Go West: An Interview with Jackson Hole Art Auction’s Madison Webb, Ahead of Annual Sale

Rebekah Kaufman
Published on
It’s Been a Long Day by Howard Terpning. Photo courtesy of Jackson Hole Art Auction.
It’s Been a Long Day by Howard Terpning. Photo courtesy of Jackson Hole Art Auction.

The phrase “Go West” conjures up images of cross country adventures, rugged individualism, and breathtaking panoramas. It also perfectly captures the essence of the Jackson Hole Art Auction, which will be held on September 19th, 2020. This annual event features works in a variety of genres, including wildlife, sporting, figurative, landscape, and Western art by both renowned past masters and contemporary artists. Auction Daily spoke with Madison Webb, Auction Director of the JHAA, to learn more about this sale. 

Auction Daily: Give us a little history and background on the Jackson Hole Art Auction. 

Madison Webb: Since 2007, the JHAA has been recognized as one of the premier art events in the country. The JHAA is a signature event of Jackson Hole’s annual Fall Arts Festival and attracts collectors from across the country, as well as abroad. With locations in Scottsdale, AZ, Jackson Hole, WY, Santa Fe, NM, and New York, the auction principals, Trailside Galleries and Gerald Peters Gallery, bring over 100 years of combined experience and expertise to the event. Maryvonne Leshe and Roxanne Hofmann of Trailside Galleries founded the Jackson Hole Art Auction, partnering with Gerald Peters of the Gerald Peters Gallery. The partners and staff of the Jackson Hole Art Auction work together each year to bring consignments from private collections, estates, and museums to the auction block.

AD: How has COVID-19 impacted your planning and execution of this event in 2020 as opposed to previous years?

Webb:  This year’s sale will be held live, but virtual. Instead of having an in-person audience and reception at the Center for the Arts, we will be live streaming the auctioneer from the stage on four different online platforms, while also executing live telephone and absentee bids. Last year, we launched our bidding site and mobile app, which we are also utilizing this year as we continue to embrace the digital sales space. 

AD: This sale specializes in premier Western Art. What makes a piece of art “Western?” 

Webb: A Western work of art is defined most often by its subject matter—people, wildlife, and places of the West. Occasionally, you may also see work that is not traditionally Western in subject but is created by a well-known Western artist.

Cascade Falls, Yosemite by Thomas Moran. Photo courtesy of Jackson Hole Art Auction.
Cascade Falls, Yosemite by Thomas Moran. Photo courtesy of Jackson Hole Art Auction.

AD: Tell us about some of the artists in this sale. Who are well known and established in the community and who are emerging – tomorrow’s rock stars in the category?

Webb: This year’s sale includes work by nearly 150 different artists. Among this year’s highlights is Thomas Moran, who is one of the most sought-after American landscape painters. His work inspired Congress to create the world’s first National Park, Yellowstone, in 1872. We’re pleased to offer his 1905 painting Cascade Falls, Yosemite for USD750,000 to $1,500,000. 

Other historic American artists represented in this year’s auction include Albert Bierstadt, John Clymer, Edgar Payne, and E.S. Paxson. We also have work from a number of top tier contemporary Western artists in this year’s auction, including Martin Grelle and Howard Terpning. The most critically acclaimed living Western artist, Howard Terpning has received every award in the Western art world, and his work sells at auction for record-breaking prices, nearing the two-million-dollar mark. Known as the storyteller of the Native American, Terpning is best known for his meticulous and detailed depictions of Native Americans. We are offering his painting It’s Been a Long Day for $200,000 to $300,000. 

Thomas Blackshear is emerging as a celebrated and sought-after contemporary Western artist, and we are excited to offer his work for the first time in this year’s sale. The featured artist of this year’s Jackson Hole Fall Arts Festival, Blackshear is known for his recognizable “Western Nouveau” style. Inspired by the sinuous lines and elegant design quality of Art Nouveau, Blackshear interprets this style for a modern context with Western subject matter, creating something that is at once familiar and unique. His painting Swan Song is being offered at an estimate of $20,000-$30,000. 

AD: And finally, can you share with our readers your top three favorites in this sale, and why they catch your eye – or heart?

Webb: It’s always so hard to choose a favorite! I would have to say Bob Kuhn’s Red Fox Airborne is definitely one of my favorites this year. Kuhn was a master at depicting wildlife, but he truly excelled at capturing foxes. They were one of his personal favorite subjects, and they’re mine as well. This piece has been in a private collection since it was painted in 1994, and this is the first time it will be offered publicly for sale. 

Red Fox Airborne by Bob Kuhn. Photo courtesy of Jackson Hole Art Auction.
Red Fox Airborne by Bob Kuhn. Photo courtesy of Jackson Hole Art Auction. 

John Coleman’s bronze 1876, Gall – Sitting Bull – Crazy Horse also calls to me. This is a life-size sculpture, which depicts these three legendary chiefs seated next to one another. One word comes to mind when I stand in front of this piece—powerful. Scale is so important in how we relate to a work of art, and there’s something undeniably impactful about a life-size bronze, especially when it’s a figural work. This size was cast in a limited edition of 5, and we’re offering this piece at an estimate of $80,000 to $120,000.

And three’s a charm with Oscar E. Berninghaus’ The Lookout. A founding member of the Taos Society of Artists, Berninghaus is best known for his depictions of the Taos Pueblo from 1925 to 1950. This piece is somewhat atypical for him, as it’s a cowboy rather than a pueblo subject, but it’s so beautifully done. I’m instantly drawn to the luminous clouds in the background, the subtle blues and greens throughout, and the soft painterly style. 

For more information on the September 19, 2020, Jackson Hole Art Auction event featuring masterworks of the American West, please visit the Jackson Hole Art Auction website.