Gilcrease Museum Named Best Western Art Museum

Friday, April 23, 2010

True West magazine's best Western art museum for 2010

Gilcrease Museum has been named the nation’s best Western art museum for 2010 by True West magazine, with the publication noting the recent strategic acquisition of the Charles M. Russell Research Collection solidified its position among the nation’s best museums.

“Gilcrease has a long-standing reputation for excellence—and it’s well-deserved,” said True West Executive Editor Bob Boze Bell in announcing the honor, which will be featured in the magazine’s May issue. “Its 2009 acquisition of the C.M. Russell Research Collection is just a reaffirmation of the museum’s importance.”

The University of Tulsa, which partners with the City of Tulsa to manage the city-owned museum, purchased the Russell Research Collection in September to benefit programs at both the museum and the university. The collection contains more than 13,000 items related to the life and work of Russell, who is widely recognized as one of the most important artists of the American West.

Duane H. King, Vice President for Museum Affairs at The University of Tulsa and Executive Director of Gilcrease Museum, said the honor is a reflection of the museum staff’s hard work, as well as the museum’s unique public-private partnership with TU.

“The acquisition of the Russell Research Collection has enhanced the museum’s existing substantial collection of Russell artwork, making Gilcrease home to the definitive repository of art and artifacts related to the famed Western artist,” said King. “This could not have been possible without the support of the university and community philanthropists who recognize the importance of having such an important collection here at Gilcrease.”

True West selected the winner for the annual award based on research and firsthand experiences in visiting Western art museums each year. Magazine readers also nominated museums for the award.

TU President Steadman Upham noted that the honor provides affirmation that the partnership between the city and the university is paying dividends both in the museum’s national reputation and increased understanding of the Gilcrease collection.

“By leveraging TU’s academic strengths, we have been able to attract the interest of internationally renowned scholars to study the Gilcrease collection and share their insights with museum staff, TU faculty and students, and friends of the museum,” Upham said. “TU also has been able to make strategic investments in the museum’s operations and acquisitions thanks to the support of our community partners. The cumulative effect of these activities have enhanced the experience for all museum guests, created unparalleled opportunities for TU students and faculty, and provided a richer understanding of America’s history.”

King noted that TU’s recent acquisition of the Russell Research Collection allowed Gilcrease to use about 50 rare, personal objects from that collection to enhance its current exhibition, “The Masterworks of Charles M. Russell: A Retrospective of Paintings and Sculpture.” Organized collaboratively by the Denver Art Museum and Gilcrease Museum, the travelling exhibition is the first major retrospective of the artist’s work and showcases more than 100 of the artist’s finest paintings and bronze sculptures.

Gilcrease curators were able to select items from the Russell Research Collection to supplement the exhibition, including a beaded buckskin shirt that Russell is seen wearing in his painting, “When I was a Kid,” his Colt .45 “six shooter” with ivory grip carved and inscribed by Russell himself; well-worn leather chaps that were draped over a rider-less horse at Russell’s funeral in 1926; and a pocket-sized sketchbook which includes several pencil sketches that have never been exhibited and provide rare insight into his methods. These unique items are seen exclusively at the Gilcrease exhibition, which runs through May 2.

In addition to the Russell retrospective, Gilcrease has a robust exhibition schedule planned during the next few years, highlighted by the massive “America: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of a Nation” exhibition. Using more than 400 items from the Gilcrease archive, this exhibition will explore the development of a national identity and the American character. The exhibit will tell a 300-year story using period art, archives and artifacts from the founding of Jamestown in the early 1600s to the closing of the frontier in the late 1800s. The “America” exhibit is scheduled to open June 26, 2010.


Gilcrease Museum is one of the country's best facilities for the preservation and study of American art and history. The museum houses the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of art and artifacts of the American West, including an unparalleled collection of Native American art and artifacts, as well as thousands of historical documents, maps and manuscripts. Gilcrease museum's charm, beauty and art collections draw thousands of visitors from around the world to the Osage Hills just northwest of downtown Tulsa for a glimpse into America’s past. The museum is owned by the City of Tulsa, which has partnered with The University of Tulsa to steward the museum.

For more information about Gilcrease Museum and its exhibition schedule and public programs, visit or call (918) 596-2700 for more information.


Melani Hamilton