Anderson Ranch ready for auction | AspenTimes.com

Anderson Ranch ready for auction

Stewart Oksenhorn
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Courtesy of the artist"Talking-to," acrylic on kaolin panel, by Judith Raphael, is part of the silent auction at the Anderson Ranch Annual Art Auction, being held Saturday in Snowmass Village.

SNOWMASS VILLAGE – Hunter O’Hanian is planning to leave the valley on Sunday, his three-year tenure as president of Snowmass Village’s Anderson Ranch Arts Center at an end. His mood as he drives off figures to be one of contentment: Looking in the rear-view mirror, he believes he left Anderson Ranch a stronger place, especially in terms of the organization’s programs and bonds with the larger community. On the horizon is a plum job as vice president at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, a position that he says is the reason he is leaving Snowmass and that, as a bonus, returns him to Boston.

The one wild card that might alter his mood for the drive east is how things go down Saturday at Anderson Ranch. The Annual Art Auction, the organization’s biggest fund-raising event and its most high-profile community event, is set for Saturday, with registration for the auction at 11 a.m., the community picnic at 11:30 a.m., and the live auction, conducted by Jim Chaffin, beginning at 1:30 p.m. There is also a silent auction. It is the final event of O’Hanian’s presidency at the Ranch.

In years past, the Ranch hands had a pretty good feel for how much money would be generated by the event, and on occasion they were pleasantly surprised by final tally. This year’s auction, the 29th, is the first since the economic slide hit its pace last fall, and the conventional wisdom has it that the sector being hit hardest are luxury items. Like fine art.

“This is going to be an interesting year,” said O’Hanian. “Clearly the market is softer than in the past. It goes without saying that the art market, like every other market in the last nine months, has been affected. In galleries, art fairs, auctions like this, there has to have been some softening.”

Even aside from the recent, fortuitously timed surge in the stock market, O’Hanian is finding reason for optimism. He notes that the recession has not yet resulted in the mass shuttering of local galleries; instead, he has seen “robust shows” and “lots of ‘sold’ signs” at Aspen’s art dealers. The advance interest in the auction does not seem to have tapered off in his eyes. The official value of the art donated – based on prices given by the artists and other donors – is $630,000. That figure is not only healthy by historical standards – the auction has brought in approximately half a million dollars in recent years – but is one O’Hanian sees as in line with reality.

“As long as there’s interest and fair prices, we should be able to hit our numbers,” he said.

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If the economy does hit the auction hard, a different set of people might be pleased: bargain hunters who are able to take home pieces of art at unusually low prices. O’Hanian said the art is intended to be sold, with virtually no pieces subject to a minimum bid. In addition, Anderson Ranch has always aimed to make at least some auction items accessible to collectors of modest means; this year’s event features, in the silent auction, works for as little as $100 (Hally McGehean’s “Yes We Can, Obama Bag”). This may be a banner year for low-end shoppers.

“It’s a good opportunity to get something,” said O’Hanian. “In this market and environment, something that might go when people are feeling more flush could be available.”

There are also works at the high end, including a Damien Hirst print. “I Once Was What You Are, You Will Be What I Am,” which retails at $18,000; a pair of untitled black and white photos by Cindy Sherman ($4,000 for the set); and “Cindy,” Chuck Close’s Daguerreotype of Sherman, whose estimated retail value is $35,000. (Sherman was the recipient of Anderson Ranch’s Artist Award this year.)

Regardless of the number of dollars brought in Saturday, O’Hanian can be satisfied that artists continue to support the Ranch by donating work. The silent auction, with some 225 pieces, is the biggest ever, and required an expanded exhibition space.

stewart@aspentimes.com