In spring 2010, Arizona-based James T. Bialac decided to give his private collection to OU because of the university’s commitment to excellence in education. The multimillion-dollar collection of more than 4,000 works represents indigenous cultures across North America, especially the Pueblos of the Southwest, the Navajo, the Hopi, many of the tribes of the Northern and Southern Plains and the Southeastern tribes. Included in the James T. Bialac Native American Art Collection are approximately 2,600 paintings and works on paper, over 1,000 kachinas and 400 works of varying media, including ceramics and jewelry, representing major Native artists such as Fred Kabotie, Awa Tsireh, Fritz Scholder, Joe Herrera, Allan Houser, Jerome Tiger, Tonita Pena, Helen Hardin, Pablita Velarde, George Morrison, Richard “Dick” West, Patrick DesJarlait and Pop Chalee.
In 1964, Bialac purchased a painting by Robert Chee (Hashke-Yil-Cale), the first of what would become a nearly 50-year journey into collecting art. As a successful lawyer over the past few decades, he has become close friends with many prominent artists through his legal practice, including Houser, a Chiricahua Apache artist whose sculpture Sacred Rain Arrow is now reproduced on the Oklahoma state license plate, Houser’s sons Bob and Phillip, Hopi artist Charles Loloma and others.
Bialac also has served as a juror for many of the more important exhibitions of contemporary Native art, including the Santa Fe Indian Market.
Works from Bialac’s collection have appeared in many books and periodicals, such as National Geographic magazine and Smithsonian publications. On the whole, his lifetime collection spans 100 years of Native culture in a wide variety of media from across North America.
For information about this collection, please view the Bialac Finding Aid here.