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."


Sunday, August 27, 2006

7-ll Collection at Sotheby's

It appears that “cowboy art” is finally making it into the mainstream of art in America. Sotheby’s Auction House -- not any of the auction houses that specialize in Western art -- will auction drawings, paintings and sculpture on September 13 in New York City in a catalogue simply described as “American” but including well-known Cowboy Artists of America figures alongside the more familiar landscapes and portraits from across the country.

It never really occurred to me before, but 7-11 does sound kind of like a ranch brand, so maybe that’s why they bought so much Western art for the walls of their headquarters. It never occurred to me that 7-11 stores might go bankrupt, either, but I gather that this development, plus merging with another chain, has meant that much of the collection has been let go. A spokesperson says that there is still plenty of art left, which makes me wonder who made the choices about what to sell which leads to wondering who made the purchases in the first place. As I say, it appears that they just backed a truck up to a CAA show.

Weighorst, Payne, Sharp, Gary Niblett, Joe Neil Beiler, Gordon Snidow, James Elwell Reynolds (value estimated at $50,000 to 80, 000), Bill Owen, Jim Boren, John Wayne Hampton, Tom Ryan, Fred Fellows, U Grant Speed, Ned Jacob, Robert Elmer Lougheed are included among others. It gives me a jolt to realize how many of these men are dead of old age. Another jolt from realizing that some of the living are about my age (Fellows, Jacob). And a rueful note: who knew about these crazy middle names and suppressed first names their Mama gave ‘em? Most of the estimated values are around $10,000, give or take $5,000. Some of the works are bronzes.

For comparison, Macmonnies’ “Diana,” a familiar American bronze by a recognized master, is on auction also, valued between $20,000 and $30,000. She seems to have left her bow somewhere.

At this URL are the online catalogue pages. Cowboy stuff is late on the list.

A good deal of optimism accompanies this auction because of an earlier set of auctions of the 7-ll photographs. Quotes as follows:

“You may be surprised to learn that behind your favorite Slurpees in the 7-Eleven convenience market chain lay a rich cache of 2500 works on paper and classic vintage photographs collected in the early 1980's to decorate company headquarters. It was an auspicious, low-priced time to collect, especially photographs.

“The Southland Corporation, as the business was then named, subsequently endured a leveraged buyout, a real-estate collapse, downsizing, and other pressures that drove a good chunk of their great photographs into storage for the last ten years. This year it was time for a change. Richard Allen, manager of The Collection of 7-Eleven, Inc., as it is called, explained that even after offering 126 top 19th- and 20th-century photographs at Sotheby's, they retain plenty of great images for their own use.

“...The 7-Eleven corporation originally acquired most of its photographs from the early established galleries, especially the Weston Gallery, Carmel, California, which had an arrangement with the Paul Strand archive; Foster Goldstrom Fine Arts, San Francisco; and Galerie Rudolf Kicken, Cologne, Germany for European images.

“...Altogether, the 7-Eleven collection pictures at Sotheby's brought a rousing $3,607,160, a record for a single-owner photograph sale in New York City and outstripping expectations.

“...Nine lots sold in the $100,000 to $300,000 range; 57 sold in the five-figure range; 48 at four figures; and two in the hundreds..”

“... The Stephen R. Anaya collection of California gold rush photographs brought $1.3 million for its 48 offerings, with three major bidders trampling the estimates and slugging it out for the golden 19th-century spoils.

“Anaya, a Santa Monica College faculty member, discovered gold rush images in the 1970's as a graduate student and then assembled a celebrated collection of daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, tintypes, and paper prints often tapped by museums and television producers. For example, many of Anaya's images appear in The West, a documentary by Ken Burns, and in its companion book. The auction offered Anaya's wide selection, from California prospectors out digging to the rudimentary towns that sprang up to service them.”

One wonders what the Adolf Hungry-Wolf photo collection will eventually bring at auction. Be nice to the guy! Get your set of “The Blackfoot Papers” early!

