MONROVIA, Calif. – On August 31, John Moran Auctioneers presented a curated selection of Western-themed fine art and bronzes along with a treasure-trove of American Indian jewelry, baskets, textiles and pottery. The second Art of the American West auction of the year was a clear success with a 95% sell-through rate with more than 70 lots selling well above their high estimates.
Contemporary Western fine art had a strong turnout. Bill Anton never disappoints with his cowboy paintings, and Range Management from 2011 realized $10,625 against a presale estimate of $5,000-$7,000. The painting captures the mood and atmosphere of a mountain landscape as a cowboy surveys his range as a steward of not only the herd but the land that sustains them.
Another artist who celebrates the cowboys’ hard work of the West (starting early and ending late) is Jason Rich. Both of his action paintings doubled their low estimates, but Working Sun to Sun was triumphant with a final selling price of $12,500 against a presale estimate of $5,000-$7,000. An evocative depiction of a working moment in the cowboys’ day, the low sun lighting the figures gives a vibrant glow and wonderfully highlights the contrasting markings of the horse and the pale-faced cattle as they move to their next destination.
Four paintings by famed desert landscape artist John William Hilton rounded out the fine art selections, with two works tripling their low estimates. Desert Hideaway from 1961 (shown at top of page) depicts the glow of a low sun highlighting sharp palms, textured peaks and towering clouds, and gained a satisfying $7,500.
While bronze works of cowboys, Western animals, and brave warriors were prolific in this sale, the star of the day was Sassy by David Lemon, a masterfully executed cold painted bronze, rich in detail and perfect in scale. Our aptly named no-nonsense cowgirl held her own in a sea of horses and cowboys and wrangled the bidders to achieve a brilliant outcome of $6,250, setting a record well above the previous record of $1,100.
Record-breaking bronzes including Robert Dale Tsosie’s modern Buffalo bronze at $2,000 and Trailin’ Home by Jim Regimbal, which peaked at $7,500, were several of the sale’s highlights.
John Moran’s Art of the American West auctions always feature a variety of historic and contemporary textiles and pottery. This sale proved no exception, with rugs achieving a 100% sell-through rate. A strong player was a mid-20th century Teec Nos Pos Navajo/Dine rug. A stunning design, size and weave, this naturally dyed textile exemplifies this style, and found a new home at $3,125. Also of note was a Navajo/Dine Chief’s-style wearing blanket from the fourth quarter of the 20th century, which exceeded its high estimate in selling at $2,000. This bold revival textile, a variation on a chief’s blanket design, is visually dynamic and beautifully woven by master weaver Julia Upshaw.
The highlight of the rich and varied pottery offerings was a Hopi-Tewa vase by Dextra Quotskuyva Nampeyo that realized $1,188, well above its estimate of $500-$700. Born in 1928, Dextra Quotskuyva Nampeyo is a 5th generation Hopi potter. She was honored as an Arizona Living Treasure in 1994 and was the subject of a 30-year retrospective at the Wheelwright Museum in 2001.
A striking example from the many bolo/buckle sets on offer tipped the auction scales at $8,750 against its pre-auction estimate of $800-$1,200. The heavy silver bolo/buckle set by Navajo silversmith Thomas Curtis Sr. exemplifies his trademark deep, detailed stamp work, and the auction result reflects his popularity.
Navajo people and the Hopi developed silver and stone set arm bracers known as ketoh (GAY-toe) to protect their arms from the painful snap of the bow when released. Moran’s offered more than a dozen ketohs ranging from late 19th century to late 20th century examples. Pre-auction bidding brought lot 224, the earliest of the ketoh in the lineip, well above its high estimate. It ultimately sold for $3,438. Also performing well was a Leekya carved stone fetish necklace that won the Zuni fetish carver Second Place ribbon from the Intertribal Indian Ceremonial, dated 1956, and it was originally part of the McCormick Collection, sold in 1974. The diminutive fetish necklace exceeded its $2,000-$3,000 presale estimate to reach $5,000.
Rounding out the sale were examples of dramatic lighting such as a grand deer antler chandelier that achieved $3,438 and will undoubtedly become a focal point in its new home.
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