Thrift Shop of Aspen eyes the art of the deal

Michael McLaughlin
The Aspen Times
A stained-glass piece of art commissioned by the ex-wife of former Aspen resident Leon Uris and a large collection of records that include artists like Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and The Beatles are some of the items that will be up for sale at the Aspen Thrift Shop Art Sale on Sept. 27.
Michael McLaughlin/The Aspen Times |

If You Go ...

What: The Thrift Shop of Aspen art sale

When: Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; preview Thursday 10 a.m. to noon

Where: Red Brick Center for the Arts, 110 E. Hallam

Do you wish you could be one of those bargain hunters on the PBS television show “Antiques Roadshow” who discover they own expensive pieces of art? Then you may want to make plans to be in Aspen this weekend.

The Thrift Shop of Aspen is having an art sale at the Red Brick Center for the Arts from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, with a preview from 10 a.m. to noon Friday.

“There are items we’ll have at the sale that we have no idea of the value,” said Katherine Sand, the chair of the grants committee at the Thrift Shop. “The value of those items will be determined by the buyers.”

The idea to hold an art sale started when a woman brought in a unique piece of art that Sand could see was special and unusual. It was a multi-framed piece of stained-glass art that Sand didn’t feel comfortable leaving at the Thrift Shop.

“I didn’t want it to get broken or sold without really knowing what it was,” she said. “So I took it home to research it.”

What she discovered was that the piece was commissioned by Jill Uris, the ex-wife of local author Leon Uris, apparently for his 50th birthday.

“It was made by Margaret and Dwayne Johnson,” Sand said. “They owned a studio called Wildweed. Each panel of stained glass represents a book written by Uris. There’s an inscription that says, ‘Love, Jill,’ and is dated Aug. 3, 1974, which was Leon’s birthday. This item is very unique to Aspen.”

At the same time Sand was researching the stained-glass art, several large donations of art came in to the Thrift Shop, including items from Anderson Ranch and the Aspen Valley Foundation.

“They each gave us a few pieces,” Sand said. “But they were large, framed paintings, and we have no proper place to sell them at the Thrift Shop.”

Sand had the art put into the Thrift Shop’s already-crowded storage unit. When it was decided it was time to sell some of the items in the unit, the idea of a separate art sale made sense.

For the past few weeks, Sand and others have been putting together items for the art sale as well as doing whatever research they can on the art itself.

“We have a few items we feel should be sold through a silent auction,” Sand said. “We’ll set a minimum and see how the community reacts.”

Besides the Uris stained-glass art, other items Sand said should cause some excitement are a painting referred to as “Picasso’s Cat,” by Hollywood producer and artist Gant Gaither. There’s also an extensive record collection with music that spans several decades.

“A gentleman donated his late uncle’s collection to us,” Sand said. “His uncle was disabled and obviously loved music. The range of artists is incredible, from Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Johnny Cash and Pat Boone to Broadway musicals and some classic jazz.”

Diane Wallace, co-president of the Thrift Shop, said all the funds made from the sale would go back to the Roaring Fork Valley community. The Thrift Shop’s goal this year was to donate at least $500,000 to valley nonprofits and scholarship awards to high school students. Wallace said the store would not only hit that mark but exceed it.

“From the community and back to the community,” Wallace said. “A lot of people are surprised to learn we make almost all our money from sheer volume. We don’t sell many expensive items. A $100 sale is huge for us. We make our money with lots of smaller purchases. Just because we don’t sell expensive stuff doesn’t mean we don’t get it. I’m quite sure somebody is going to find a real treasure at our sale.”