Cody Art Show Has National Appeal As Auction Expected To Fetch More Than $1.2 Million

The annual Buffalo Bill Art Show and Sale kicks off one of the most prestigious Western art events in the nation. This year its auction is expected to fetch more than $1.2 million.

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Andrew Rossi

August 21, 20234 min read

"Sounds of the Night," a bronze sculpture by Powell-based sculptor Vic Payne, at the entrance of the Bunker Sands Gallery at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. This piece is one of 104 pieces of art included in the 42nd Annual Buffalo Bill Art Show and Sale.
"Sounds of the Night," a bronze sculpture by Powell-based sculptor Vic Payne, at the entrance of the Bunker Sands Gallery at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. This piece is one of 104 pieces of art included in the 42nd Annual Buffalo Bill Art Show and Sale. (Andrew Rossi, Cowboy State Daily)

CODY — The first thing people saw upon entering the gallery is a young woman with a lantern in one hand and a double-barreled shotgun in the other.

The life-sized bronze sculpture, "Sounds of the Night" by Vic Payne of Powell was one of several works by Wyoming artists that would soon be on the auction block.

In another month, art enthusiasts will compete with each other to add "Sounds of the Night" to their collectionsduring one of the most prestigious art auctions in the United States.

The 42nd annual Buffalo Bill Art Show and Sale started with drinks and hors d'oeuvres in the John Bunker Sands Gallery in the Buffalo Bill Center of the West on Friday. People strolled past dozens of pieces of fine art, eyeing works they might want to acquire during next month's live auction.

The Buffalo Bill Art Show and Sale is a partnership between the Cody Country Chamber of Commerce and Buffalo Bill Center of the West that this year features 104 pieces of fine art from 104 artists working in the mediums of painting, sculpture and furniture.

"When people ask me which artist is my favorite, I say I have 104 favorites. They all contribute from their heart and soul," said Kathy Thompson, director of the Buffalo Bill Art Show and Sale for the last 16 years.

The two-day event is part of the annual Rendevous Royale Week in Cody, which includes the center’s annual Patron's Ball and Downtown Cody Art Walk. Since hundreds of people travel to Cody to participate, it has made the Buffalo Bill Art Show and Sale an important off-season event for the region.

Pete Trippi, editor-in-chief of the magazine Fine Art Connoisseur, reviews "Dusk on the Lower Salt River" by Nicholas Coleman of Provo, Utah. The painting won "The Spirit of the Buffalo Bill Art Show" award, considered "the top award" of the annual art show.
Pete Trippi, editor-in-chief of the magazine Fine Art Connoisseur, reviews "Dusk on the Lower Salt River" by Nicholas Coleman of Provo, Utah. The painting won "The Spirit of the Buffalo Bill Art Show" award, considered "the top award" of the annual art show. (Andrew Rossi, Cowboy State Daily)

Variations On Western Themes

Several styles were represented in the show, from traditional landscapes and animal portraits to "Life In Balance," a kinetic sculpture consisting of a sphere of steel cutouts of Western animals that spin back and forth on a pedestal.

"Great Plains: Mule Deer," a faux taxidermy piece by Dolan Geiman, became a subject of artistic inquiry. It’s a mounted deer head constructed with wire, but the antlers drew the most attention.

"We can't decide if the antlers are real or made out of wire," a pair of patrons said to William Pete Emmons. "They look really good."

Emmons couldn't decide either.

"Collectively, in this room, we probably have a million brush strokes and thousands of hours of sculpting, molding, casting and carving. That is so amazing," said Rebecca West, executive director of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. "This truly is a show that shows us the West is represented through myth, reality, imagination and inspiration in the past and the present."

William Pete Emmons contemplates "Great Plains: Mule Deer" by Denver artist Dolan Geiman. Every piece included in the Buffalo Bill Art Show and Sale comes from a contemporary Western artist. Many artists attend the live auction in September to see how high the bidding goes for their art.
William Pete Emmons contemplates "Great Plains: Mule Deer" by Denver artist Dolan Geiman. Every piece included in the Buffalo Bill Art Show and Sale comes from a contemporary Western artist. Many artists attend the live auction in September to see how high the bidding goes for their art. (Andrew Rossi, Cowboy State Daily)

High-End Art

During last year’s auction, 96 pieces sold for more than $1.079 million. Another $100,000 of art was sold during the Quick Draw Auction.

The combined appraisal value of all 104 pieces in this year's live auction is more than $1.24 million.

But the opening reception was more than just a social showcase. The winners of the art show's awards were unveiled by one of the three judges for this year's show, Peter Trippi, an esteemed art historian and editor-in-chief of the art collectors' magazine Fine Art Connoisseur.

The judges decided on four awards for excellence and one each for the best three-dimensional and two-dimensional pieces. The top honor is the "The Spirit of the Buffalo Bill Art Show" award, which went to Nicholas Coleman for his painting "Dusk on the Lower Salt River."

Most Western art auctions feature works from American masters, like sculptor James Earle Fraser and painter/sculptor Frederic Remington. The Buffalo Bill Art Show and Sale is renowned for exclusively featuring contemporary Western artists, some of whom attended the opening reception.

Thompson knows each artist personally and notified award winners as soon as the judges decided.

"Kathy, in her inimitable way, was able to reach each individual artist who won an award today. She put them on speakerphone so we were able to hear their excitement. It is a reminder of how meaningful these honors are," Trippi said.

Thompson has been bringing high school students to the gallery, hoping to inspire them to pursue their artistic passions.

"One of my artists told me, 'In my culture, we have seven generations behind us, and we have a responsibility to pass something meaningful along to seven generations ahead of us." It's true. Every piece of art has a story. What is the artist trying to tell you? We want to know what they're looking for in passing that on to their kids and families," she said.

The art gallery for the Buffalo Bill Art Show and Sale is open until the day before the live auction Sept. 22.

Andrew Rossi can be reached at arossi@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Andrew Rossi

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