Fritz Scholder auction results demonstrate strong Western art market

As a chaotic 2020 entered its final weeks, a spectacular evolution was taking place in the Western art world. Two paintings by the influential – and controversial – Fritz Scholder (1937-2005) sold for a grand total of more than $354,000.

The individual sale price of Indian Messiah, 1975 and Indian on a Blue Horse, 1975 placed the paintings in second and third place respectively in the artist’s record book for highest prices achieved at auction. 

The two paintings are part of an increasingly popular group of paintings by Scholder titled “Indian Series,” which ran from 1967-1980. An extraordinary book titled, “Super Indian: Fritz Scholder 1967-1980,” explores this essential period of Scholder’s artistic practice – and contemporary Western art – and makes a critical addition to every serious Western art library.

Fritz Scholder was an enrolled member of the Luiseno tribe whose popularity and collectability are growing by the day. In his early years, he studied with the colorful American contemporary artist Wayne Thiebaud in Sacramento. If you don’t recognize Thiebaud’s name, you have surely seen his paintings. He’s the guy who paints cakes and pies and desserts.

In 1964, Scholder became an instructor himself at the then recently opened Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe.

Fritz Scholder auction results in 2020

Fritz Scholder, Indian on a Blue Horse, 1975, image courtesy Heritage Auctions

On October 29, 2020 at the Hindman “Western Painting and Sculpture” auction in Denver, lot number 167, titled Indian Messiah, 1975, hammered for a grand total $192,000 with fees. The result was almost five times the auction company’s high estimate of $40,000 for the 80×68 inch oil on canvas painting.

Five weeks later in Dallas, an 80×68 inch oil on canvas titled Indian on a Blue Horse, 1975 hammered for an astounding $162,500 at Heritage Auction.

Impressive as these numbers are, they are still tens of thousands of dollars off the artist’s auction record high price of $222,300. That figure was reached with a painting titled Dartmouth Portrait #14 on January 19, 2018 in Scottsdale, Arizona, at the Scottsdale Art Auction “Leanin’ Tree Museum Auction.”

Fritz Scholder, Dartmouth Painting #14

While these prices put Scholder’s original paintings out of reach for most art lovers, a first edition copy of “Fritz Scholder: Paintings,” provides a deep look into the artist’s output and makes a dramatic statement as a coffee table book.

I believe this is merely the beginning. Not only for Fritz Scholder, but for the many talented and hungry living artists who are creating work under the umbrella of Western art.

A major reason for this is the power of social media expanding the reach of these artists, and curators of their work, with the click of a button.

The Western art scene is strong. The people are great. The market is growing, diversifying and reaching new highs every day.

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