Three Chimneys Presents Good News Friday: Four-Legged Artists
If you were priced out of Keeneland’s recent sporting art auction (the sales from which totaled over $3.1 million), supporters of ReRun are hoping that you might add to your art collection during their upcoming Moneigh auction.
The paintings, each done and “autographed” by notable racehorses or breeding stock, have been increasingly popular since their origin 11 years ago. Organizer Mary Simons estimates that she’s supervised the creation of 1,200 paintings, including works by 14 of the last 19 Derby winners. Proceeds from the sale of all the paintings support ReRun’s mission to rescue and rehome Thoroughbreds off the track.
Simons said that ReRun directors got the idea for the project at a charity event for the Lexington Humane Society in central Kentucky, which was selling artwork painted by its cats and dogs. She guesses that the organization had been inspired by the paintings done by elephants to raise money for conservation and the ReRun crew wondered—would horses do the same thing?
As it turned out, horses will not only consent to get creative with the non-toxic children’s paints Simons provides, but like human artists, they have very individual styles.
Some horses use their tongues to paint. Others like to use the end of their muzzle and whiskers, producing a firecracker pattern. Still others smear the paint with their whole face. The shy artists who don’t like having anything on their faces will use their tails.
And then there’s Empire Maker.
“Empire Maker took to it right away. He picked up the brush,” she recalled. “It was like he’d done it all his life. He’d never seen us before, he’d never seen paint before [but] he just went town and did three or four paintings with the brush. Even his groom looked at him like he couldn’t believe it.”
Originally the horses chose their own colors, but those who preferred the ‘smear method’ of application came out with a muddy brown paper. Now, Simons offers them a few shades that match their silk colors.
Some horses need to catch a whiff of a well-placed peppermint or carrot to become tempted to stretch their noses out to the paint. (Groovy preferred donuts.) The aloof Skip Away wasn’t permitted to have treats and could not be enticed to give it a try.
Congaree, by contrast, is a very motivated artist, or as Simons puts it, “a painting fool,” and usually insisted on covering every inch of the paper with paint.
Magna Graduate was also especially proud of this work.
“At the end, he took the paper and held it up,” said Simons. “Like, ‘See what I did!’”
Cigar may be the most unique of the artists she’s witnessed, though.
“I think Cigar is probably the most outstanding. That horse is so smart,” she said. “He would hold the brush and paint a few strokes, and then he’d look around to see who was watching. And then he’d take the brush and flip it at them. We used to just laugh at him because he knew what he was doing. He knew.”
For Simons, who has been a longtime race fan and volunteers with several aftercare charities, the project has enabled her to get to know some of the sport’s biggest stars in a way that most of the public can’t—and for that she is grateful.
She has tried to video several of the artists in action to capture their unique personalities, but true to their nature, the horses tend to clam up as soon as the camera is rolling.
Each horse autographs their work with a hoofprint, which Simons says is authentic. She has to hold their hooves up and paint the bottoms before guiding them to stamp the paper. Enthusiastic artists will sometimes stamp their work several times.
The most recent set of Moneigh paintings went on sale Nov. 25 and featured prominent sires and their sons, including A.P. Indy, Mineshaft, (who created a serene, “underwater” type painting), Dialed In, Awesome Again, Ghostzapper, Tiznow, Gemologist, Orb, Distorted Humor, and Funny Cide. A second week-long auction will launch on Sunday, Dec. 8 and will include Storm Cat’s last Moneigh and those of his progeny (including Wise Dan, who is Storm Cat’s great-grandson). Some of the paintings are also autographed by the jockeys who piloted the artists on the track.
ReRun hosts their Moneigh auctions through their eBay store, which is accessible here.