There are many reasons for an art collector to collect. Perhaps they get a thrill from owning a piece of history. Maybe they have a personal connection to the artists in their collection. But more often than not, it seems an art collector buy art because it speaks to them. These are pieces they connect with mentally and emotionally. This art stirs their soul. It is as much a reflection of the collector as it is the artist who created it.
“I like the heritage of the West,” says Al Bell, owner and operator of Montana Art and Bronze.
Born and raised in northern Wyoming, Bell has always had a passion for horses. As a kid, he had dreams of being a bronc rider, but after getting trampled at 16, he decided breeding might be the better bet. For Bell, it absolutely was. He and his wife, Joyce, raised Medaglia d’Oro (“Gold Medal” in Italian), a racing stallion with the Midas touch. Medaglia d’Oro had a total of 17 starts with eight wins. He placed second seven times, and came in fourth at the Kentucky Derby (for total race earnings of $5,754,720). More impressively, his offspring have won more than 130 stakes races (over 20 in grade/group 1). Medaglia d’Oro is one of only four horses in thoroughbred history to sire seven grade 1 winners in a year.
“I’m a student of pedigrees. I always tell people you can do all the right things, but in the end, you’ve got to have some luck running with ya,” says Bell.
The same could be said of artists.
Over a lifetime of running in Western circles, the Bells have met and bought art from some of the finest artists in the world, including John Clymer, Howard Terpning, and Lorenzo Ghiglieri.
“Ghiglieri made bronzes for the Pope and Gorbechov. He’s a world-class artist. We have the casting rights to one of his pieces,” says Bell.
Also in the Bells’ collection are works of local artists who made it big, like Connie Tveten and Joe Halko.
“One time [Joyce and I] held an art show at the Heritage Inn to promote Joe Halko. We invited a couple hundred people, and Joe was doing a sculpture there so people could see him in action,” Bell remembers. “It was a momma bear with two cubs. One of the cubs was reaching into a tree to grab some honey. I had Joe put a bee on its nose, and I got to name the sculpture: Could Bee Trouble. It was a limited edition. The bronze could only be purchased that night. How many ever were bought, that’d be the edition. Seventeen bought it.”
One unique subset of Bell’s collection is the multigenerational work of the Seltzers. Bell has purchased art by O.C. Seltzer and his grandson, Steve. In fact, O.C.’s great grandson, Ryan Seltzer designed and collaborated with Bell on his website.
“We have been collecting art since the early Eighties,” says Bell, explaining that it’s time for him to part with a portion of his hundreds of works. “If you like these artists, the quality is there. If a person likes the West, why, it’s great subject matter.”
See if Bell’s collection speaks to you. Visit montanaartandbronze.com.