The Adkins Foundation Board announced in July 2007 that the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art and the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa had been jointly selected to steward the Adkins Collection. The joint partnership by OU and the Philbrook was among many proposals submitted by leading museums across the country.
The Adkins Collection, which is valued at approximately $50 million features approximately 3,300 objects, including more that 400 paintings by such distinguished American artists as Maynard Dixon, Worthington Whittridge, Andrew Dasburg, Alfred Jacob Miller, Victor Higgins, Charles M. Russell, Nicolai Fechin, John Marin, William R. Leigh, Leon Gaspard and Joseph H. Sharp. The collection also includes impressive examples of Native American paintings, pottery and jewelry by such famed Native American artists as Jerome Tiger, Maria Martinez and Charles Loloma.
Few Oklahoma families have deeper roots in the state than the family of Eugene Brady Adkins. His father, Eugene Sloan Adkins, born in Chouteau, owned and ran Muskogee’s Adkins Hay & Feed Co., which he established in 1917. His mother, Bess Brady Adkins, was a member of the pioneer Brady family of Tulsa. His grandfather, W. Tate Brady, who came to Indian Territory at age 17, was one of Oklahoma’s most prominent early-day citizens—a developer, entrepreneur and civic leader in Tulsa. Tate Brady opened a mercantile store on Main Street in 1890, and in 1900, built the famous Brady Hotel, Tulsa’s original first-class hotel. The Brady home, where Eugene Adkins’ mother grew up, was modeled after Robert E. Lee’s mansion and remains one of Tulsa’s most impressive residences. The home is located in Brady Heights, and residents raised funds during Oklahoma’s Centennial year to place a monument at the entrance to the neighborhood recognizing the “Tulsa Spirit,” a term coined by Tate Brady.
Educated at St. John’s College both in Annapolis, Maryland, and Santa Fe, New Mexico, Eugene earned a degree in art history at Dartmouth College and a graduate degree in business at Stanford University. He served as an Ensign in the U.S. Navy during the Second World War and was a member of the Society of the Children of the Confederacy. During his early years, Gene spent the summers in Santa Fe, where he acquired a strong interest in Southwestern history and art. Gene was well versed in Western art and was considered an authority on Western paintings and Native American pottery, baskets and jewelry; the collection he amassed is evidence of his expertise.
In Adkins’s early years as a collector, he acquired a broad range of Euro-American and Native American artists and styles, from representational to modern, including works by such renowned western masters as Alfred Jacob Miller, Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell. In time, however, he found his collecting interests on artists working in the American Southwest during the first half of the 20th century. The Adkins Collection contains important works of art by the Santa Fe and Taos artists as well as many Native American artists from New Mexico and Arizona. It totals more than 3,300 objects in a number of categories, including 1,100 two-dimensional works, 370 pieces of pottery, more than 1,600 examples of jewelry and silverwork, and nearly 250 pieces of other Native arts. Nearly 75 percent of the Adkins Collection was made by Native American artists. The collection is remarkable for many things, but especially for the high quality of work across diverse media. From paintings and works on paper, to sculpture, pottery and a dazzling array of jewelry and silverwork, this collection boasts extraordinary creations by many of the most significant Native artists of the 20th century. Taken together, the Adkins Collection offers many highlights of both traditional and contemporary Native artistry of the 20th century and historic Euro-American art form the Southwest.