Last week end two of the periodic auctions of Western and Southwestern art took place in Santa Fe. Dealers and collectors came from distances short and long and the halls were filled. The bids and prices paid were closely watched by all because in the past couple of years they have been significantly lower than in 2007 and the years leading up to it. At that time, the direction of all sales was up, up and away.
On Saturday, The Santa Fe Art Auction was held at the Santa Fe Convention Center, a beautiful and versatile facility that opened just a couple of years ago. I was interested to note that most of the major dealers except Gerald Peters (whose company puts on the auction) were in attendance. They were not bidding. I think they were there to gauge how much trouble their market is in.
The answer is that it’s not in as much trouble as it was a year ago. Most lots sold and they sold at right about the low estimate. The estimates printed in the catalog were clearly set low in the hope of inveigling bidders into the action.
On Sunday the Altermann Auction was held in the former community center that long served the folks who lived in the Spanish colonial neighborhood along the Acequia Madre–the Mother Ditch which carried water from the canyon to the farms and homes down the valley. Today it is an exclusive part of the city with lovely homes consisting of expanded historic adobes behind adobe walls. The orchards are mostly gone and there are only a few fields extant.
Tony Altermann has a long and distinguished history of mounting fine art auctions in Santa Fe and Scottsdale and they are always worth attending. Today son Richard Altermann is the auction impresario. Again, the offerings were a wide range of historic and contemporary Western and Southwestern art–mostly paintings (no works by Salvador Dali). The biding results were much like those at the Saturday auction. It is wise, I believe, for both dealers to schedule their sales for the same week end so the out of town buyers will find a trip to Santa Fe worthwhile.
So where does the time machine come in?
I have wanted to own a time machine since I was a small, scared boy at a British prep school. I have the mind of a historian and I was trained in graduate school as a historian. I remember dates, names and events and I always try to imagine what it was like in a particular location at a historic time or event. I would love to go back to Runnymede in 1215 when the Earls forced King John to sign the Magna Carta.
This time my thoughts were a bit different. It seemed a perfect time for me to have a time machine so I could bid on a lot of fine paintings, buy them at low prices and then return to the art market of 2006 and sell them all for a whopping profit.