrange the order of the lots like a composer orchestrates a symphony,” he explains. “To create interest for the audience, we might move from landscapes to Indians to wildlife to cowboys and then back to Indians, and include quieter moments and big crescendos.” The result of all that attention to detail, Morris adds, creates nothing short of “a buzz in the room. And as some of the more important pieces come on the block, and they exceed expectations, you can feel almost an electricity in the air. It’s all very entertaining and very exciting.” —Norman Kolpas
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