FARGO — After the Plains Art Museum’s annual Spring Gala was scrapped last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, staff started thinking of different ways to hold the event’s anticipated art auction.

Rather than holding off for one big auction this year, the Plains will host four smaller auctions, each focused on a specific medium or theme.

The plan rolls out with the online-only Pop Up on the Plains: Ceramic Art Auction. While bidding runs Jan. 14-21, works are already up for view on the Plains’ website.

“Since our strength is our ceramics program, we figured we should lead with that,” says Sandy Thompson, the Plains' development director.

Thompson and his wife are also avid pottery collectors for 25 years and solicited submissions from artists they know.

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Up for bid are 45 items, starting at $40 for a Paul Tholl mug to $1,875 for Bunny Tobias’ sculpture, “Spirit Mask.” The wall-mounted piece, valued at $2,500, mixes the veteran artist’s love for painting, sculpture, jewelry and humor.

Bunny Tobias’ sculpture, “Spirit Mask.” Special to The Forum
Bunny Tobias’ sculpture, “Spirit Mask.” Special to The Forum

Thompson says most pieces start at 75% of the listed market value, to ensure artists aren’t undercutting their worth. The museum and artists are also splitting proceeds 50-50.

A $15 shipping fee will be added to each sale as the works will be shipped directly from the artists to the buyer.

Paul Ide, the pottery studio program manager at the Plains Art Museum, was instrumental in assembling the auction. A number of artists represented by Companion Gallery in Tennessee, which also sells Ide’s work, are featured, including a colorful, textured lidded jar by Mike Cinelli, a Bryan Wilkerson grinning mug and a Brett Kern dinosaur that looks like an inflatable toy.

A ceramic mug by Tim Kowalczyk. Special to The Forum
A ceramic mug by Tim Kowalczyk. Special to The Forum

Plains patrons may see some familiar names. Tim Kowalczyck has sent along a ceramic mug that looks as if it were made out of old cardboard. His identifiable style has led to him being referred to as “the Cardboard Guy” in ceramics circles.

In 2018, Ide brought Kowalczyck to the Plains to show and discuss “How Great I Am,” an exhibit of ceramic sculpture illustrating Muhammad Ali’s speech of the same name.

There are also a few regional ceramicists in the show. In addition to one of Ide’s graffiti-inspired bowls, Tara Fermoyle offers up one of her signature zipper plates, Felton, Minn., artist Ken Omundson has a lidded jar and Annette Marchand, a ceramics instructor at the Plains, has a large vase. David Swenson, who teaches at North Dakota State University, has a porcelain teapot up for bid.

A Paul Ide bowl is up for auction at the Plains Art Museum. Special to The Forum
A Paul Ide bowl is up for auction at the Plains Art Museum. Special to The Forum

Also included are works from members of a regional ceramics group, Cone Pack, which organized a show of table settings at the Plains in 2019, called a Place at the Table. Holly Van Santen Knipe submitted a serving bowl, while Helen Otterson and Concordia College teacher Ross Hilgers offered up a colorful sculpture.

Upcoming auctions include a sale of works on paper in July followed by an October print market.

Thompson says the Plains is still planning for a gala to be held on Aug. 13.