The Eighth Annual Dallas Art Fair

This was the eighth year for the Dallas Art Fair (DAF), and the show proved to be as strong as ever.  I say it each year, but this is a great opportunity for both collectors and art aficionados to see and purchase some of the best in modern and contemporary art from all over the world.  The fair’s reach and influence has continued to grow since it launched in 2009; a year of great economic decline and, some might’ve surmised, maybe not the best timing to introduce a large-scale art fair relying on collectors, exhibitors and sponsors to survive.  But, the timing couldn’t have been better.  The economic downturn stimulated a change in the art world; aesthetics shifted during the recession.  Traditional was out and Modern was in.  Take that shift in collector’s taste, add a bustling city with a lot to offer, throw in a dash of southern hospitality, shake well, and boom – The Dallas Art Fair is a powerhouse event.

With just under 100 dealers from over 40 cities, the fair had 18 countries representing their gallery and artists at the Fashion Industry Gallery in Dallas’ downtown Arts District this past weekend.  Carbon 12 and Lawrie Shabibi gallery exhibited for their first time at the fair, coming all the way from Dubai!

Two Andy Warhol serigraphs on display at the Heritage Auctions booth

Two Andy Warhol serigraphs on display at the Heritage Auctions booth

This year the fair announced the Dallas Art Fair Acquisition Program.  In association with the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA), the program will gift the DMA $50,000 each year to purchase work by artists who have exhibited at the fair.  This is such a cool program.  Senior curator at the DMA, Gavin Delahunty, made his selections and DMA is adding nine works by four artists to its collection: pieces by Michelle Grabner from Milwaukee's Green Gallery; Nadia Kaabi-Linke from Lawrie Shabibi gallery in Dubai; Merlin James from Dublin's Kerlin Gallery; and Lina Puerta from Geary Contemporary in New York.

"Wine Corks No. 2" by Dallas Gallery Ro2 artist James Zamora, 36 x 48" oil on canvas

"Wine Corks No. 2" by Dallas Gallery Ro2 artist James Zamora, 36 x 48" oil on canvas

"Still Life with Medieval Tapestry" by Eric West of Gallery Henoch, Oil on panel, 36 x 36"

"Still Life with Medieval Tapestry" by Eric West of Gallery Henoch, Oil on panel, 36 x 36"

I look forward to hitting my favorite galleries every year, one of them being Gallery Henoch.  The New York based gallery represents some wonderful realist artists currently working; Eric Zener, Steve Smulka, Janet Rickus, Eric Wert, Steve Mills and Robert C. Jackson among them.

David Richard Gallery of Santa Fe, NM always has stuff up my alley, representing post-war abstract art.  This year they introduced me to the engaging ceramic works by Eric Gellert.

Gellert currently works in Santa Fe and his ceramic pieces are comprised of thousands of hand rolled coils of porcelain clay layered and built atop one another.  They are very engaging and really have to be experienced in person.  In the round, they have ongoing patterns and heavily textured surfaces that form deep grooves, swells, and bulges.

Three Ceramic and Mason Stain pieces from Gellert's "Square" series, 22 x 22 x 4.5" each

Three Ceramic and Mason Stain pieces from Gellert's "Square" series, 22 x 22 x 4.5" each

In last year’s blog on the fair, I mentioned my first encounter with the work of Emil Lukas.  He does wonderful thread paintings.  This year, Hosfelt Gallery’s booth was filled solely with Lukas’ work.  The California gallery had work from two other series Lukas has been working on. 

Per the artist’s statement on this series: These chunky cast-plaster works are composed of a honeycomb of multitudes of cells, individually stained through an accrual of water-soluble pigments that get blotted out, are allowed to soak in, or evaporate to leave their crusty evidence.  Seen head-on, the multi-colored pixels create shimmering fields - a kind of nonobjective pointillism. Viewed from the edge, they have the sculptural quality of soft stone, pitted and polished by water.

They certainly do a number on your eyes as you chase colors and patterns across the wood panel; pulling you in to see the detail and the specific colors of each cell, then pushing you away to see the overall piece and how each cell and color interacts within the piece.

DC Moore Gallery of New York had this 42 x 60" oil on linen by Janet Fish on display

DC Moore Gallery of New York had this 42 x 60" oil on linen by Janet Fish on display

In 2013, Mayor Mike Rawlings instituted the Dallas Arts Week to fall on the same week every year to coincide with the DAF; giving residents and visitors too much to do and see during the citywide celebration of the arts.

