JERRY GOROSKI is the consultant appraisar to whom I refer inquiries about Scriver bronzes. He is formally trained and certified to do assessments and knew Bob Scriver as well as working for the CM Russell Museum in Great Falls. His gallery is called "Open Range Art."


Friday, March 17, 2006

CM Russell Auction in Great Falls 3-17-06

Two gents were sitting on either side of one of the doors to a motel room/temporary gallery, so that one had to walk between them to get in. One man was clearly part-Indian (“Assiniboine-Cherokee,” he confided, “But I never lived on a reservation.”) the other one looked vaguely familiar. In search of clues, I asked him, “Are you from Montana?” He looked as though he were trying to decide whether to kick me or laugh. He was Ron Marlenee, the Montana Representative to the United States Congress for twenty years. I thought of him as being ancient, but when I Googled him, I see he’s only five years older than me.

After a side nod to Bob Scriver, the two guys launched into stories about drunken Indians, mostly Billy Big Springs. For those who don’t know, Billy was a massively built oil millionaire who married a petite Irish Colleen from back east. (Happy St. Pat’s, Mrs. Big Springs!) And so it goes at the annual C.M. Russell Museum benefit auction and associated events.

I really went down to Great Falls to look for photos of Bob Scriver in the Tribune morgue, but it turned out that they were being put online and even the librarian in charge of them didn’t know how to access them. I’ll have to wait a week. So I swung by the main auction motel, where all the rooms are converted to galleries once a year, and minor Scriver bronzes abound on all sides. This year was much smaller and quieter, partly because some of the main action had migrated back to the actual museum and partly because -- or so it seemed -- the exhibitors and customers were all as long in the tooth as me and Marlenee. We’ve now seen the entire arc of the Western art genre from its meteoric rise in the Seventies to its roaring Eighties and Nineties and then a long sliding descent into the 21st century.

At the “other” auction at the “other” motel, the action was even slower. Nelson, son of Van Kirke Nelson and owner of the Manitou Galleries, has sold the auction to Best of the West Auctions. (He kept the galleries.) The long tables of objects with dubious provenance are replaced by a modest assortment in a basement display room. Lots of Ace Powell and Nancy McLaughlin works.

But I wasn’t looking for art -- I was looking for people, like Ace and Nancy’s son David. Didn’t catch up with him but did run into Rex and Judy Rieke with Judy’s sister, Gail. Once again we swapped email and blog addresses. Rex will have a show at the Yellowstone Art Center in Billings -- all abstract paintings. I watch Rex very closely. He’s the person who sold Bob his first Rungius moose painting, a keystone for Bob’s art thinking, and he is also a musician, more persistently than Bob. He still plays. If Rex is doing abstracts, what does it mean? And yet the old guys lounging around the motel rooms suggested that the Western art market has just about bottomed out and will soon begin to go back up. I suggested that a new crop of soldiers might be prospective customers and soon found myself in political soup. It was more interesting than the art.

While I was in the big city, I picked up the latest issues of “Art of the West” and “Southwest Art” and was interested to see in the former mag’s letters to the editor a quite stiff scolding to the Cowboy Artists of America (once beyond rebuke) recommending that they stop the sausage factory and begin to make real art again! Most of the letter quoted an admonishment from Fred Renner, whose wife, Ginger, is one of the stalwarts in Great Falls this weekend. I’d have liked to have talked to her.

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