Prix de West | Cream of the Crop

By Bonnie Gangelhoff

Every year for nearly four decades, a coterie of the top western artists in the country has convened in Oklahoma City, OK, for the annual Prix de West Invitational Art Exhibition and Sale at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Now in its 37th year, the prestigious show opens the weekend of June 11-13, showcasing more than 300 paintings and sculptures and culminating in a fixed-price sale and awards banquet.

Chuck Schroeder, the museum’s executive director, says the credit for establishing Prix de West, one of the country’s preeminent exhibitions of western art, really goes to artist Robert Lougheed [1910-1982]. “It was Bob, along with other artists like Bettina Steinke [1913-1999], who thought there ought to be a major show where artists who are top quality could focus on western subject matter and have a place to show their work as well as experience the camaraderie of getting together,” Schroeder says.

Lougheed approached the museum with his idea in 1972. The first show took place the following year and included works by 33 artists. This year’s exhibition presents works by 110 painters and sculptors and includes a wide range of styles, subjects, genres, and time periods. There are pieces that reflect the history of the Old West as well as scenes of contemporary ranch life and modern-day cowboys. Landscapes, wildlife art, and still lifes are also featured.

“The show has grown over the years to include subject matter like wildlife and seascapes, but it has always maintained a focus on capturing the spirit of the West—the people, landscapes, and cultures. That has always been the heart of the show,” Schroeder says.

It addition to attracting major artists, the event brings together avid western art collectors from across the country. To regular attendees it’s affectionately known simply as “the Prix,” and these art lovers mark their calendars a year in advance to attend the show. “They know it’s an opportunity to acquire new works coming on the market and also a chance to meet many of the artists in person,” Schroeder says. Among this year’s participating artists are Ralph Oberg (at right), Daniel Smith, Tom Darro (shown below), Tim Cox, Dan Mieduch, Dennis Doheny, and Steve Kestrel.

As usual, two days of seminars and art demonstrations are scheduled in conjunction with the 2010 Prix de West. On Friday, June 11, Michael Duty, director of art of the American West at Heritage Auctions in Dallas, TX, delivers a talk titled “One Good Painting—The Art of Wilson Hurley.” Bob Pickering, senior curator at the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, OK, presents a talk on the image of the bison in art. Prix de West participating artist Curt Walters discusses plein-air painting and Ron McCoy, professor of history at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, gives a lecture titled “The Image of Last Stand in Western Art.” A preview reception takes place that evening.

On Saturday there is a panel discussion with participating artists Sherrie McGraw, Randal M. Dutra, Ross Matteson, and Bill Anton. The museum’s curator of art, Anne Morand, also presents a talk entitled “Charlie Russell at the Pablo Bison Roundup.” Following the panel and lecture, artists Joseph Bohler, George Hallmark, and Richard Loffler give painting and sculpture demonstrations. The show and sale take place on Saturday evening, followed by the awards banquet.

A new event, the Prix de West Perk, debuts on Sunday morning. “The sale is fast and furious. This is a way to enjoy looking at the artwork in a quiet, more relaxed manner,” says Shayla Simpson, director of public relations and museum events. “People can have a bagel, a cup of coffee, and then take their time as they wander through the galleries to see what has sold and what is still available for purchase.”

What would the exhibition’s founder would say if he could see how his brainchild has evolved? Says Schroeder, “I believe that Bob Lougheed would be thrilled to see what Prix de West has become. He had the greatest desire to see artists be appreciated. He spent much of his life trying to encourage other artists and spur them to greater excellence. Those dreams have been realized in Prix de West today.”

The exhibition runs through September 6. For more information or to make reservations for opening weekend: 405.478.2250 or

Featured in June 2010