With new dealers every year, the DAF’s international impact and reputation is evident – no easy task considering there are over 150 art fairs each year.  In 2009 there were fewer than 4,000 visitors to the fair, this year there were over 10,000.  It is a great show right in our own backyard; we at Signet Art look forward to and highly recommend it. 

-M.P. Callender

The 2016 Scottsdale Art Auction - The Results Are In!

In our most recent blog we covered the 2016 Scottsdale Art Auction, and concluded the blog promising to post the auction results.  The results are in!  

You can go to the results page on the Scottsdale Art Auction website to every one of the 386 lots offered.  

A few highlights:

The Walter Ufer, "Trailing Homewards" Oil on canvas, 20 x 25" sold for $613,000 with premium. - the sales price landing smack in the middle of the $500,000-$700,000 estimate. 

Not many works by Ufer, the Taos Founder and American Master, come to auction; certainly not many of this quality.  Great to see this piece do well.
 

"The Red Door" by Victor Higgins sold for $304,200 with premium, just surpassing the $200,000-$300,000 estimate.

This 20 x 24" oil in canvas is a unique display of Higgins embracing the modernism that influenced the Western Art genre after 1900; note the creeping shadows and long, thin rectangular clouds, the bent over and hooded figure walking by.  

 

Kyle Polzin (b. 1974) has been in high demand in the Western Art market for awhile.  His pieces have routinely sold at auction above their estimates.  

The four Polzin lots in this year's Scottsdale sale did not disappoint, each selling above their estimates.  The majority of the 42 year old artist's work are his dark and quiet still life pieces.  The artist cannot produce the works quickly, because he is so meticulous in his detail and in research of his subjects.

A couple disappointments:

The C.M. Russell watercolor and gouache on paper, "The Scout" did not sell.  This 14 x 11" original from 1900 was estimated to sell at $75,000-$100,000.

This is a wonderful watercolor by an American Master, and the only Russell in the auction. I thought it would sell quickly, but that is the risk and reward of auctions; you never know how the bidders will bid or how the hammer will fall.

Fortunate for collectors who were unable to bid during the auction, all unsold pieces can be purchased post auction on the Scottsdale website. 
 

"Advancing Scouts" didn't sell! I was out of the room when this piece by Oscar Berninghaus came up for bid, so I didn't get to see how the room responded, but what a disappointment.  This large action scene with two Indians has Berninghaus written all over it. A bright blue sky with puffy clouds surround the scouts as they approach the threat ahead of them.  They trek slowly across the beautiful desert terrain, exposed; just them, their horses and the tension in the moment.  

It is a fantastic scene I was excited to see in person.  Too bad this 40 x 30" oil on canvas did not meet its $250,000-$350,000 estimate.   
 

As mentioned in the previous blog, they did it again. With a sale-through rate of 82% and brining over $8.7 million, the 2016 Scottsdale Art Auction was a huge success.  The auction house is already looking forward, now seeking consignments for their April 8th sale in 2017.

On a separate, but exciting, note, the Dallas Art Fair kicks off this week!  The Signet Art team will be visiting the show and, as we do every year, we will cover it here on the blog.  Stay tuned!

-M.P. Callender

The 2016 Scottsdale Art Auction

The Scottsdale Art Auction was founded in 2005 by Michael Frost of Bartfield Galleries in New York, Jack Morris of Morris Whiteside Galleries in South Carolina, and Brad Richardson of Legacy Galleries with locations in Arizona, Wyoming, and Montana.  It is one of the biggest fine art auctions of the year focusing on American Western and Wildlife art.

It’s a great auction every spring with some of the major artists of the Western art scene, both historical and contemporary.  I’ve always wanted to go to the Scottsdale Art Auction, and this year they offered a strong showing of Taos School artists…one of my very favorite periods of American art.  When the catalogue arrived at our offices and I saw the almost 400 lots being offered, I knew this was an auction I didn’t want to miss. 

So we loaded up and headed for Arizona!

This year’s auction was Saturday, April the 2nd, and, as with every year, the morning and afternoon sessions brought a crowd of live, telephone and Internet bidders. Every one of the 500 seats in the 10,000 square foot showroom above Legacy Gallery was taken as bidding began – and standing room in the back was full.  With 386 lots to get through, each artwork went quickly. 

An original 48 x 48" by Kyle Polzin, "Ranch Rig" was estimated at $50,000-$75,000, was hammered down at $130,000

An original 48 x 48" by Kyle Polzin, "Ranch Rig" was estimated at $50,000-$75,000, was hammered down at $130,000

The auctioneer and the Scottsdale floor team did a superb job interacting with bidders to make sure bids were heard and taken.  There were a few misunderstandings during the first session - a bidder backed out after landing the winning bid on a work, and a phone got disconnected during the heat of a bidding war – but the auctioneer and staff handled each situation with professionalism and a touch of humor to keep the sale rolling and on time.

