The Eddie Basha Collection: A Selection of Western American Art
Los Angeles, CA
Eddie Basha was a colorful force in Arizona for decades. He was the chairman and CEO of the Bashas’ grocery store chain, a candidate for Arizona governor in 1994, a frequent television personality, prominent philanthropist and devoted collector of Western art. When he died in 2013, Basha left more than 3,000 works of art, certainly one of the largest collections of contemporary Western art in the country, easily accessible for a new generation of Western enthusiasts to appreciate.
On November 25 in Los Angeles, Bonhams will offer bidders a chance to own 70 works of art from the collection, including many pieces from Cowboys Artists of America members. The works being offered were previously on view at the Zelma Basha Salmeri Gallery of Western American & American Indian Art within the Bashas’ corporate headquarters in Chandler, Arizona. Admission is today, and always has been, free.
Tammy Fontaine worked closely with Basha as he built the collection, and today she’s the director of the Zelma Basha Salmeri Gallery, named after Basha’s aunt, who helped inspire him to appreciate and collect art. Because
of the collection’s vast size, she sees the auction as an opportunity to re-curate the gallery. “There is so much art on the walls. So much that people would come in and walk through and the first thing out of their mouth after they went through was how overwhelming it all was. There was simply too much,” Fontaine says, adding that the gallery will stay open and will even be publishing a book about the collection in 2020. “I’m excited these pieces will be offered to people who appreciate Western art as much as Eddie did, and I’m excited we can freshen up the gallery for new and returning visitors.”
Bonhams, which handled the L.D. “Brink” Brinkman Collection earlier this year, will take key selections from the
Basha Collection and preview them around the world, including Germany and Hong Kong, and in the United States in Wyoming, Oklahoma and New York.
“Eddie always wanted as many people as possible to experience the American West, its rich history and the many cultures through the art he collected,” says Nadine Mathis Basha, on behalf of the Basha
family. “He would be extremely proud to know that his passion for art, for the history of the West, for its land and its people were to be shared in both Asia and Germany.”
Scot M. Levitt, director of fine arts at Bonhams, says that traveling the paintings around the world has a two-fold mission: to promote the sale and to promote the gallery in Chandler. “It’s a great way to preview the sale and also highlight the gallery, which will continue to exist and show Eddie Basha’s collection,” Levitt says, adding that the sale will feature works by artists who were close friends with the collector. “We have great examples from John Clymer, Howard Terpning and Tom Lovell—truly remarkable examples. And also works from Joe Beeler, who was a dear friend of Eddie’s.”
Works in the sale include two major Terpning paintings: Crows in the Yellostone (est. $400/600,000), a piece from 1990 that was exhibited and sold at the 25th annual CAA sale in Phoenix; and My Medicine is Strong (est. $300/500,000), a piece that was shown a decade later at the 35th annual CAA show, also in Phoenix. “When you look at the detail and composition you immediately see why Terpning’s works sell the way they do. He’s always a main attraction and the proof is right there in the paint,” Levitt says.
The Lovell work being offered is
Quicksand – Horsehead Crossing, a work from 1976 that is estimated at $150,000 to $250,000. The image depicts a band of Comanche Indians at the infamous Horsehead Crossing, “one of the few fordable points on the Pecos River in Texas during the 19th century,” according to Bonhams. “It was the closest watering hole within a 60-miles radius of the desert, but deadly for its quicksand and high salinization. Horsehead Crossing was named for the foreboding horse skulls that marked its banks. A Comanche leader is shown testing the river with the end of his lance and safeguarding the new way for his party.”
Martin Grelle’s 1996 oil Warrior will be offered with an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. Also in the sale are a number of exceptional Clymer paintings: The White Buffalo (est. $150/250,000), Lord of the Plains (est. $100/150,000), Big Horn Sheep (est. $70/90,000) and The Big Long Tail (est. $30/50,000). Clymer and Basha were especially close friends, and Basha frequently visited the studio of the painter.
Levitt says the collection says a lot about the man who brought the artworks together. “When you look at the whole collection it seems to me that it was brought together by someone who is obviously very passionate about Western art and knew these artists personally. He did not collect them to turn them around to sell them one day. He sincerely loved these artists and their work,” Levitt says. “Anyone who buys that much material and supports a range of CA artists so broadly, you know they are super passionate about Western art.”
Howard Terpning, Crows in the Yellowstone, 1990, oil on canvas, 44 x 32” Estimate: $400/600,000 Estimate: $300/500,000
Howard Terpning, My Medicine is Strong, 2000, oil on canvas, 33 x 44”
John Clymer (1907-1989), The White Buffalo, 1972, oil on canvas, 20 x 40” Estimate: $150/250,000
Martin Grelle, Warriors, 1996, oil on linen, 40 x 60” Estimate: $200/300,000
Tom Lovell (1909-1997), Quicksand – Horsehead Crossing, 1976, oil on Masonite, 24 x 40” Estimate: $150/250,000
John Clymer (1907-1989), Lord of the Plains, 1987, oil on Masonite, 15 x 30” Estimate: $100/150,000
John Clymer (1907-1989), Big Horn Sheep, oil on Masonite, 30 x 40” Estimate: $70/90,000
John Clymer (1907-1989), The Big Long Tail, oil on Masonite, 24 x 40” Estimate: $30/50,000