NEW YORK – Christie’s will present The Legend of the West: Iconic Works from the T. Boone Pickens Collection, a landmark auction of American Western Art, to be held on Oct. 28. Absentee and Internet live bidding is available through LiveAuctioneers.
Famous for his larger-than-life personality, T. Boone Pickens was a legendary energy entrepreneur, a pioneer in shareholder’s rights and one of America’s best-known executives, as well as a philanthropist and civic leader. Pickens was also a visionary art collector who built a momentous collection over the course of his career. Spanning over a century, the collection features works by many of the most established artists in American Art history, including Frederic Remington, Thomas Moran and N.C. Wyeth, together with the most prominent contemporary painters in the genre, such as Howard Terpning and G. Harvey. Comprised of approximately 75 lots, the auction is expected to exceed $15 million, a portion of which will benefit charity.
“Mr. Pickens’ assemblage serves as an extension of himself, a kind of self-portrait of the collector. The art with which he chose to surround himself consistently depicts the bold, strong-willed personages of the West and the endurance of the American spirit,” said Tylee Abbott, Christie’s specialist of American Art.
Pickens’ collection is distinguished by its scope, including masterpieces ranging from Frederic Remington’s The Signal (below) of 1900 to Howard Terpning’s Flags on the Frontier (above) from 2001. With this unique combination of both traditional and modern paintings, the dynamic works in the collection reveal Mr. Pickens’ deep understanding and dedication to the Western Art category and, moreover, his lifelong admiration of the boldness and creativity of the American pioneering spirit.
Frederic Remington’s remarkable oil painting The Signal (If Skulls Could Speak) is at the forefront of the collection (estimate: $3 million-$5 million). Remington’s depictions of the action and drama of the American West were unrivaled among his generation, and this painting dramatically represents one of the enduring themes of his art, the Native American. Painted here within the traditional art historical archetype of a solitary figure on a rearing horse, Remington’s Native American is established as a heroic icon whose bravery defines the Western spirit. The painter’s talents as a storyteller are exemplified by this bold composition, which transports the viewer to an earlier era of the Old West.
N.C. Wyeth’s masterwork Indian Love Call (estimate: $2 million-$3 million) similarly celebrates a Native American subject, with the grandeur and romanticism that have come to define the famed American illustrator’s career.
The collection also features similarly styled historic depictions of American cowboys, ranging from Charles Marion Russell’s Roping a Wolf (estimate: $700,000-$1 million) to Frank Tenney Johnson’s Wyoming Cattlemen ($250,000-$350,000).
In addition to the historic paintings, Pickens was also determined to collect significant examples by contemporary Western artists, such as Howard Terpning, Bob Kuhn and G. Harvey, for whom he served as a major patron. Pickens also directly commissioned from leading landscape artists Clyde Aspevig and Wilson Hurley specific works depicting his beloved Mesa Vista Ranch in the Texas Panhandle. In this pairing of traditional and modern visions, Pickens’ collection was purposefully designed to fully capture the spirit of the West, thereby embodying the mentality that spurred his own life as an American pioneer and innovator.
Additionally, the sale will include two watches and an assortment of cufflinks belonging to T. Boone Pickens. These include the beloved Rolex Day-Date President that Pickens wore regularly since its purchase in 1964, the year he famously took the oil and gas company he founded, Mesa Petroleum, public. The offering of cufflinks includes those featuring the Mesa Petroleum insignia, oil drums, a bull and bear and Pickens’ initials.
Thomas Boone Pickens, Jr. (1928-2019) was born in the cattle town of Holdenville, Oklahoma in 1928. After studying petroleum geology at what is now Oklahoma State University, Pickens worked briefly for Phillips Petroleum before setting out on his own as a Texas wildcatter. In 1957, he founded what later became Mesa Petroleum, one of America’s premier independent natural gas and oil companies.
What would gain Pickens’ renown both within and outside the industry, however, was his strategy of targeted acquisitions, as he utilized attempted takeovers throughout the 1980s to elevate the value of firms and draw attention to the cause of shareholder rights. After retiring from Mesa Petroleum in 1996 at the age of 68, the indomitable oilman established the hedge fund BP Capital, which focused its investments in energy. While building on his success in this new venture, Pickens also championed American energy independence through diversification, including the use of renewable resources.
Alongside his tremendous success in energy and finance, Pickens is remembered as one of the most prolific philanthropists of his generation, having donated over $1 billion during his lifetime. A signatory to the “Giving Pledge,” his philanthropy was wide-ranging and encompassed initiatives in health and medicine, at-risk youth, education and entrepreneurship, athletics and wellness and environmental conservation. Through individual giving and the ongoing work of the T. Boone Pickens Foundation, he made a transformative impact across the United States.
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