Twenty-five years ago, founders of the Coors Western Art Exhibit and Sale couldn't have foreseen the success of their contemporary Western art show.

The exhibit, which runs in conjunction with the annual National Western Stock Show in Denver, has become one of the nation's largest curated Western art shows.

"It's a look at contemporary Western art and not clichéd ideas of what the West is," said exhibit curator Rose Fredrick. "It's really authentic of what's happening in the West and what the West is like."

The stock show opens Saturday and runs through Jan. 21 at the National Western Complex. Thunder, the Broncos' team mascot, will serve as grand marshal of the parade that kicks off festivities Thursday. The art exhibit opened this week and also will run through Jan. 21.

The art show and sale was founded in 1994 by Coors Brewery management, who thought an exhibit would benefit the stock show. It now attracts artists from around the world who endeavor to squeeze their pieces into the notoriously elusive display. About 75 percent of the 350 pieces are sold, and proceeds benefit the National Western Scholarship Trust, which provides 100 annual scholarships to students in agribusiness and veterinary and human medicine.

"It's a really unusual venue for an art exhibit, but it works somehow," said Fredrick. "It's also really built up the reputation of the stock show to have well-known, high-quality artists. We also have emerging artists. But as a curator, I'm looking for artists who stand the test of time. This work is an investment for those buying it."

A featured artist is chosen every year. Colorado painter Dan Young's rural depictions of the West caught the eyes of Fredrick and an advisory committee.

"He's been in the show for a number of years, and he's really popular with our audience and is a terrific artist," Fredrick said. "For our 25th anniversary, we wanted an artist who really reflected 25 years. And having Colorado artists, somebody who paints the landscape and is a crowd favorite, was important to us."

One piece by the featured artist is selected and purchased each year for the National Western's permanent collection. Young's "The Super Moon on the Colorado" is 2018's addition. Posters of the painting will be available for sale at the show or online at

Every year, more than 650,000 people attend the stock show, which was founded in 1906 and is now the premier livestock, rodeo and horse show in the country. It hosts one of the nation's largest horse shows and Colorado's largest Western trade show, along with more than 15,000 head of livestock and horses, rodeos, livestock competitions and auctions. The event results in about $10 million in livestock sales.


A&E and features reporter