There were important historical works by Walter Ufer (1876-1936), several originals by Frederic Remington (1861-1909), a watercolor by C.M. Russell (1864-1926), and great offerings by Victor Higgins (1884-1949), O.E. Berninghaus (1874-1952), and E.I. Couse (1866- 936). 

 

There were also nice pieces from well-known contemporary artists in the genre like G. Harvey (b. 1933), Martin Grelle (b. 1954), William Acheff (b. 1947) Ed Mell (b. 1942) the currently popular and highly sought-after Kyle Polzin (b. 1974), among others.

Collectors chat and peruse art at the cocktail party the night before the auction

Collectors chat and peruse art at the cocktail party the night before the auction

A collector studies a Joe Beeler (1931-2006) oil on canvas estimated at $4,000-$6,000

A collector studies a Joe Beeler (1931-2006) oil on canvas estimated at $4,000-$6,000

These auctions are a ton of fun to attend.  There is the cocktail party the night before where you can peruse and talk art with experts and other collectors while enjoying complementary hors d'oeuvres and drinks.

I had the opportunity to talk with Michael Frost, one of the founders of Scottsdale Art Auction and an authority on Western American Masters, and he was as personable as he was knowledgeable.   I’d corresponded with Frost over the years for his professional consult on items we were appraising, so it was great to shake his hand and meet face to face to talk the art market.

 

Auctions are a good resource for collectors to acquire art, often times at prices lower than the gallery market.  When approaching the secondary market, both buyers and sellers need to be confident in the auction house they are working with.

The Scottsdale Art Auction is an event art enthusiasts and collectors can utilize with ease of mind – whether they are buying or selling, both consignors and purchasers are in great hands with the capable and experienced people at the Scottsdale Art Auction.

Walter Ufer, "Drilling Homewards" Oil on canvas, 20 x 25" Estimated $500,000-$700,000

Walter Ufer, "Drilling Homewards" Oil on canvas, 20 x 25" Estimated $500,000-$700,000

This year, Scottsdale did it again.  They held an amazing auction with quality artwork presented and sold to their collectors with professionalism, expertise and proficiency.  

We highly recommend this auction house, if you are looking to purchase or sell any American Western Art – check them out!

Stay tuned! Sales results for the auction have not been released yet (they had a $13 million dollar sale in 2015), but when the results are out we will post another blog on the final outcomes. 

-M.P. Callender

 

American Epics: Thomas Hart Benton and Hollywood At the Amon Carter Museum- February 6-May 1, 2016

Regionalism is an art term coined in the 1930’s to describe the work of several modern realist painters whose work seemed to tell the story of their particular region of America.  The term was originally used for mostly Midwestern artists.  Regionalists never worked in a coordinated school or artists’ group.  The term was used to describe the idiosyncratic works of such artists as Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton, John Steuart Curry and Alexandre Hogue.  I have always been a fan of regionalist artists.  Like the Ashcan school (NYC-1910-20) and the Impressionists (Paris- late 19th C.) before them, the regionalists chose as their subjects the everyday people around them.  Because the times in which these artists lived were times of great economic hardship, their paintings naturally gravitated toward portraying the anguish as well as the triumphs of real people.  Though the intent of the work was not necessarily to press for social change, the art made strong statements about the suffering of people forced into poverty by the Great Depression and contributed to public sentiment about the need for change.   It can be argued that FDR’s New Deal was aided greatly by the paintings done by regionalist artists in the 1930’s that clearly depicted the hardships of the time. 

"The Hailstorm," Tempera on canvas mounted on panel, 33 x 40"  Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Nebraska *This painting not shown in exhibition, depicted here to illustrate Benton's regionalist style

"The Hailstorm," Tempera on canvas mounted on panel, 33 x 40" 
Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Nebraska
*This painting not shown in exhibition, depicted here to illustrate Benton's regionalist style

Benton was no backwater, untrained Midwesterner who chose his subjects because the Midwest was all he knew.  He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Academie Julien in Paris.  He lived and worked in New York City for over twenty years.  Yet he is best known for the regionalist works he began in the 1930’s when he declared himself “the enemy of modernism” and began a series of large-scale figural murals about American life and history.  In 1932, Benton painted The Arts of Life in America, a set of eight large murals for an early site of the Whitney Museum of American Art.  He won a commission for a series of murals about Indiana life to be shown at the 1933 Century of Progress Exhibition in Chicago.  In 1935, he was commissioned to create a series of murals for the Missouri State Capital.  It was in these large-scale mural works that his attenuated “El Greco-like” figures in overalls and prairie dresses became well known.  He tackled both the heroic and infamous parts of the histories he portrayed. By the mid 1930’s, Benton was well known for such subjects.  He had settled in Kansas City, Missouri and accepted a teaching position at the Kansas City Art Institute.  To this day, what Benton is best remembered for are these iconic images of simple folk struggling to eek a living out of the land, trying to survive in the face of tornadoes, heat, drought and poverty. 