“An Edward S. Curtis bound volume with 101 large-format photogravure plates, The North American Indian, 1899-1914, went to a private collector for the sale's top lot at $101,500 (est. $40,000/ 60,000).

“In a four-way phone battle, The Wild Bunch, circa 1900, a group portrait including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, by Texas photographer John Swartz escalated from the $25,000/45,000 estimate to the final $85,000 from an anonymous private collector. The last of the American frontier bank and train robber
s, the five remaining members of the Wild Bunch sat proudly for their portrait, wearing identical shiny black derby hats. In its prime the legendary group had over 20 members and cut a swath from Wyoming to Texas.”

My considered opinion (and warm hope) is that all the print debunking of the Wild Old West will be brushed aside by love for the images in photos and movies. Maybe the New West is a matter of Santa Fe Cuisine and Sundance decor, but that doesn’t photograph so well. And why buy a Terpening painting of Indians at an inflated price, when one could buy a Sharp or Jacob for less?

Sotheby’s. No need to fly out to Texas.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


When I told Ray Djuff, author of many books about Glacier Park or rather Waterton Peace Park since he comes from the Canadian side, that I had a better library on the Blackfeet than some public libraries, he called my bluff by arriving to spend a couple of days at my work table going through what I had. As a sort of “hostess gift,” he sent me these photos he had taken of the Scriver sculptures now emplaced at the public schools in Babb.

These are fiberglass monuments that were in front of the Scriver Museum of Montana Wildlife and Hall of Bronze in Browning. When the Montana Historical Society arrived to take away all of Bob’s work, they were hard-pressed to know how to transport these monster statues or where to put them if they got them safely to Helena, so they loaned them to the Blackfeet Tribe. The Tribe has a lot of empty warehouse space up at the Industrial Park by the railroad depot, so they stashed them in there to save them from vandals. There is still enough animosity against Bob for renegades to feel justified in spray-painting or otherwise defacing his works. (Of course, there was a great outcry of protest when the statues were missing!)

In fact, the rumor went around that the big bull-rider statue was dropped at some point and was “busted.” However, Gordon Monroe was on the tribal council at that point and he was the person who had made the casting from the original mold in the first place, so he was perfectly capable of fixing it. Gordon has done all of Bob Scriver’s fiberglass casting as well as creating some major works of his own. For instance, his huge “corpus” of Jesus on the Cross is in the Church of the Little Flower in Browning.

These two huge works come out of the rodeo phase of Scriver’s work, which is all some people really think of when they reflect on his entire body of a thousand sculptures, partly because the rodeo sculptures are what he always sent to the Cowboy Artists of America shows. “An Honest Try,” which is a portrait of Bill Cochran on a Reg Kessler bull, became Bob’s trademark and motto, replacing the “Lone Cowboy” motif he used earlier. This one-and-a-half life-sized version was commissioned for the Inland Trade building in Kansas City in 1986.

The other big statue is a version of the PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) figure on their official belt buckle. A bronze version of it is behind the Montana Historical Society building in Helena. They gave Bob one of these buckles and he may have been buried wearing it.

The tribe didn’t mess around with deliberations over where to put these statues. They just did it. The Montana Historical Society didn’t know until I told Arnold Olsen and I didn’t know until I was Googling School District #9 and came across the pictures on their website. I still haven’t seen them in person.

Bob had many connections to Babb, mostly from the days when he lived all summer in a cabin he’d built halfway between Babb and St. Mary. I had connections there myself, partly through some of the Blackfeet Sandwich Shop and Free School faculty who later taught at that school and probably had something to do with this, and partly through the year I was the Methodist minister for the Blackfeet Reservation and preached in Babb every Sunday. Because the St. Mary Valley opens to Canada rather than the reservation, the culture is a little different there. It’s more of a tourist town with white businesses that have been there since homesteader days, gradually becoming Indian businesses as the generations intermarry -- but with a strong strain of Metis.

Anyway, they look great in front of the new Babb school and I hope they have a long and happy life there.