Oil Magnate-NFL Team Owner's Major Western Painting, Native Artifact Collection Debuts at Eiteljorg Museum

Thomas Moran, Grand Canyon
Thomas Moran, Grand Canyon
( Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art)
Cradleboard, Crow artists, early 20th century.
Cradleboard, Crow artists, early 20th century.
( Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art)
  • Frederic Remington, The Buck-jumper.

    Frederic Remington, The Buck-jumper.

    Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art

A spectacular group of Western paintings and Native American artifacts collected by former NFL Tennessee Titans owner Kenneth S. “Bud” Adams, Titan of the West, goes on exhibit Nov. 12 at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in Indianapolis.

The multimillion-dollar collection, bequeathed by Adams to the Eiteljorg Museum when he died in 2013 at age 90, is one of the largest and most historically important bequests the museum ever has received. Visitors to the exhibition Titan of the West: The Adams Collection of Western and Native American Art will see striking paintings by Frederic Remington, Charles Russell, Thomas Moran and other artists who shaped the image of the Old West. They also will see fascinating Native American artifacts, including brilliant beaded and quilled clothing from Plains tribes, pottery and weavings from the Southwest, Cherokee basketry and a wide variety of horse gear, smoking pipes and moccasins, all gifted to the museum by the late NFL team owner in his will.

“Bud Adams and his wife Nancy Adams assembled an impressive personal art collection at their Houston home and business, inspired by Bud’s dual heritage as an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation and descendant of pioneers. While football fans knew Bud Adams as the owner of the Tennessee Titans, we at the Eiteljorg Museum also came to know him as a tremendous enthusiast for the history of the West. The Adams’ collection is one of national importance, and we were thunderstruck with gratitude when Bud entrusted this collection to the Eiteljorg for the public’s enjoyment and appreciation,” said John Vanausdall, the Eiteljorg Museum’s president and CEO.

“The Eiteljorg Museum is one of the premier museums of Native American artifacts and Western art in North America, and it is appropriate that these priceless treasures will be housed at the Eiteljorg permanently,” said Amy Adams Strunk, daughter of Bud Adams and controlling owner of the Tennessee Titans. “This collection was very special to my father, and our family hopes that those who view these items on display will walk away with the same sense of wonder and appreciation for the culture and heritage that these unique artifacts and works of art represent.”

A wealthy Houston businessman and rancher of Cherokee descent, Bud Adams was prominent in the oil and gas industry as CEO of Adams Resources & Energy. Adams also was a central figure in the history of modern professional football; he was co-founder of the American Football League which later merged with the NFL, and he was owner of the former Houston Oilers franchise that later became the Tennessee Titans in Nashville, Tenn.

Born in Oklahoma, Bud Adams also had Indiana ties: He was a graduate of Culver Military Academy in Culver, Ind. An enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation, Adams never lost touch with his heritage; and according to his family, he took great pleasure in sharing his art and artifacts with schoolchildren and others.

As the owner of an NFL team that sometimes played away games in Indianapolis against the Colts, Adams first visited the Eiteljorg Museum in 1993 and later struck up a friendship with Vanausdall. The Eiteljorg was a natural home for the Adams collection, as the nonprofit museum opened in 1989 to house the personal art collection of Harrison Eiteljorg, a prominent Indianapolis businessman who spent years collecting Western art and Native American artifacts.

The acquisition of the Bud and Nancy Adams collection substantially expands the Eiteljorg’s holdings of Western art and Native American artifacts and meshes well with other collections donated to the museum by Harrison Eiteljorg, George Gund, Helen Kersting and others. Curators and collection experts at the Eiteljorg have spent nearly three years preparing for the display of 60 paintings and nearly 90 Native American artifacts Adams collected, which together will fill a special exhibition room. A full-color 300-page book authored by the curatorial staff accompanies the exhibition.

“Indianapolis is blessed in terms of cultural attractions, and thus the Eiteljorg Museum is deeply honored to serve as the permanent home for the magnificent Adams collection and share with our visitors and members the art that inspired Bud and Nancy Adams. Whether you are a football fan, an admirer of Western and Native art or are interested in the history of our country, you will find something to intrigue you at the Titan of the Westexhibition,” said James Nottage, the Eiteljorg’s vice president and chief curatorial officer and the Gund curator of Western art, history and culture.

The Titan of the West special exhibition opens Nov. 12, continues through Feb. 5, 2017, and is included with regular museum admission.

The second weekend of the Adams exhibit Nov. 19-20 coincides with the Sunday Nov. 20 away game that the Tennessee Titans play against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Eiteljorg invites Titans football fans who are in Indianapolis for the game weekend to visit the Titan of the West exhibition. More information about ticketed admission is here: http://www.eiteljorg.org/visit/plan/hours-prices.


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