Kiechel Auction Brings International Art Sales to Lincoln Gallery
By L. Kent Wolgamott – Lincoln Journal Star
Dale Nichols’ “Evening Star” sits in the spotlights at the entry to the Kiechel Auction showcase gallery, revealing the 1984 painting as the central piece to be auctioned off in June.
One of the last of the David City artist’s signature “red barn farm landscapes,” “Evening Star” is expected to sell for well over its $28,000 reserve at the auction, which will also feature prints and paintings by Harlem Renaissance artist Romare Bearden, whose prices have skyrocketed in the last five years, Bay Area ceramics artist Robert Arneson, sculptor Alexander Calder and printmaker Carol Summers.
But there won’t be bidders with paddles on the third floor of Kiechel Fine Art during the June 29 auction. Nor will there be a tuxedoed auctioneer wielding a hammer to mark the winning bid.
That’s because the auction is being conducted online at kiechelart.com, the Kiechel Auction iPhone app and at several other established auction sites.
“There’s one (gallery) in Scottsdale (Arizona) and one down in Santa Fe (New Mexico) that have done this,” said gallery owner and director Buck Kiechel. “That’s all that I know of. I’ve toyed with doing it for a number of years, really starting with the pandemic. I wanted to do something which could force or drive the market rather than being in a place where you’re putting stuff out there and reacting to somebody’s whims.”
In March, the first Kiechel Auction demonstrated that it could drive the market for the gallery’s inventory, nationally known for mid-20th century Regionalism, and for consigned artwork from estates and collectors.
That auction put up 63 lots of artwork, 55 of which sold. Of the 55, 50 were from out of state. And several hundred people from around the world that the gallery had not had prior contact with participated in the auction.
“We sold a piece to the UK,” Kiechel said. “We had bidders from China. We had bidders from, I think, six or seven different countries that we were receiving bids from prior to the sale. A lot of that is because we’re also putting this not only onto our platform but other auction platforms.”
The auctions have already broadened the market for and knowledge of the gallery in the middle of the country, far from the centers of the art market. But those auctions likely couldn’t be held in New York or Los Angeles, Kiechel said.
“We’re lucky to be in Lincoln, Nebraska,” he said. “We’re able to have the space to do a number of things. I know some of my contemporaries on the East Coast and in big cities are finding it impossible to get a ground floor space and can’t afford larger spaces to do something like this. We have the three-floor gallery, the space to hold and show the work, and the ability to do the auctions.”
The March sale also provided an example of why galleries bring works to auction rather than holding a piece with hope that a collector will purchase through traditional gallery sales.
“There was a particular lot that I would have, at retail, wanted to sell for $12,000 to $15,000,” Kiechel said. “I put it out there for a $4,000 to $6,000 estimate, to try to draw attention to the lot. It ended up selling for almost $40,000. Then there were other things that I thought were going to do much better and, in the end, sold for less.”
Either of those outcomes could happen in June with the most intriguing object in the sale — a small landscape by regionalist Roger Medearis.
“A similar painting to this sold last week at Heritage Auction,” Kiechel said. “It sold for a large amount, about $95,000. It was slightly larger than this one. So we have this one estimated far lower than that. But this one comes directly from the artist’s son and it marks the early period of Medearis’ career, in 1949 when he was a student of Thomas Hart Benton, so who knows.”
In addition to the nationally known artists, the June auctions will include works by Lincoln artists represented by Kiechel Fine Art, including Francisco Souto, Aaron Holz and Keith Jacobshagen.
“Part of the mission of the auction house is to build a national auction record for a lot of our contemporary artists, who don’t yet have one or they sell in museum auctions, where the numbers and results aren’t published to the broader market,” Kiechel said. “We really want to be able to put quality works by these artists on the open market and establish a true value.”
The auction will include lots, some with groups of work, with estimates as low as $100 or $200 — “(just) because it’s not hugely valuable doesn’t mean it’s not good art,” Kiechel said. And, like the Nichols, some pieces will have estimates in the tens of thousands.
Here’s how the auction works:
On Tuesday, the Keichel Auction gallery on the third floor of Kiechel Fine Art, 1208 O St., will open for public viewing and all the works will be posted online and on the app. Pre-bids can be submitted until June 29. Then the auction will be live.
“It starts at three and runs until all the lots have gone through,” Kiechel said. “One of the problems we ran into with our last auction was a timing issue. Trying to get bids from various different sites and then put in the counter bids and wait for the next set of bids to come through. It did take some time. I think we’ve found ways that we can somewhat streamline it. But this auction is going to be larger probably, comprising around 75 lots.”
Kiechel Auction’s fall sale will be featuring contemporary art as the gallery builds on its decades-long evolution of using the internet to market its work.
“My mom, Vivian, started the business in 1986,’ Kiechel said. “She had a website in 1995. She was one of the first to have a website. I think this is the future of the art business, the art market. So we’re trying to do it, using our expertise to run a high-end legitimate art auction.”