Derrill Osborn had a 40-year career in fashion, the majority of which—23 years—was spent as the head of the men’s fashion division at Neiman Marcus. During this time, he traveled extensively and purchased dozens of pieces of art, all with one thing in common: the cow. Osborne’s collection includes more than 500 pieces, and there is truly something for every style sensibility. Gorgeous and unique Staffordshire, majolica, flow blue, and Black Forest pieces, plus 19th- and 20th-century bovine oil paintings, furniture, and more will be auctioned off at Dallas Auction Gallery on Wednesday, October 14. (Bidding has already begun on the web site.) We sat down with the eccentric and affable Osborn to find out why he’s parting with his beloved bovines.
My grandfather was a rancher in New Mexico. I grew up with cows, and they became my best friends. My grandfather was also a whittler, and he whittled animals. The first item I received from him was a cow. I couldn’t give it up. That was the seed. As my life went on, I learned a lot about the cow. The cow is a deity in many parts of the world, and it is one of the most photographed animals. I found that interesting, and I started to pay attention to them. I’ve come to love the cow. They seem to be content, and nothing bothers them too much.
Why are you selling them?
I couldn’t move in my apartment—literally. It is difficult, because they have become a part of my life. That’s why I’m going to have a preview, like a party, for the cows. My friends. It is a life-changing moment for me.
Where did you find them?
When I worked for Neiman Marcus, we would go hunting for merchandise in England, France, and other parts of the world. When I saw a cow, I would have to catch my breath! I really have to thank Neiman Marcus for giving me the chance to travel. We were encouraged by Stanley Marcus to take the weekend, and go to the Louvre, for example, or to sit at a café and watch Paris walk by. Things are different today.
Why did you choose an auction?
For me, an auction was the only way to go. I could have done a yard sale, I guess. (He smiles.) But I’ve been working with the people from the Dallas Auction Gallery for a while now, and they understand the collection. A lot of auctions don’t like collections, but within this subject matter—bovine—there are many categories. Most people concentrate on one category, not all of them, like I did.
Do you have a favorite piece?
They are all my children. I do love the bull and cow from Staffordshire. It is the only one.