"Hollywood," 1937–38, Tempera with oil on canvas, mounted on panel, 56 x 84" The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri

"Hollywood," 1937–38, Tempera with oil on canvas, mounted on panel, 56 x 84"
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri

So, I was quite surprised to learn that he also had long-time ties to the film industry and a whole body of work influenced by Hollywood.  The current show at the Amon Carter Museum addresses this heretofore unexplored area of Benton’s work.  Benton first went to Hollywood in the summer of 1937, on assignment for Life magazine.  He had, by that time, become quite well known for his large scale mural works and had had a self portrait featured on the December 24, 1934 cover of Time magazine.  Benton was the first artist to be so featured.  Life magazine wanted a full color spread about Hollywood to print.  They sent Benton to Hollywood for a month.  He was given fairly free rein at the studios and offices of 20th Century Fox Pictures for that month.  He sat in on story conferences, watched filming of various movies, visited set designers, costume designers, interviewed producers, directors, cameramen and all the various workers on the sets and in the offices of a motion picture studio.  Benton took an almost journalistic approach to the drawings he produced in this series.   The end result in terms of artistic productions was a wonderful series of over four hundred graphite sketches, forty finished drawings of the various activities of the industry, a lithograph entitled “the Poet” and a large mural painting entitled “Hollywood” that amalgamated the production of several movies into one piece.  This painting shows directors, camera men, actors, makeup artists and movies being made on several sets.  It shows the mechanics of the industry and the extensive work behind the glamour. 

Although Life magazine never published the article using Benton’s illustrations, the experience  opened many doors for Benton in the movie industry.  Directors and producers realized the value of using his images to promote their movies.  Between 1939-1954 he was commissioned to create artwork for such projects as the John Ford directed movie adaptation of John Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath,” John Ford’s “the Long Voyage Home” and the Burt Lancaster produced and directed movie “The Kentuckian.”   Benton also illustrated many books during this era that were later turned into movies.      

"Departure of the Joads. (The Grapes of Wrath Series)," 1939, lithograph, edition of 100, 12.75 x 18.25"

"Departure of the Joads. (The Grapes of Wrath Series)," 1939, lithograph, edition of 100, 12.75 x 18.25"

When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December, 1941, it drew America into World War II.   The U.S. War Department created many propaganda films during the war for the purpose of aiding the war effort.  Benton did a number of propagandistic paintings during the war.  For me, these were some of the most surprising and engaging paintings in the show.  In 1942, Benton produced a series of seven propaganda paintings, the group collectively called “the Year of Peril.”  These paintings are gut wrenching.  They portray the Germans and Japanese as caricatured ethnic monsters intent on raping, pillaging and defiling America.  The titles refer to biblical passages.  In the painting entitled “Again,” Jesus’ body, here standing in for European and American cultures, is writhing on the cross as a German plane strafe bombs him and a large group of German and Japanese thugs plunge a spear into his side.  Benton was very much a part of the war effort.  Paramount News interviewed Benton in 1942 and films the exhibition of his “Year of Peril” paintings.  In 1942, Benton also produced a painting entitled “Negro Soldier,” the intent of which was to address the contributions of African Americans who were serving in the segregated armed forces.  This painting was not received well by the black community as the main figure in the foreground of the painting, a black soldier carrying a bayoneted rifle, was seen as caricatured.  Looking at this painting and trying to accept that Benton meant for the man to appear heroic is difficult to do in contemporary times since our sensibilities about matters of race have changed radically in the intervening years.   But, the painting is a good period piece and ought raise some important questions. 

"Indifference, Year of Peril," 1944, Oil on canvas, 21 x 31" State Historical Society of Missouri, Columbia

"Indifference, Year of Peril," 1944, Oil on canvas, 21 x 31"
State Historical Society of Missouri, Columbia

This show pulls together a large group (over 100 pieces) of Thomas Hart Benton’s work that had been previously ignored.  The show gives a whole new view of his life’s work.  There is even a section that addresses his working methodology.  Benton often created dioramas of the scenes he wished to paint in order to have a three-dimensional model he could light and paint.  There is a hands-on section that allows guests to move figures around and play with lighting in order to better understand Benton’s methods. 

