Auction of Forrest Fenn's prized collection set for June 9 - Albuquerque Journal

Auction of Forrest Fenn’s prized collection set for June 9

Lot 379 is the Sioux Twisted Pipe Stem with Catlinite Bowl, Belonging to Sitting Bull. It is part of the auction featuring Forrest Fenn’s collection. (Courtesy of Hindman)

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With his 2010 memoir, “The Thrill of the Chase,” Forrest Fenn set off a massive treasure hunt that saw nearly 350,000 people seek the riches.

The treasure was found shortly before Fenn’s death in 2020.

The Santa Fe art and artifact dealer also spent a lifetime collecting.

On June 9, the first of two auctions will take place by Hindman with “Native American Art: The Lifetime Collection of Forrest Fenn.”

Bidding will begin at 10 a.m. Eastern time on June 9, at

The second auction will take place in the fall.

“We are proud to be presenting this truly renowned collection from a man who has left his mark on the collecting community with his enthusiasm and playfulness for the objects and the industry,” said Danica Farnand, Hindman’s vice president for Native American Art. “Fenn was a celebrated figure within both the Native American and Western Art collecting worlds, and the auction offers bidders a unique opportunity to acquire works from a fabled collector.”

Farnand said the collection exemplifies both a lifetime of passion for Native American art, while also demonstrating Fenn’s enthusiasm for discovery and history.

Fenn began collecting at a young age, exploring the plains of Texas and the mountains of Montana searching for arrowheads.

After retiring from the Air Force, Fenn established Arrowsmith-Fenn Gallery, among the first galleries in Santa Fe, with his partner Rex Arrowsmith. It eventually became Fenn Gallery.

The gallery became incredibly successful, offering a range of Native American art such as artifacts, paintings and bronze sculptures, and attracting legendary names. The gallery was also known for championing the then-almost forgotten Taos School of Southwestern Artists.

The 168-lot auction will consist of pottery and baskets, many in uniquely impressive sizes. Rare photography, dolls, beadwork and Plains material will also be offered.

Top lots include a Sioux twisted pipe stem with catlinite bowl that belonged to Sitting Bull (lot 379; estimate: $60,000-$80,000) and a 19th century Sioux grizzly bear claw necklace (lot 380; estimate: $40,000-$60,000).

“I was in awe of the impressive array of huge Pueblo storage jars lining shelves 20 feet above the floor of Fenn’s den in his Santa Fe home,” said Wes Cowan, Hindman vice chair. “Beadwork from various Plains tribes filled two entire walls, and a table displayed a collection of rare Plains dolls. The collection spilled over to the floor, under tables, and over doorways.”

The auction will also have some rare photographs, with the majority taken by the firm of William J. Lenny and William L. Sawyers, who operated a photo studio in Purcell, Oklahoma, in the late 1880s and early 1890s.

It is thought that Fenn acquired many of these images from the estate of famed Western painter Joseph Henry Sharp.

A group of 19 significant images of the Kwahadi Comanche leader Quanah Parker (lot 301; estimate $10,000-$15,000), who emerged as a war leader in the early 1870s and became one of the best known Native American leaders of the 19th and early 20th centuries will also be offered.

A collection of Quanah Parker (1845-1911) photographs. (Courtesy of Hindman)

Fenn was noted for his collection of Pueblo pottery and this portion of the auction is expected to draw significant interest.

Among the highlights are a number of monumentally sized storage jars, including a pair of large Cochiti pottery storage jars (lots 444 & 445; estimate for each: $20,000-$30,000) from 1860, measuring 18½ inches in height by 20 inches in diameter and 18½ inches in height by 19 inches in diameter.

Farnand said Fenn authored “Historic American Indian Dolls” and a number of examples from this publication are offered in the sale.

A rare Wasco or Yakima beaded pictorial hide doll cradle, with doll (lot 351; estimate: $15,000-$25,000), a pair of Cheyenne beaded hide dolls from 1890 (lot 321; estimate: $8,000-$10,000) and a 19th century Western Apache beaded hide doll (lot 317; estimate: $5,000-$7,000) are expected to see intense competition among bidders.

Fenn was also widely known for his collection of Southern Plains beaded strike-a-lite pouches, and the sale includes some of his most sought-after examples.

Other beaded items include a selection of moccasins, knife sheaths, pouches and tobacco bags. A pair of Kiowa beaded hide leggings from the studio of Western artist Henry Balink (lot 307; estimate: $5,000-$7,000) should be a standout.

Lot 380 is the Sioux Grizzly Bear Claw Necklace. (Courtesy of Hindman)
Large Cochiti Pottery Storage Jar. (Courtesy of Hindman)
Rare Wasco or Yakima Beaded Pictorial Hide Doll Cradle, with Doll. (Courtesy of Hindman)
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