About 500 people at a giant art auction here last weekend dropped $3.44 million.
Art enthusiasts bid Saturday on 214 works by Western artists such as Charles Russell and O.C. Seltzer.
The total money brought in was $1 million higher than at last year’s sale, promoters announced Monday. That easily makes the Coeur d’Alene Art Auction the largest Western art auction around, said Bob Drummond, owner of the Drummond Gallery.
For a decade, Drummond and gallery owners Stuart Johnson of Arizona and Peter Stremmel of Nevada have combed estate sales and advertised for the cream of Western and wildlife art for the event.
That reputation brought Dallas attorney Dale Friend, who purchased his first collectible painting for $27,000. The William Acheff oil painting of a war bonnet soon will grace a wall in his law office.
An enthusiastic convert, Friend was introduced to Western art appreciation by a friend who is a pipefitter. “This is not a glamour or a social event,” Friend said. It’s for people with a little disposable income and a deep love for what they see in bronze, oil and watercolor.
“Many of the people come just to see the art,” Friend said. The painting he purchased was done just for the show and won’t be seen by the public for least 15 years.
Other pieces have been in private collections for decades and also won’t be seen again for years, he said.
The invitation-only event drew bidders from across the United States and Canada, Johnson said. Some people bid by telephone, some by mail.
The typical buyers are between ages 40 and 60, and “their interests vary from one of investment to the sheer love of having the painting,” Johnson said. Most of the paintings were done by “old masters” between 1840 and 1940.
Top dollar went for a watercolor painted by Russell in 1902. “The Herd Quitter” fetched $275,000. Johnson declined to name the buyer.
But several other paintings set world records for the artists’ work, Johnson said. Those include an oil painting of an Indian titled “The Firemaker” by the late California artist Kathryn Leighton, which sold for $34,000. A painting by the late Ogden Pleissner, a Vermont painter, sold for $52,500.
Even relatively new artists drew unexpectedly high prices. Those include a Charles Fritz painting, expected to go for $5,500, that sold for $8,000. And a Luke Frazier work, expected to sell for $1,700, went for $3,600.
The reason? “There’s less good material on the marketplace and more competition to get the paintings,” Drummond said.
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