The Philbrook Indian Annual
(Philbrook, 2727 S. Rockford Rd.) From 1946 to 1979 Philbrook’s Indian Annual exhibition served as a vital outlet for Native American fine art. This juried competition and sale attracted artists, collectors, and curators from across the U.S. For more than three decades, hundreds of artists showed thousands of paintings, launching countless careers. It also helped build the collections of institutions like Philbrook, the Heard Museum (AZ), and the Museum of the American Indian (NY), all of which consistently purchased award-winning pieces.
Just five years after the Museum of Modern Art’s (MoMA) groundbreaking 1941 exhibition put a spotlight on Indian art Philbrook initiated this unparalleled event that helped define Native American art of the twentieth century. Unlike markets in Santa Fe and Gallup (NM), the Indian Annual focused specifically on painting (later adding sculpture and other media) and actively sought entries from beyond the Southwest. From its inception, the show also featured Native judges, since award winners were asked to jury the next year’s competition.
The Indian Annual boasted work and judging by such influential artists as Fred Kabotie and Oscar Howe, both of whom were part of the 1941 MoMA show. These and other artists—including Allan Houser, Dick West, and Pablita Velarde—were among those who established the course of contemporary Native American art through their creations and their critiques. By the 1960s such modernists as Joe Hererra, Helen Hardin, Fritz Scholder, and George Morrison were also contributing their work and their commentary to the Indian Annual. Their influence is still felt today, as many went on to teach the next generation of Native artists at universities in Oklahoma, South Dakota, Minnesota, and at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe.
Although the Indian Annual played a crucial role in the development of twentieth century Native American fine art, this exhibition will be the first to focus exclusively on its history and its impact. Philbrook is uniquely qualified to undertake such an important project because of the Museum’s rich collections and archival holdings of photographs, exhibition records, and artists’ files. The exhibition and fully-illustrated catalogue will set the standard for future endeavors leveraging the deep and diverse resources of the Eugene B. Adkins Study Center at Philbrook Downtown.
Curated by Christina E. Burke.