The Russell auction posts record-breaking net results

Art Beat

“Hungry Fox Equinox” by R. Tom Gilleon was purchased by an anonymous buyer, who then
donated the piece to the museum’s permanent collection.

The Russell: An Exhibition and Sale to Benefit the C.M. Russell Museum, which took place March 20-23, netted $1,406,000 for the non-profit Great Falls museum.

With the success of the established events and the addition of several new events, The Russell earned 20% more than the net result for 2013 of $1,167,675, according to Michael Duchemin, executive director of the museum.

The Saturday night live auction of significant historic and contemporary art was the single largest source of revenue for The Russell with a gross total of $5,698,888. Within the net total, $940,530 or 79% came from the live auction. Also during the live auction, the paddle raise accumulated $125,000 in donations that will benefit the museum’s education department and programming.

The second most successful event was Friday afternoon’s Art in Action® quick-finish. One hundred percent of the $201,140 net earnings from Art in Action® was donated by the artists to the museum.

A highlight for Thursday’s silent auction of fine art, objects and experiences was R. Tom Gilleon’s digital piece “Hungry Fox Equinox” that sold for $240,000 to an anonymous buyer, who then donated the piece to the museum’s permanent collection.

This year’s move to the Civic Center allowed the museum to increase capacity and offer new events. New to the lineup for 2014 were the Concert to Benefit the C.M. Russell Museum featuring Emmylou Harris; and the First Strike Friday Night Auction, which proved to be very popular with new art collectors.

“The new venue and events proved their worth both with the earnings for The Russell and with the popularity of our patrons,” said Duchemin. “The Russell and all the other art events in town make Western Art Week in Great Falls comparable to other major western art festivals and auctions in the nation – similar to Jackson, Santa Fe, and Scottsdale. The entire community should be proud of this accomplishment.”

The funds raised from The Russell will go toward the approximately $2.5 million annual operating budget for the museum. “We are extremely pleased with the final numbers from The Russell. The support is crucial not only to keep our doors open, but also to bring world-class exhibitions to the museum, like ‘George Catlin’s American Buffalo,’ which will open May 31,” said Duchemin.

The funds also enable the museum to restore and reinterpret the Russell home and log studio in 2014, in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Charles M. Russell’s birth. The money also helps upgrade the facility.

The dates for next year’s auction are March 19-22, 2015. For more information, visit