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Taking Stock of Western Art at the Coors Exhibit

"The Super Moon on the Colorado."
"The Super Moon on the Colorado."
Dan Young

The Coors Western Art Exhibit will open its 25th-anniversary edition when the National Western Stock Show starts on Saturday, January 6, but it already has plenty of reason to celebrate: At the Red Carpet Reception on January 3, patrons bought more than $650,000 worth of art — more than was sold through the entire show last year. 

But then, it was a good day for the stock market...which always translates to a good day at the Stock Show.

"It's our 25th, and there's a lot of enthusiasm," says Rose Fredrick, the curator who's busy consolidating the art that was spread through much of the Expo Hall's third floor for the fundraiser into the space in back, where it will be displayed for the duration of the Stock Show. "A lot of new people came. People are moving into the state, wanting to experience the National Western. They weren't born and raised on this cowboy tradition."

And there are a lot of new artists in this year's show, many of whom push the envelope of what people expect Western art to be. "I want them to see unexpected stuff and see the West in a new way," explains Fredrick. "We're pushing more boundaries with this show."

"Twilight, Ouray."
"Twilight, Ouray."
Joe McGurl

Among those new artists is Brad Overton, who paints portraits of antique toys in what Fredrick calls a "fun, quirky look at the West"; all the work of Joe McGurl, another artist new to the show who paints photorealist pieces without resorting to following photos, sold on January 3. "We keep getting more contemporary, keep talking about what's going on in the West," Fredrick adds.

But some artists continue to take traditional approaches to those contemporary issues. Silt's Dan Young, who paints lovely landscapes, was chosen as the featured artist this round. And Denver-based artist Willie Matthews has been in every Coors show from the start, at the same time his work has earned its own exhibit at the Denver Art Museum and international renown. Fans always flock to his section of the show to see his latest watercolors, as they did during the Red Carpet Reception.

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Art that wasn't purchased during that reception will be available through the Stock Show. "We do a lot of sales after the gala," Fredrick notes, "so we won't know the amount we're donating to the scholarship trust until everything shakes out." That may not be until February or March.

But it already looks like the 2018 show will be a winner...both for art fans and the students who get those scholarships.

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