If the Western art scene has a prestigious, red-carpet event, it’s definitely the Prix de West Invitational Art Exhibition, hosted by the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Held each June, the art show features two- and three-dimensional artwork by the top contemporary Western artists, as well as educational seminars, receptions and an awards banquet.
I attended Prix de West for the first time in 2006. It as the first major Western art show I had ever attended, and it continues to be the standard to which I measure any art exhibition. This past weekend, I traveled to Oklahoma City for the show’s sold-out opening events, which featured more than 300 pieces of artwork by 110 Western artists, seven of which were first-time exhibitors. As in years past, I left with a greater appreciation for Western art and the artists whose intense passion for Western life, heritage, landscape and wildlife is infused into each piece they create.
This year’s Prix de West kicked off June 11 with a reception in which ticket holders could meet the artists, preview the artwork and mingle in the cultural splendor of the cowboy museum. As I entered the gallery in which most of the artwork is displayed, I was greeted by a breathtaking oil painting by Greg Beecham titled The Chase. Displayed in an elegant silver frame, the painting depicted four wolves running through the snow. The artist’s use of light, action and different shades of white created a stunning piece. Later in the weekend, this painting won the Major General and Mrs. Don D. Pittman Wildlife Art Award, a $3,000 cash award for artistic merit for a wildlife painting or sculpture. The painting also garnered the Nona Jean Hulsey Rumsey Buyers’ Choice Award, a $3,000 cash award for the most popular piece of artwork as voted by show patrons.
As beautiful as the wildlife and landscape paintings are, I was there to see the horse and cowboy art. I count on a long list of longtime Prix de West artists to give me my fix of cowboy art, including Bill Anton, Carrie Ballantyne, Tom Browning, Keith Christie, Tim Cox, Bruce Greene, Harold Holden, Wayne Justus, Mehl Lawson, Herb Mignery, Bill Owen, Jason Rich and Robert “Shufly” Shufelt. Each one of these artists once again showed realistic portrayals of the subject matter Western Horseman readers and myself enjoy. I was also thrilled to see that two of my favorite cowboy artists, Steve Devenyn of Cody, Wyoming, and Mikel Donahue of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, were invited to exhibit in the show this year.
Arizona artist Howard Post’s painting Working the Remuda, received the only award dedicated exclusively to cowboy art, The Great American Cowboy Award, sponsored by Robert A. Fun, owner of Express Ranches.
Martin Grelle, who’s best known for his portrayal of Native American culture, had a painting of a Texas cowboy this year. In the June issue of Western Horseman I wrote a profile on Grelle and how he’s returning to his roots in cowboy art. Still, his Native American works dominated in sales. His painting Apsaalooke Foot Soldiers, based on an excerpt in Frank B. Linderman’s book Plenty-Coups, Chief of the Crows, sold for $151,800 in the minimum-bid auction, more than $60,000 over the minimum bidding price.
Chuck Schroeder, president of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, reports that the weekend’s sales totaled $3,294, 440, which included sales from the exhibition, minimum-bid auction and live auction. Schroeder also notes that approximately 80 percent of works on offer were sold during the opening weekend.
All Prix de West artwork will remain on display and for sale at the museum through September 6. You can view the artwork in an online catalog at nationalcowboymuseum.org/catalog. Watch for more posts on my blog this week from my experience at Prix de West.