Armadillo World Headquarters Associates Say Sotheby’s Auction Was Robbed 41 Years Ago: Bidding Starts at $35,000 – Music

Sotheby’s, the oldest and most prestigious fine art auction house on the planet, is currently accepting bids on an artifact from one of Austin’s most historic music venues: Armadillo World Headquarters. .

The 16-foot-long wooden sign, reading “Armadillo World Headquarters Concert Hall & Beer Garden”, once hung above the patio entrance to the famous 70s venue. Now it holds a starting bid of $35,000. However, the piece’s provenance is sketchy, according to several people involved with the Armadillo.

“Shortly before the club closed, someone stole it,” says Leea Mechling, a core staff member at the Armadillo for most of its run, who is also the executive director of AusPop, a non-profit organization that collects and exhibits Austin’s pop culture and counterculture artifacts. “All they had to do was pull over in the middle of the night when no one was around and unscrew it from the wall and take it…and they did. It had been a strange time and everyone knew the joint was closing and people were emboldened…usually it was for sentimental reasons, but some people took things with a view to reselling them later. I don’t know what happened after that. Around 2011, a guy contacted [AusPop] wanted us to buy it for $100,000 and he posted it on eBay for that. We declined and actually suggested he give it to us, but he didn’t and it didn’t sell.

The Armadillo closed in 1980. Mechling says the sign was created by Dillo staffer Don Cowley in late 1978 or early 1979. Cowley had also created the famous papier-mâché statue of the Santa Claus pulled in his sleigh by armadillos which featured in the Armadillo. Christmas Bazaar, but was not a famous poster artist like the folks in the “Armadillo Art Squad”, including Guy Juke, Micael Priest, Jim Franklin and Kerry Awn, whose works are inherently collectible.

Mechling says a polite representative from Sotheby’s contacted AusPop about sourcing armadillo photographs to accompany the sign auction, but she declined.

“It’s a remarkable, bona fide object and an important relic, but I think the original logo we have for the museum, currently in storage, is more important,” says Mechling, who admits to being less outraged by the sale. at Sotheby’s auction than many. others who were related to the Dillo. “It’s just interesting to see how things resurface over time.”

Turk Pipkin – the actor, documentary filmmaker, founder of the Nobelity Project and retired mime/juggler/magician who had been an Armadillo staple – tweeted at Sotheby’s yesterday: “Why are you auctioning off a sign that was stolen from Armadillo’s world headquarters in Austin? Do you specialize in stolen art?”

A Austin American Statesman storywhich misrepresents the sign as being handwritten by Jim Franklin (the auction page lists Cowley as its creator, based on the lettering Franklin had used, which itself was based on wrapper art Camel cigarettes), reveals the current owner of the sign is Michele Krier, of San Antonio, who claims her ex-husband bought it from Eddie Wilson at an auction and then gave it to him on the day of his birthday in 1984.

The only material on the Sotheby’s website regarding stolen property screening is in their Terms of sale“As part of Sotheby’s efforts to support only the legitimate art market and to combat the illegitimate market for stolen goods, Sotheby’s has maintained the Art Loss Register to verify all uniquely identifiable items offered for sale in this catalog that are valued at more than the equivalent of US$1,500 against the Art Loss Register’s computerized database of items reported as stolen or lost.

Armadillo founder Eddie Wilson, reached by phone yesterday, also believes the sign was stolen – despite leaving the business years before it closed. Wilson, who has held several auctions over the past decade where Armadillo art, artifacts and posters have fetched large sums of money, notes that the sign’s perceived value is not derived from an artistic reason, because “there was no artwork involved”.

“The sign had no value for any of the standard reasons, other than that it was from Armadillo,” he says. “It looks like a money-grabbing scheme that someone is trying to throw at the general public to see if they can score a big hit.”

There have been no biddings on the Armadillo panel yet, and the auction ends Tuesday at 2:56 p.m. CST.

The 2021-2022 Austin Music Awards Music Poll is underway. Vote now for your favorite groups, rooms and music until January 31st.

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