MONROVIA, Calif. – Moran’s second of their bi-annual Art of the American West auction on Dec. 12 was a success. Focusing on Native American and Western art from the leading artisans and artists of the genres, the 216-lot auction realized strong prices and showed the enduring popularity of the American works. Absentee and Internet live bidding was available through LiveAuctioneers.
The auction featured several pieces by celebrated sculptor Dave McGarry (1958-2013 Paradise Valley, Ariz.) whose work is always among the most popular lots in the Art of the American West sales. The first lot, “Short Bull,” a detailed bronze bust of a Native American man started the auction off on a high note, selling for $1,875 within the $1,500-$2,500 estimate (all prices realized include Moran’s 25 percent buyer’s premium). Lot 4046, a stunningly rendered bust of Crow King (Kangi Yatapi) the Hunkpapa Sioux war chief who attacked the 7th cavalry from the south with his 80 warriors during the battle of Little Big Horn enabling Crazy Horse and Gall to surround the cavalry. Crow King is shown with the spoils of the battle standing proudly on the wooden plinth, after a protracted bidding war the sculpture sold for $11,250 well above its $6,000-$8,000 estimate (below). Lot 4045, “Grey Hawk’s Legacy,” depicts the Sioux warrior at the moment he is escaping with stolen Crow war horses. The beautifully modeled bronze sold within its $7,000-$10,000 estimate for $7,500.
Works by the leading Western artists performed strongly at the auction. A portrait by master Joseph Henry Sharp (1859-1953, Taos, N.M.) of the Oglala Sioux chief Iron Tail, one of the most famous Native Americans of the 19th and 20th centuries, was one of the most popular lots on view preceding the sale. The portrait, showing the chief in his infamous profile with his head held high, sailed past its $5,,000-$7,000 estimate to sell for $10,625. An orotone by photographer Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) Canyon de Chelly – Navaho, one of the defining images of the American West, went home with a determined bidder for $5,000 (est.: $3,000-$5,000.)
Objects from Native American artisans of the Southwest performed strongly at auction. A beautiful Zuni water jar adorned with geometric designs and deer soon surpassed its estimate of $1,500-$2,500 to sell for $5,312.
Lot 4128, an Apache figural olla basket woven in the first quarter of the 20th century, showed a beautifully balanced shape and design. The olla sold within its $2,000-$4,000 estimate at $3,750. A Navajo regional rug with serrated designs executed in the first quarter of the 20th century shows off the skillful weaving of the craftsman. The rug sold above its $600-$900 estimate at $1,000. The top lot of the auction was lot 4084, a stunning and rare Navajo classic woman’s dress. The two panels of cochineal and lac red and indigo blue (below) were woven around 1860 and inspired two phone bidders to battle for the dress until one emerged victorious, bringing the dress home for $31,250 (est. $20,000-$30,000).
Works from throughout the North American continent performed well at auction. A contemporary Yup’ik-style shaman mask of carved and polychrome-painted wood sparked a bidding war when it came to the block, selling above its $1,000-$2,000 estimate for $4,687.
The sale closed with a bang when lot 4216, a group of three pre-Columbian items, came to the block. The two Olmec masks and a seated ceramic figure sold for $8,750 after a protracted bidding war.
In addition to art and Native American objects, Art of the American West featured a curated selection of furniture, décor, and functional objects from the 18th century through the Arts and Crafts movement. Among the top lots of the sale was hand- hammered copper lamp from coveted artisan Dirk Van Erp. The lamp garnered considerable presale interest, so it was not surprising when it sold for $13,750 at (est.: $4,000-$6,000). A Limbert library table with an unusual oval top over plank sides inspired strong bidding from floor and phone bidders, selling above its $800-$1,200 estimate for $1,500. Moran’s has successfully sold several examples of 18th and 19th century firearms over the past few auctions. Lot 4118, a group of flintlock firearms including two ball pistols and to blunderbuss pistols sold well above its $500-$700 at $2,500.