Renowned Zelma Basha Salmeri Gallery Celebrates 25 Years

Launched in 1992, this Arizona gallery exhibits the Nation’s largest, privately-owned collection of Contemporary Western American & American Indian Art

The Zelma Basha Salmeri Gallery of Western American and American Indian Art, exhibiting The Eddie Basha Collection, celebrates its “Silver AnniversaryTwenty-Five Years of Sharing”. We invite you and others exploring the Valley of the Sun to visit this unique Arizona treasure, a recipient of the Arizona Governor’s Art Award among others.

Born from a love and passion for the West, the collection originated when Arizona businessman, education advocate and philanthropist, Eddie Basha Jr., at the encouragement of his Aunt Zelma, began collecting American fine art. With a Bachelor’s Degree in History from Stanford University and thorough knowledge of the westward expansion of America to guide him, Basha began acquiring art in 1971.

Nearly 21 years after his first purchase, Basha opened the Zelma Basha Salmeri Gallery in 1992, named in honor of his beloved aunt. Today, the collection has more than 3,500 pieces encompassing decades of American fine art in a wide variety of mediums: original oil and acrylic paintings, watercolors, drawings, bronzes, wood and stone sculptures, basketry, pottery, katsina and jewelry. The gallery provides an intimate environment that cannot be found elsewhere. Visitors often comment “it’s almost as if we’ve walked through someone’s home, albeit a very large one”. The gallery welcomes more than 30,000 visitors annually.

Well regarded by scholars, authors, and current/former museum directors, pieces are often loaned to Smithsonian affiliates across the nation for special exhibitions.

Seth Hopkins, Executive Director of the Booth Museum of Western Art (Cartersville GA) stated “the Eddie Basha Collection is unquestionably the best Contemporary Western Art Collection in private hands. It contains the best public or private collection of work by members of the Cowboy Artists of America, the group that deserves more credit than any other for establishing the Contemporary Western Art Market appreciated today. The collection’s core, with its concentration on narrative historical western art is unrivaled in or out of a museum. Among its interesting distinctions is that one person, Eddie Basha, acquired it yet it is comprehensive in surveying Western art of the last 50 years. Additionally, the scope of Native American artwork adds diversity, context and depth. Some of the most exciting indigenous artists of the 20th and 21st centuries are represented. This particular body of work could easily be a museum all on its own.”

Author, fine art historian and former Phoenix Art Museum Director, James K. Ballinger commented, “Eddie’s purpose in collecting was not unique. However, the fact that he was a “true patron” was.   Eddie personally developed relationships with the artists, their families and he cared about them. That is a very rare quality that he uniquely possessed. And because he was an early patron, he was able to acquire and build the finest Cowboy Artists collection of our time. Collectors that later came onto the scene didn’t have the early entre that Eddie did. And to this day, collectors will be unable to acquire as significant a collection of the finest CA work that Eddie assembled.”

Bill Rey of Claggett-Rey Gallery (Vail, CO) recalled, “Eddie was in awe of the American West. He was in awe of the men and women who explored it, toiled and made history. And he was in awe of the artists who studied it and whose canvas gave it vitality. His love, respect, and admiration for the artists was genuine and it was mutual. He had a discerning eye for technical expertise, artistic integrity and originality, and historical accuracy. He was gracious, he was humble, he was kind and he was generous. Eddie chose to share not only the collection, but he shared himself with everyone openly and freely. When he was in the gallery, clearly he was in his element; his joy and passion was contagious. Only his collection of friends surpassed that of his art.”

“Eddie never envisioned that his passion for Contemporary Fine Art of the West would result in such a significant collection that has become as much a part of the West as the art itself,” said Nadine Basha, wife of the late Eddie Basha Jr., who passed away in 2013. “As we celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the gallery’s opening, we’re proud of the reputation the collection has garnered and the sheer number of people it has impacted. It’s a legacy that no one predicted.”