Texan Painting the ‘Star’ of Heritage’s Western Auction

A packed house witnessed Heritage Auction Galleries’ first ever Art of the American West Auction, combined with an auction of Texas Art, on Saturday, Jan. 24. The Texas Art auction was the first in the category in more than a year, and it certainly didn’t disappoint the attentive crowd at Heritage’s Design District Annex. The top-selling lot was a Julian Onderdonk canvas, In the Hills—Southwest Texas (1912), which sold for $131,450 (including buyer’s premium). This broke a prior Heritage record for an Onderdonk, his Late Afternoon in the Bluebonnets, S.W. Texas (1913), which sold for $101,575 at Heritage’s December 2007 Texas Art Auction.
In total, the auction realized more than $1 million by the time its Internet-only session ended Sunday afternoon; post-auction sales will continue through Feb. 9, so the total will continue to rise.
Some of the best-sellers from the Art of the American West session were early works from members of the Cowboy Artists of America, such as Bill Owen’s C.O. Bar Cattle Country (1975), which sold for $26,888 and Donald Teague’s New Girl (1978), which sold for $28,680. Bronze sculptures also performed well, with nearly 75% of lots sold. Other Texas Art session highlights included paintings by Bror Utter (Palatine Hill III, $11,950), Frank Reaugh (Landscape with Purple Butte and Lavender Sky, $10,157.50) and several canvases by bluebonnet master Porfirio Salinas, all of which met or exceeded estimates.
Ft. Worth native Atlee Phillips, who joined Heritage six months ago as its new consignment director for Texas Art, has spent a large portion of her time at Heritage re-making the Texas Art category so that it presents an expanded, diverse range of Texas art from all periods, and not merely early (pre-1930) Texas art. The sale of Nancy Lamb’s Date Night (for $5,975) and Vernon Fisher’s Chalk Abstraction (for $10,755) were just a few examples of her success in this area.
“This was Heritage’s first auction in which a number of works, in both the Western and Texas sessions, were either by living artists or were consigned directly from the artists themselves,” said Phillips, “something that is unique to these two categories.”
Phillips joins Heritage with a background that includes nearly a lifetime spent in her family’s former galleries, The Fort Worth Gallery and Dutch Phillips & Co. She has also worked at several important regional galleries and museums, including the Amon Carter Museum, The Coburn Gallery at Colorado College, the Modern Art Museum of Ft. Worth and Kurt E. Schon, Ltd., and pursued her graduate degree at Tulane University.
“Overall, I’m pleased with the results,” said Michael Duty, Managing Director of Heritage’s Fine Art Department. “For a new category launching in a down market, I think we performed quite admirably, and we plan to keep the momentum building with the next auction in this category, tentatively scheduled for May.”
Duty came to Heritage just 11 months ago to launch the Art of the American West category, bringing with him 31 years of experience in museums and historical organizations. Prior to coming to Heritage, his museum career included positions at the National Western Art Foundation, the Amon Carter Museum, the Rockwell Museum, and the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indian and Western Art as well as an appointment to a planning task force for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian.
For more information on this and other Heritage auctions, visit www.HA.com.

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