Artists will find a place of honor at historic Courthouse Square in downtown Prescott, Arizona.
George Phippen’s namesake museum, the Phippen Art Museum, will celebrate two anniversaries this year: its 30th Western Art Show and Sale, which was first held to raise money to build a museum for Western art, and its 20th anniversary as a museum.
When George Phippen, the first president of Cowboy Artists of America (CAA), died in 1966, some of the other early cowboy artist members—Don Pollard, Jack Osmer, Bill and Merry Nebeker and Ray and Gary Swanson—established a memorial foundation in his name in 1974. Their dream was to build a museum devoted to art in the town where Phippen had brought back the lost wax process for casting bronze.
After being the chief Western artist in the 1950s for Brown & Bigelow calendars, Phippen later shifted gears to create bronze sculptures and collaborated with contractor Joe Noggle and silversmith and engineer Joe Vest to open Noggle Bronze Works behind the Sharlot Hall Museum. In 1961, he formed Bear Paw Bronze Works, a foundry closer to his home in Skull Valley. Prescott is now home to eight working foundries, which continue the bronze renaissance by casting sculptures for artists such as Richard Greeves, Susan Kliewer, Bill Owen and John Soderberg.
Frustrated that most galleries shunned Western art, Phippen and his artist friends, Joe Beeler (one of the judges for this year’s show), Charlie Dye and John Hampton, organized an artists’ group in 1965 that would focus on ranch life. Unfortunately, in April 1966, during Phippen’s first year in office as president of the CAA, he died of cancer.
This Memorial Day show and sale (on May 29-31), like the one first held 30 years ago, will not only showcase the finest Western sculptors and painters, but also a new event—the Miniature Masterpiece Show that will allow collectors to purchase art in sizes 5X7” and above for $500-$5,000 when the pieces would normally sell for $50,000 and up.
“Paintings have a particular appeal because they are one of a kind. There’s a sense of urgency, because once a painting is sold, it’s gone. But the sculpture is highly sought after as well,” says John Coleman, the event organizer. The miniature sale is “an opportunity for new collectors to purchase the work of highly acclaimed artists that they might not otherwise be able to afford.”
A gala party to celebrate show award winners will be held on May 29 with True West’s answer man and Arizona’s official historian Marshall Trimble as master of ceremonies.
The museum continues its 20th anniversary salute to Western art with exhibits that include works by cowboy artist Charles M. Russell from May 1-August 29, with a lecture to kick off the exhibit by collector Ginger Renner, wife of renowned Russell cataloger Frederic Renner. The year appropriately ends with a retrospective showing of Phippen’s art, gathered from private collections and exhibited together for the first time. The show will be held September 11-December 30. Darrell Phippen will give the opening lecture on his father’s life work; on October 9, artists Bill Nebeker and John Coleman will share how Phippen influenced their art; and on November 13, Phippen’s life lessons will come alive in a musical presentation.
Visit www.phippenartmuseum.org or call 928-778-1385 for more information.