The Missoula Art Museum hit a record on Saturday during its Benefit Art Auction.
The event, held Saturday night, brought in net proceeds of roughly $215,000, according to Laura Millin, the MAM's executive director.
That figure was courtesy of 31 pieces in the live auction, 48 in the silent auction, plus ticket sales, donations, sponsorships and more.
One large factor was a challenge grant from the Drollinger Family Foundation. Initially, it said it would match $50,000, and raised the bar to $60,000 in the midst of the auction and the audience responded with $64,075.
About 430 people attended the auction, held at the University Center Ballroom at the University of Montana. The 47th annual event helps pay for the nonprofit contemporary art museum's programming, including its free admission and its Fifth Grade Art Experience, which brings thousands of area schoolchildren to tour its exhibitions and take part in activities.
The two high-sellers from the live auction, which sold all its works, were by local artists.
George Gogas contributed the latest in his Picasso-meets-Charlie Russell series. As he has for the third year now, he threw President Donald Trump into an Old West scenario for "Judith Basin Encounter: When Charlie and Pablo Knew Donald Would Never Be a Hand."
Auctioneer Johnna Wells, of Benefit Auctions 360, warned that there was "significant" interest in the piece. The piece was valued at $3,000. Bidding started at $1,500 and finished off at $7,250.
Nancy Erickson's "Solitaire" (oil paintsticks on paper) depicts a favorite subject, endangered animals, on a precarious landscape. A polar bear, animated by a palette of yellow, orange, red and purple, strides with purpose across the white ice. It sold for $5,200.
Millin said that Erickson has spent her career "talking about environmental issues and bemoaning the fate of the animal kingdom," a message that's resonating "more and more prominently" today.
After holding off several other bidders, Deb Poteet was the proud owner of "Patagonia Waters," an acrylic on canvas by Missoula artist Hadley Ferguson. The scene, from South America, at first glance could be a river and low, grassy hills from western Montana.
Ferguson is well-known for her large-scale murals, often with researched historical themes. The auctioneer, Wells, noted that the quirky bar-restaurant chain McMenamins hired Ferguson for its locations around her hometown, Portland, Oregon.
Poteet has "so much respect for her," she said, citing another mural closer to home: the sprawling "Women Build Montana" panels in the state Capitol in Helena.
Poteet, who doesn't know Ferguson, went over to the artist's table after the bidding and introduced herself.
Richard Smith's "Enduring Reliquary," a contemplative monolith of stoneware standing just over 3 feet tall, with a small shelf for a small vessel, came with a personal offer from the artist to install it in the buyer's home. (He also gave the piece as a 100 percent donation.) It went for $3,750 to a proxy bidder.
Monte Dolack, who was honored with a Governor's Arts Award last year, set aside surrealism and whimsy for "Oil and Water," a pastel-toned landscape of the industrial skyline on the Missouri River in Great Falls. It sold for $3,300.
Stephanie Frostad's painting, "The Town," of an arm with a house-painting brush dipped in red paint juxtaposed against a white-and-red-striped dress, sold for $2,100.
The live auction was presided over by Wells' rapid-fire voice. The silent auction had 48 pieces. Millin said they changed up the format for a leaner night. People could bid on the second half of the silent auction right up until closing time, and the "Moment of Giving" was after the live auction.
Marlys Boddy's "Punch Line," a ceramic bust, sold for $585. Laura Palmer's oil on canvas, "Escape," sold for $800. Valued at $600, the bidding started at $300. Perhaps the smallest piece in the room, Linda Stoudt's diminutive oil and sharpie on paper, "Penelope Waits," sold for $300, after bidding that started at $100.
The auction marked a public announcement of the its "40 Forward" fundraising campaign. They set goals to help in the next 40 years of the MAM, including a target of $5 million. They've now hit the 83 percent mark at more than $4.2 million.
The money has gone toward museum programs like the Missoula Art Park, more staff members, and outreach to schools in the Bitterroot and the Flathead Indian Reservation and areas in and outside of Missoula County.
Beyond local artists, the auction draws donations from artist around the country, including those who have exhibited work there. Indigenous artists, too, were more prominent in the auction than ever, Millin said.
Monte Yellow Bird's ledger drawing, "Expect A Little Rain on Your Parade," sold for $4,400. Molly Murphy Adams' beaded box, "Red Earth, Blue Sky," sold for $3,600.
Sara Siestreem's "Prince, Straight to Heaven" (mixed media on paper, measuring 70 by 45 inches) is a tribute to the late musical legend. The Portland, Oregon, artist, whose abstract work draws on indigenous art and symbols, including her Hanis Coos heritage, emphasized the Purple One's signature color in the piece, which was placed on stage throughout the auction.
"I'm from that generation. 'Purple Rain' is foundational to my youth," said Brent Campbell, who has bought frequently at the auction in prior years.
"I've made investments at this auction in the past and if you know your prices, and you know your artists, there's some really good investments," he said, noting that art he's bought here before has appreciated well.
Campbell had his eye on the Gogas painting, but eventually decided to back out as it went higher.
"Part of it is getting in and bidding up to the price to where you're comfortable," he said.
Regardless, the auction is a chance to back the museum.
"You support it and you get a piece of art. It's about the support," he said.