Monrovia, CA – On Tuesday, August 31st, 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 over their high estimates. Moran’s continues to hold hybrid sales with live in-person previews and remote bidding that saw more than 1500 registered bidders and many new clients emerging onto the scene for their first time at auction.
Contemporary Western fine art had a strong turnout, with many lots surpassing their high estimates. Of note were the honest depictions of hard-working cowboys. Bill Anton never disappoints with his cowboy paintings, and Range Management from 2011 had phones full and final bidding realized at $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. Born in Chicago in 1957, when turning to art full time in 1982, he rode in roundups and learned to work with cattle, immersing himself in the cowboy world. Deriving inspiration from the ever-changing expansive landscapes of the West, from dramatic weather to nuanced abstract patterns in rock and water, Anton introduces drama and mood to his work and provides a setting for the figure of the noble cowboy, at ease in his environment. “Amidst this nobility is its caretaker: the rancher. With the natural ease of generations bred to the saddle, he is a powerful image further ennobled by a fine horse.” – Bill Anton
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 $5000-7000. 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. Jason Rich is adept at depicting horses, as he was raised on a horse farm in Idaho.
“Record-breaking bronzes including Robert Dale Tsosie's modern "Buffalo" bronze at $2000 and "Trailin' Home" by Jim Regimbal, which peaked at $7500, were several of the sale's highlights. ”
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, 1961, depicts the glow of a low sun highlighting sharp palms, textured peaks, and towering clouds, and gained a satisfying $7500. Another work, “Plowman,” is a graphic representation of another western working landscape, with a solitary figure carrying his plow across the furrowed field against a background of billowing clouds of smoke. This piece was featured on the cover of the Chicago Sunday Tribune’s “Magazine of Books,” issued in 1947, and sold for $4062.50.
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 $6250, setting a record well above the previous record of $1100. David Lemon is well-known for his traditional-style bronzes depicting western subjects, Native Americans, cowboys, and horses. However, this time, it was the strong figure of a self-assured cowgirl who won out.
Record-breaking bronzes including Robert Dale Tsosie’s modern “Buffalo” bronze at $2000 and “Trailin’ Home” by Jim Regimbal, which peaked at $7500, were several of the sale’s highlights.
Our Art of the American West auctions always feature a stunning variety of historic and contemporary textiles and pottery. This sale proved no exception, with rugs achieving a 100% sell-through rate and a handful of rugs leaving their estimates in the dust! A strong player was this Mid-20th Century Teec Nos Pos Navajo/Diné rug. A stunning design, size, and weave, this naturally dyed textile exemplifies this style, and found a new home at $3125. Also of note was a Navajo/Diné Chief’s-Style Wearing Blanket from the fourth quarter of the 20th century, which exceeded its high estimate in selling at $2000. This bold revival textile, a variation on a chief’s blanket design, is visually dynamic and beautifully woven by Master Weaver Julia Upshaw. Born in 1939 in Jamestown, New Mexico, Julia has been weaving since she was 19 years old, being taught by her mother, and comes from a family of Master Weavers. Julia has won many awards in her lifetime and is best known for her blanket weave and her use of traditional natural dyes such as cochineal and indigo.
The highlight of the rich and varied pottery offerings was a Hopi-Tewa pottery vase by Dextra Quotskuyva Nampeyo. This stunning hummingbird vase hovered around and about, well above its low estimate before settling at a closing figure of $1187.50, nicely over 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 the subject of a 30-year retrospective at the Wheelwright Museum in 2001. Dextra began her artistic career by following the old Sikyátki decorations, at first limited to traditional Nampeyo migration and bird designs.
A dazzling array of historic and contemporary American Indian-made jewelry filled the showroom cases. With more than 170 lots of choice silver and turquoise, buyers had a tremendous selection of curated offerings from squash blossoms, concho belts, silver cuffs, and arm guards to buckles and bolo ties.
A stunning example from the many bolo/buckle sets tipped the auction scales at $8750 against its pre-auction estimate of $800-1200. The heavy silver bolo/buckle set by Navajo silversmith Thomas Curtis Sr (1965-2013) exemplifies his trademark deep, detailed stamp work, and the auction result reflects his popularity. A self-taught silversmith inspired by silversmith grandparents and other family members, he started making heavy silver pieces in the 1960s. He was a popular figure with a ‘sterling’ reputation with Japanese buyers who would come to his home to order pieces. At one point in his career, Curtis Sr made a trip to Japan with his daughter to give jewelry-making demonstrations.
Concho Belts stole the show with a half dozen belts doubling or tripling their estimates. Lot 356, a Navajo/Diné Silver Concho belt, sold for $4062.50 with a pre-auction estimate of $700-900. Another beautiful Mid-20th century turquoise and silver concho belt by Navajo silversmith Charles Mike Yazzie will be worn with pride by its new owner, who paid $2375 for the honor.
Navajo people and 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 examples of ketoh, up to soar well above its high estimate, and ultimately it sold to the internet for $3437.50. Lot 126 was a Leekya carved stone fetish necklace that won the Zuni fetish carver Second Place ribbon from the Intertribal Indian Ceremonial dated 1956 and was originally part of the McCormick Collection, sold in 1974. The diminutive fetish necklace sold well over its $2000-3000 presale estimate to ultimately reach $5000. Leekya Deyuse is one of the most famous of all the Zuni carvers of all time, and this necklace will only add panache to its new home.
Rounding out the sale were Arts and Crafts furnishings, including a wonderful addition to a home office with lot 56, an unusual desk from Gustav Stickley as desk trends continue to hold with a selling price of $4687.50. Dramatic lighting was also in favor as the grand Deer Antler Chandelier [Photo 12] sold for $3437.50 and will undoubtedly become a focal point in its new home.
Summer is in full swing at John Moran Auctioneers and the heat will continue well into the Fall with multiple sales that identify with every collector! ReDesigned will return with plenty of goodies to refresh and elevate your work or office space and August will kick off with the fan-favorite, Made in Mexico. Then, we’ll head back to the west towards the end of the month for this year’s second installment of Art of the American West.
Fine Jewelry & Timepieces: Tuesday, September 21st | 12:00 pm PST
Studio Jewelry: September 22nd | 12:00 pm PST
The Traditional Collector: Tuesday, September 28th | 12:00 pm PST
Studio Fine & Decorative Art: Tuesday, October 26th | 12:00 pm PST
Postwar & Contemporary Art + Design: Tuesday, November 9th | 12:00 pm PST
California & American Fine Art: Tuesday, November 16th | 12:00 pm PST
California Living: November 16th | 12:00 pm PST
Art of the American West: Tuesday, November 30th | 12:00 pm PST
John Moran’s takes the health and safety of our staff and customers seriously; as such, sales will continue to be held online and without a live audience. However, each item is available for public preview. Moran’s auction showroom is over 10,000 square feet and allows clients to preview objects within established social distancing guidelines so that buyers can feel confident when making an appointment to preview the property. For upcoming highlights, online catalogues, and more information on these sales, visit Moran’s website: www.johnmoran.com. Bidding is now available online via Moran’s new mobile app, Moran Mobile, available on both iOS and Android operating systems. Live bidding on a desktop is available through our website; bidding is also supported by telephone or absentee.
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