Guests Experience Wild West Weather During National Cowboy Hall of Fame's Annual Prix de West Art Sale

The National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center offered up some wild west entertainment between salad and entree at the museum's prestigious Prix de West Invitational Exhibition and Sale, Saturday, June 13, 1998. Following art sales which reached $1.8 million, artists and patrons from across the nation cloistered in the Hall's basement during a tornado alert. The tornado touched down in northwest Oklahoma City, then again on the northeast side only blocks from the museum. The crowd, many from out of state, was exceptionally cooperative throughout the incident. Security guards washed the downstairs flight with flashlights as the several hundred guests were more or less obligated to make new friends.

Not even a twister, however, could dampen the excitement of the evening. When guests returned to the Sam Noble Special Events Center, dinner was served and the awards were announced, albeit through a bull horn. Swedish-born sculptor Kent Ullberg won the Prix de West Award with a horizontal bronze that measured 23-inch-by-39-inches. Ocean's Cradle, was the result of Ullberg's three day stint in the Pacific Ocean sketching and photographing sea otters and their pups as they cavorted in the calm waters off California's Monterey Peninsula.

"This was totally unexpected," said Ullberg, who has exhibited in the show for 22 years. The bronze, priced at $14,000, depicts a mother sea otter with her pup cradled on her chest. "Sea otter pups spend much of the first year of life on their mother's chest, providing a dry cradle in the ocean," Ullberg said. "That's what I wanted my sculpture to show." Ullberg, who lives in Corpus Christi, Texas, commented that acceptance of a Pacific Ocean mammal into its permanent collection will help "broaden the vision of what people think about the American West." The award is sponsored by the Williametta K. Day Foundation.

Howard Terpning, two-time Prix de West Award winner, received the Frederic Remington Award for his 24-inch by 40-inch oil painting of two Cheyenne Indians preparing to salvage the metal from remains of a wagon half-submerged in a river. The River's Gift sold for $110,000. Established in 1990 to honor exceptional artistic merit, the Remington Award is sponsored by Oklahomans Russ and Dortha Sadler, and carries with it a cash prize of $3,000.

Always a highlight of the ceremonies is the announcement of the Robert Lougheed Memorial Award winner. Lougheed, who will be remembered as one of the 20th century's leading western artists, served as friend and mentor to many of the exhibiting artists prior to his death. The award, established in 1988 goes to the artist with the best display of three or more works in the exhibition. The recipient is chosen by the exhibiting artists. Sponsored by Robert S. and Grayce B. Kerr Foundation, Inc. the winner receives a $1,000 cash prize. This year's winner, Daniel F. Gerhartz displayed four stunning paintings: Lamplight-$6,000; Rose and Velvet-$11,500; Prarie Winds-$5,000; Remembering Autumn, $20,000.

Curt Walters, Sedona, Arizona, received the Nona Jean Hulsey Rumsey Buyer's Choice Award on his first showing in the Prix de West exhibition. With a smile as brilliant as his paintings, Walters accepted the honor. Throughout the weekend Welters could be heard expressing his emotions about the quality of the art in the exhibition, and the Oklahoma hospitality. "I'm overwhelmed," he said, repeatedly. Art patrons returned again and again to view Walter's Winter Granduer Revealed, an oil painting of a snow-dusted Grand Canyon. The highly sought work sold for $24,000. Chosen by the guests attending the sale, the award is accompanied by a cash prize of $1,000. All four ofthe artists' paintings sold.

The severe weather shut off power to the building preventing the viewing of video presentations for each award and a memorial tribute to revered artist Tom Lovell who died in an automobile accident June 29, 1997. Presenting medallions were Robert B. Holt, Texas, and Ken Townsend, executive director of the museum. Board of Directors chairman. A.J. "Jack" Cooke, California, served as host for the event, and Governor Frank Keating delivered pre-dinner welcome remarks.

A sincere appreciation was extended to Mrs Roberta Miller Eldridge for her contribution to the Tom Lovell retrospective and for her continuing support of the museum's art endowment.

Highly acclaimed jeweler, Ray Tracey, Gallup, New Mexico, delivered a seminar The Art of Lost Wax Casting Process in Jewelry Making. Attendees found the artist, known for the exquisite inlay process of his jewelry both informative and highly entertaining. Friday and Saturday seminars held in the museum's Sam Noble Special Events Center were held by Dr. Dean A. Porter, The Snite Museum of Art, University of Notre Dame. The Rise and Fall of the Taos Society of Artists and Walter Ufer; Judith Tolliver, Curator, Canadian Gulf Oil Fine Art Collection, Denver, Colorado, Western Collectibles as Fine Art; William Whittaker, Prove Utah, Wayne Wolfe, Loveland, Colorado, and Bob Kuhn, Tucson, Arizona, Tom Lovell--a Remembrance; Robert Bateman, Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Canada, Natural World; and Dr. D. Duane Cummins, Bethany College. Bethany, West Virginia, William Robinson Leigh -- Western Artist.

A Friday evening preview of the exhibition included a special dedication ofthe Norma Sutherland and the William S. and Ann Atherton Gardens. Dwight D. Sutherland, president of the Hall's board of directors, sponsored one of the naturalistic settings in honor of his wife Norma, who made a brief acceptance speech. The Athertons also were present for the double ribbon cutting ceremony and acceptance of plaques which bore the identical inscriptions that mark the garden entrances. A string quartet provided entertainment.

Art demonstrations, held in the Hambrick Garden and the Nona Jean Hulsey Rumsey Art Education Center included exhibiting artists in the show Jim Wilcox, Jackson, Wyoming, Cyrus Afsary, Scottsdale, Arizona and Scott Christensen, Jackson, Wyoming, as well as sculptors Gerald Balciar, Parker, Colorado and Richard Greeves, Fort Washakie, Wyoming. Greeves designed this year's bronze bolo, traditionally presented to seminar attendees.

Eighty-nine of the nation's finest contemporary western artists participated in the exhibition which featured 268 pieces ofart. The works will remain on display at the museum through September 13, 1998. Total value of the exhibition is more than $2.9 million. Unsold works are available for purchase through the end of the show.

Photo by John Hazeltine

This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 11/28/11

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