By Bonnie Gangelhoff
Rose Fredrick still remembers the way things were in 1998, when she came on board as the curator of the Coors Western Art Exhibit & Sale. “In the beginning, two pieces of art had to share a single halogen bulb,” Fredrick recalls. “The walls were thin, only about -inch thick. If you leaned on them too hard, they did the wave.”
Fredrick has seen dramatic changes in the 12 years she has been curating the show, which is held each January in conjunction with the National Western Stock Show in Denver, CO. During her tenure the number of participating artists has nearly doubled, growing from 35 to 62 sculptors, painters, and photographers. Sales have increased roughly tenfold, from $67,000 to $750,000.
What began as a germ of an idea in the early 1990s, promoted and organized by wives of executives at the Coors Brewing Company in Golden, CO, has blossomed into a premier art exhibition.
Each year the show offers an exciting mix of artists, with both traditional western art as well as more contemporary styles and subject matter on view. “We want to bring people to the show with something that is comfortable and then wow them with works they totally don’t expect,” says Fredrick. “It can be a challenge, but we want people who attend the show year after year to have a new experience each time they come.”
Judging from the fact that the show attracts 40,000 visitors annually, that approach appears to be working. In terms of artists, Fredrick says she has seen submissions grow from 10 artists to about 250—a strong testament to the show’s desirability from an artist’s point of view.
The exhibit’s roster reads like a who’s who of western artists, with works by Carolyn Anderson, Howard Post, Walt Gonske, George Carlson, William Sharer, Len Chmiel, and many others. In this year’s presentation, viewers can expect to see everything from a contemporary still life by Daniel Sprick to a representational western scene by Kim Mackey. Among artists participating for the first time are David Griffin, Logan Maxwell Hagege, and Rod Zullo. Utah-based landscape painter G. Russell Case, a top-selling artist in past shows, is this year’s featured artist. His atmospheric western scenes have been compared to the paintings of Maynard Dixon.
An array of events lead up show’s opening at the National Western Complex. On Tuesday, January 5, the Denver Art Museum’s Petrie Institute of Western American Art, in collaboration with the Coors Western Art Exhibit & Sale, presents a one-day symposium at the museum exploring western American sculpture in the 19th century, with special emphasis on works by Hermon Atkins MacNeil, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Frederic Remington, and Charles M. Russell. Featured speakers are Andrew J. Walker, assistant director for curatorial affairs at the St. Louis Art Museum; Thayer Tolles, associate curator of American Paintings and Sculpture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; Peter H. Hassrick, director emeritus of the Petrie Institute of Western American Art; and Sarah Boehme, director of the Stark Museum of Art in Orange, TX. Those purchasing tickets to the symposium are invited to the Blue Jean Preview that evening, a chance to see the Coors show prior to the opening reception.
On Wednesday, January 6, the Denver Art Museum presents a guided tour of its exhibit Masterworks of Charles M. Russell: A Retrospective of Paintings and Sculpture, followed by a brunch. The gala Red Carpet Reception takes place that night from 5:30 to 9:30. Seasoned collectors and western art enthusiasts mix and mingle as they view the artwork, meet the artists, and submit their names for a chance to purchase the art. Proceeds from the sale benefit the National Western Scholarship Trust, which funds scholarships for studies in agribusiness, veterinary sciences, and rural medicine.
The Coors Western Art Exhibit & Sale opens to the public on Saturday, January 9, and remains up until January 24, when the stock show closes. For more information: 303.299.5561 or www.nationalwestern.com/coorsart.
Featured in January 2010