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Deborah Butterfield (American, b.1949)

Sculptures

Also known as:  Butterfield, Deborah Kay

Birth Place: Bozeman, MT

Biography:

Deborah Butterfield is an American sculptor from Bozeman, Montana best known for her horses, which are typically made from wood, metal, and other found materials. Butterfield started her career in the 1970s, gathering sticks and other found objects to create incredibly elegant horse sculptures. While her subject never changed, her methodology continued to develop in the 1980s, when she experimented with bronze and scrap metal. 

Butterfields fascination with horses comes from her belief that they’re a “metaphorical substitute” for herself. “... it was a way of doing a self-portrait one step removed from the specificity of Deborah Butterfield,” the artist said in a recent interview. Her pieces are imbued with a sense of emotion and power, which makes them feel as fresh today as they did twenty years ago. From art critics to casual observers, a Butterfield sculpture always feels powerful, beautiful, and confident. 

What kind of sculpture does Deborah Butterfield Make?

Deborah Butterfield is most famous for her impressionist sculptures made from salvaged junk and other found items. She frequently uses bronze in her work, giving her pieces a juxtaposition of modern and classical influence. Her horse series of sculptures are her most well-known, and range from a few feet in height to life-size creations. 

How often do Deborah Butterfield Sculptures come up for auction?

Currently Deborah Butterfield has 72 pieces at auction. Of these, several are notable works, including Dance Horse (1999) which has the Walla Walla Foundry mark incised on it for authentication purposes. While there are several Butterfield sculptures at auction at any given time, there is a scarcity to her work, and almost any piece bid on will yield a great compound annual return. 

How much are Deborah Butterfield’s sculptures worth?

Currently at auction, estimates have a minor Deborah Butterfield sculpture in the $18,000 - $22,000 range and major pieces estimated between $250,000-$350,000. Many of the cast bronze sculptures are on the more expensive side of these estimates, especially if there is little or no oxidation present. 

What Deborah Butterfield sculpture is the most valuable?

There is no one Deborah Butterfield piece that is notably more valuable than the rest, but her bronzed sculptures have gotten more at auction than the others. These typically are estimated at around $300,000, while other materials don’t usually reach six-digit figures. While her work is similar, these distinctions can make a big difference at auction, due to the longevity of the materials. 

What are the most famous sculptures by Deborah Butterfield?

Deborah Butterfield is best known for her horses. Some of the most famous include Untitled (Horse) 1981, Yellow River (1984), Maka Koa (2018), Three Sorrows (Earthquake, Tsunami, Meltdown) (2016), and Ukabu (2017). As previously stated, her bronzed horses typically are most popular at auction. 


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