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Contemporary and traditional Western art goes up for grabs

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Big Sky Art Auction returns to PBR week


By Sarah Gianelli EBS Associate Editor

BIG SKY – After the success of the inaugural Big Sky Art Auction, which kicked off last year’s Big Sky PBR festivities, the Outlaw Partners (publisher of EBS) are again partnering with Colin Mathews of Creighton Block Gallery to present a high-caliber Western art auction under the Golden Buckle tent at the PBR arena on Thursday, July 27, from 5 to 7 p.m. 

This year, the auction is expanding to include approximately 50 works of contemporary and traditional Western art from 30 regional artists, six of whom have been designated members of the C.M. Russell Museum Skull Society, an honor that places them securely among the finest living Western artists.

Among these heavy-hitters are R. Tom Gilleon who will have two Native American portraits in the auction; Kevin Red Star, a Crow Indian whose work is housed by the Smithsonian Institution; and landscape and historical scene painters Todd Connor, Frank Hagel and Laurie Stevens.

This year, in response to community interest, Mathews is introducing more contemporary art to the Big Sky Art Auction. The unflinching multimedia explorations of race and culture by up-and-coming Crow artist Ben Pease will be represented. The auction will also include the stylized art-deco paintings of Robert Ransom, abstracted landscapes by Babbie Burrows, Brenna Tyler’s spindly bronze equine sculpture, and work by Andrew Denman that juxtaposes vintage wallpaper patterns with realistic wildlife imagery.

“People want landscapes, Native American art, and Montana historical-themed work,” Mathews said. “But people have also expressed an interest in abstract expressionist or other contemporary genre work. This event is unique because it offers a balance of both.”

There will also be some one-of-a-kind home décor pieces like bronze trout door handles and a hand-painted deerskin.

Together there will be more than $500,000 worth of paintings, sculpture, photography and decorative items available during the evening, with auction values ranging from an estimated $2,500 to $70,000 for individual pieces. 

“Auctions are fun, entertaining and exciting,” Mathews said. “And they present opportunities to purchase fine art for good value.” 

One piece that Mathews is particularly excited about is an 1866 etching by James Smillie of a famous 1863 painting by German-American artist Albert Bierstadt, who was renowned for his sweeping renditions of the American West. The original oil painting, “The Rocky Mountains, Lander’s Peak,” currently resides in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Mathews has also acquired two understated, but exquisitely rendered paintings by wildlife artist David Maass depicting ruffed grouse in a snowy, aspen forest that after a few moments of contemplation seems to go on forever. 

“That’s going to mean something to somebody,” Mathews said.

The second annual Big Sky Art Auction will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, July 27 in the Big Tent at the PBR arena in Big Sky Town Center. Light appetizers and a cash bar will be available. The event is free and open to the public.

Visit to view the auction catalog. All items are subject to withdrawal or prior sale.

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