The Fredericksburg Art Auction debuts in May
This story was featured in the January 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art January 2015 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!
“Bigger is better” has long been the unofficial Texas motto. But the partners behind the first annual Fredericksburg Art Auction, debuting May 1-2 in the charming Hill Country art and wine destination, hold fast to a vision that smaller may actually stand a greater chance for success.
“Other auctions have gotten too large,” says David Plesko, owner with his wife, Meredith, of InSight Gallery, which since 2009 has established a sterling reputation as one of Fredericksburg’s, and the nation’s, leading sources for top-notch contemporary realist and western art. To establish the auction, they’ve banded together with colleague and friend Greg Fulton, owner of 9-year-old Astoria Fine Art in Jackson, WY, which has developed a devoted following for its mix of current realists and works by deceased and historical artists, a complementary fit to InSight.
“We’d been referring a lot of our customers looking to buy or sell to other auctions,” notes Fulton. So he and the Pleskos conceived their own event, in which a deliberately curated selection of fewer works could be more thoughtfully showcased. “We think there are collectors out there who would like to consign their artworks to an auction that has no more than about 250 items rather than 450,” says Fulton.
Their less-is-more approach will extend to another key aspect of auctions: the buyer’s premium, an automatic markup on a winning bid. “The trend has been to push it higher and higher,” says Fulton, with some events ratcheting up as high as 20 to even 25 percent. “We’ll be in the 15 to 16 percent range,” says Plesko. “No one’s going to beat us on rates.”
Fulton and the Pleskos believe that those lower rates will be more than compensated for by the outstanding prices they’ll get thanks to a discriminating selection. “We won’t have 20 Remingtons or Russells competing against each other,” says Plesko. “That could make a huge difference on the sellers’ side.” Adds Fulton, “An important piece won’t get lost in the mix.”
Still, the inaugural auction promises an impressive cross-section of works by leading names, past and present. “I’m really excited about an early, good-size Charlie Russell watercolor,” says Fulton. Expect at least one Frederic Remington as well, and works across a wide spectrum of subjects by living legends including Richard Schmid, William Acheff, Carrie Ballantyne, Mian Situ, Morgan Weistling, Clyde Aspevig, Z.S. Liang, Roy Andersen, Bill Anton, John Coleman, Bruce Greene, Lindsay Scott, John Banovich, and Martin Grelle. Images of select auction offerings and more event information is available at www.fredericksburgartauction.com.
That’s more than can comfortably fit even in InSight’s spacious 8,000-square-foot premises in a historic building on Fredericksburg’s Main Street. So the auction will be held at the 15,000- square-foot events center of nearby St. Mary’s Church. Admission is free with advance online registration, and “there’s room for everybody,” says Fulton. Expect a good crowd, dressed in everything from formalwear to jeans and boots, for a gala preview party on Friday night starting at 7 p.m. There’ll be a 20-piece band, Hill Country wine and food, and displays by top boot, hat, and jewelry artisans. The auction itself takes place on Saturday, with Plesko anticipating selling prices ranging from “one to two thousand dollars up to half a million or a million.” To wrap up the weekend, the organizers are lining up a Sunday tour of a major western art collection in a home not far away.
It all adds up, despite the organizers’ stated modest scale, to a major event. This is, after all, still Texas. —Norman Kolpas
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