For a weekend in September, the center of the Western art world was Cody, Wyoming, and its famous Buffalo Bill Art Show and Sale, which this year raised more than $1.3 million for local charities.
Of the 103 pieces included in the live, quick draw and silent auctions, 91% sold on the spot to benefit the Cody Country Chamber of Commerce and Buffalo Bill Center of the West.
“We are extremely grateful for the generosity and support of our Cody community, including our patrons, partners, sponsors, employees, volunteers, vendors, and art media outlets who went above and beyond to make this a successful 42nd Show & Sale,” said chamber Chief Executive Officer EJ House.
Less Is Still More
The total amount raised was a slight dip from previous shows. For instance, last year’s 41st Buffalo Bill Art Show and Sale in 2022 raised $1.6 million, while the 2021 show raised $1.5 million.
Kathy Thompson, director of the show and sales for the last 16 years, said it’s not all about beating previous totals. It’s a world-class celebration of Western art and Cody, Wyoming.
“You can’t compare the shows to each other. The magic is being in the tent with friends, family, artists, and patrons who love the arts,” she told Cowboy State Daily. “That’s the magic of what we do. As far as the money is concerned, I don’t judge anyone’s pocketbook.”
Nevertheless, the Buffalo Bill Art Show and Sale continues to be a strong-performing, million-dollar event attracting art enthusiasts from across the nation to northwest Wyoming every September.
With 103 pieces of art on the auction block, everyone’s curious about how much each is worth and how much someone might be willing to pay for them. Even the artists get excited about the electrifying back-and-forth of the live auction, as more than 70 artists attended the 2023 event.
Here are the 10 highest-selling works from this year’s show along with information about them and the artists.
‘Smoke on the North Fork’ by Brandon Bailey
Oil, 24x44.5 inches: $19,000
“In hostile times and country, the mistake of allowing too much smoke from a fire could create unwanted attention. By having the smoke obstructed by the trees, I wanted to give the warriors pause and thought on what the actual cause of the fire might be,” Bailey said.
Before becoming a professional artist, Bailey rode bulls for the Laramie County Community College rodeo team.
‘The River and the Rodeo, Cody’ by Donald Demers
Oil, 30x25 inches: $19,500
"My dedication to the practice of painting on location is based upon my essential need to have direct contact with my subject in a multisensory awareness, and to seek the truth in my subject through what I phrase, visual veracity,” Demers said. “When your understanding of your subject reaches a requisite level, you are then liberated to explore your subject through your own artistic voice; your own subjective truth.”
‘Maternal’ by David Frederick Riley
Oil, 48x48 inches: $19,500
“For my piece this year, I painted Grizzly 399, the most famous brown bear mother in the world,” Riley said. “I wanted to depict her with her four cubs from 2020 and express the protective and maternal instincts that create all life on earth, She is keenly aware of your presence but steadfast in hers. Her four cubs show a range of emotions: mild curiosity, protectiveness, and the mirroring of mom. I used mineral spirits and dry brushing to create an ethereal, atmospheric quality to the painting.”
David Frederick Riley’s painting of a bison, “American Dream,” was the highest-selling piece during the 2023 Quick Draw Live Auction, selling for $19,000.
‘Quiet Reflections’ by Steve Devenyns
Oil, 24x18 inches: $20,000
“In today’s world, it’s easy to become distracted by the surrounding turmoil,” Devenyns said. “This painting reflects life in general. The challenge was to contrast the busy, detailed background with the peace and serenity of the cowboy, his horse and the tranquil water.”
‘Nevada Gothic’ by David Dibble
Oil, 40x40 inches: $25,000
“Nevada Gothic” is an exploration of the light and life of farmers and ranchers in the shadow of the Ruby Mountains near Elko, Nevada. More broadly, it is a formal portrait of our interaction with the land and the animals that are a part of that symbiotic relationship.
‘Dusk on the Lower Salt River’ by Nicholas Coleman
Oil, 36x72 inches: $25,000
With evidence of more than 12,000 years of prehistoric occupation in Wyoming, it’s difficult to separate art from the daily life of American Indians and his religious from daily life. They are tightly interwoven. Coleman’s painting won the 2023 Spirit of the Buffalo Bill Art Show and Sale Award, selected each year by a panel of three Western artists and renowned art experts.
‘Speed Dating’ by Dustin Van Wechel
Oil, 24x48 inches: $27,500.
“Pronghorns are an extraordinary staple of the West,” Van Wechel said. “To me, they almost appear exotic — as if they were placed here from some African savanna. Their athletic build, graceful lines and unique markings make them a favorite subject of mine.”
‘Horse Power’ by Santiago Michalek
Oil, 48x96 inches: $27,500.
“Horse Power” shows an epically treacherous predicament. Heavy horses and their drivers must pull the broken-down train off the mountain before an impending storm. The artist said he’s been fascinated by photos of draft horses pulling trains and wanted to create his own interpretation.
Michalek’s painting won the 2023 People’s Choice Award.
‘Crow Indians on Magpie Creek’ by Kevin Red Star
Mixed Media, 36x60 inches: $32,500
Mounted warriors at an overlook along Magpie Creek are featured as they watch approaching invaders. The Crow warriors are carrying their battle gear and coup sticks protecting Crow land in the early 1800s in the Montana Yellowstone River area.
In addition to being the highest-selling painting in this year's show, the work won one of three Judge’s Awards of Excellence.
‘Sounds of the Night’ by Vic Payne
Bronze sculpture, 68x40x6 inches: $ 45,000
Payne’s admiration for the women in his family's Western history led him to create a sculpture that pays tribute to the often-overlooked Pioneer woman. “Sounds of the Night” portrays a woman who has been shaped and strengthened by enduring the hardships of frontier life while shaping the history and culture of the untamed American frontier.
Payne won one of three Judge's Awards of Excellence for this year's show. His historical scultpure "The Gift" won the Premier Platinum Award at the 32nd Buffalo Bill Art Show and Sale in 2013.
Andrew Rossi can be reached at email@example.com.