The show is incredible and, as are all shows at the Amon Carter, free to the public.  Take the time to come for a visit.  And, if you have never taken the time to appreciate the rest of the Amon Carter’s collection, plan several hours and immerse yourself in American Art.  For all of my appraisal colleagues who are members of the International Society of Appraisers are coming to Fort Worth in mid-April for this year’s conference, this should be on your must do list.  I believe the preconference tours will be covering the Amon Carter.   But if you cannot come in early, stay an extra day and take in this show!  It is a short taxi/uber ride from downtown to the Fort Worth arts district.  You will find the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in close proximity to the Kimbell Museum and the Modern. 

-Brenda Simonson-Mohle, ISA CAPP

Tales from the American West: The Rees-Jones Collection

Tales from the American West: The Rees-Jones Collection came to the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth in early September of 2015 and runs until February 21st. Trevor Rees-Jones is a Dallas collector who became interested in art when he visited the Amon Carter as a child (called the Amon Carter Museum of Western Art at the time); how fitting that his wonderful collection of art from the American West is now being exhibited to the public for the first time at the very museum that inspired him. 

“Pointing with Pride to His Record, 1924,” Joseph Henry Sharp, Rees-Jones Collection

“Pointing with Pride to His Record, 1924,” Joseph Henry Sharp, Rees-Jones Collection

Rees-Jones (b. 1951) is a philanthropist and attorney who grew up in Texas and is best known as the founder and chairman of Chief Oil and Gas.  His collection consists of 19th and 20th Century paintings, watercolors, sculptures and prints of the American West from well-known western artists like Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell, as well as E. I. Couse, Henry Farny, Thomas Moran, and others.  With landscapes, portraits, action scenes on the frontier, and portrayals of the everyday, Tales from the American West really does encapsulate a view of the great American West.

“Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, 1895,” Thomas Moran. Watercolor on paper, Rees-Jones Collection

“Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, 1895,” Thomas Moran. Watercolor on paper, Rees-Jones Collection

Within the exhibition is a set of nine Henry F. Farny (1847-1916) paintings and watercolor works.  The French born and European trained artist started off as an illustrator for children’s books and magazines.  When his family emigrated from France to the United States in 1853, settling in Pennsylvania, Farny became enthralled with the Indians at a Seneca reservation near his home.  Later, in 1859, his family moved to Cincinnati, and there in the west is where Farny found the subject matter that would alter his career. 

These Farny works are a display of the artist’s infatuation with the American Indian, often displaying several figures within a sprawling landscape, and a representation of his mastery of the watercolor medium.  Opaque watercolor is notoriously difficult to work with, and the amount of detail that can be seen – repeating patterns, delicate vegetation and rock formation, facial features – is really astounding.

The piece “Protecting the Emigrants, 1906” by Charles Schreyvogel is on display in the exhibition. It is an action scene on the often-dangerous plains; three cowboys on horseback fire back towards the viewer as they retreat, gun smoke and dust flying in the air.  Schreyvogel was a self-taught painter who grew up in New York with his poor immigrant family.  In the late 1800’s he made several trips to the western territories to collect Indian artifacts and study the land.  His work is often compared to the action scenes of Frederic Remington.

"Protecting the Emigrants, 1906” Charles Schreyvogel, Rees-Jones Collection

"Protecting the Emigrants, 1906” Charles Schreyvogel, Rees-Jones Collection

Rees-Jones began his collection in 2007.  Since then, the collection has grown to over 23,000 items; everything from original works by revered western artists, to rare books, photography and maps make up the still growing assemblage of artifacts of Western Americana.  Tales from the American West: The Rees-Jones Collection is just a peek into the mammoth high-quality collection, and even though the exhibition is a small assortment of pieces gathered through a love of accumulating works from a treasured era, the exhibition manages to capture the atmosphere and legacy of the American West.  My only complaint is that there wasn’t more to see.

“The Belated Traveler, 1905–06,” Frederic S. Remington, Rees-Jones Collection

“The Belated Traveler, 1905–06,” Frederic S. Remington, Rees-Jones Collection

The strategically curated show propels the viewer into a different time period, an all-but-forgotten America.  This is a great show in our own backyard, and it leaves on the 21st of next month.  As always, every show at the Amon Carter is free; don’t miss this one.  

-M.P. Callender