DENVER – Western artists ranging from historic painters such as Albert Bierstadt, William R. Leigh and Leon Shulman Gaspard to contemporary names such as Ed Mell, Jeremy Lipking and John Nieto achieved outstanding prices during Hindman’s May 4 Western & Contemporary Native American Art auction. Contemporary Native American artists were also among top performers, led once again by an iconic Fritz Scholder work, Indian at the Bar. Paintings by Native American artists such as Jaune Quick-to-See-Smith and Kay WalkingStick were also among the highlights. With a lively room of bidders and strong competition from the phones and online platforms, the auction ultimately realized more than $2 million, with 94 percent of lots sold.
“The auction clearly demonstrated that the market for works by Western artists, both contemporary and historic, remains incredibly strong,” said Hindman Associate Specialist of Western & Contemporary Native American Art Alexandria Dreas. “There was a great energy in the sale room last week, and we were thrilled to see the interest remain strong across multiple categories.”
Albert Bierstadt’s Untitled Landscape was the top lot of the historic Western session, selling for $75,600 against a $20,000-$40,000 estimate. The painting is a strong example of the artist’s grand landscapes, many of which were inspired by his travels through the American West. His 19th-century landscape paintings are some of the most celebrated depictions of the West of their time.
A group of Ed Mell bronzes and paintings achieved great prices. Leading the pack in sale results from this strong group of works was the panoramic 1993 landscape Vaulting Clouds, which realized $69,300. The painting utilizes Mell’s iconic color palette to create a gorgeous sunset landscape, which features land formations created in his instantly recognizable style and rolling, so-called “vaulting” clouds that veer more towards naturalism than the Cubist-inspired clouds we so often see in Mell’s paintings, making this work a true standout.
Noteworthy sales also included Jeremy Lipking’s Blue Bonnet, which earned $28,350 against an estimate of $6,000-$8,000, and in the process, set a world auction record for a price per square inch for the artist’s work; and a 2000 acrylic on canvas by John Nieto, Poised Coyote, which realized $63,000 against an estimate of $20,000-$30,000.
Continuing to excel in bringing works by contemporary Native American artists to the market, the second session of Hindman’s May 4 auction was highlighted by the offering of pieces by artists such as Fritz Scholder, Kay WalkingStick and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith. Paintings by Luiseno artist Fritz Scholder were once again the forerunners in this session of the sale.
The group was led by Scholder’s 1969 painting Indian at the Bar, which soared past its $50,000-$70,000 estimate to realize $239,000. Scholder became known for his work with color and his Pop Art-influenced compositions. His art often addressed the challenges of modern Native American life, and struggles of balancing tradition with modernity. This painting is a strong example of everything Scholder did well: blocks of rich color, the nod to Pop Art through the Coors label, the satirical depiction of the Hollywood Western with an Indian in place of the cowboy, and the subtle nod to struggles experienced by modern American Indians. Additional Scholder highlights included his 1987 work Mystery Woman in Mission Chair, which sold for $69,300, and his 1970 Winter Incampment, which brought $23,940.
Additional highlights and records included a 1981 Kay WalkingStick piece, Emblem Series, #172, which achieved $25,200 against an estimate of $5,000-$7,000 and represents a world auction record price; and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith’s Kalispell Series #40, which made $63,000 against an estimate of $6,000-$8,000 and set a world auction record for a work on paper by the artist.
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