The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
The Sporting Art Auction, a collaboration between Keeneland and Downtown Lexington’s Cross Gate Gallery, will make its debut in November auctioning work by modern and 19th century American and British sporting artists at the historic race track.
“This Sporting Art Auction has the potential to become the most important of its kind in the world,” Cross Gate owner and auction curator Greg Ladd said in a news release. “We have all the right elements to make it a success—a world-class venue in Keeneland which provides in-house expertise in conducting major auctions, and the ability to reach the most enthusiastic sporting art collectors in the world through Keeneland’s racing and sales clientele.”
Ladd has already secured two marquee pieces for the inaugural auction: Blue Prince by Sir Alfred Munnings, commissioned by thoroughbred breeder and owner Walter Jeffords, and a 7 foot-by-17 foot mural by LeRoy Neiman, commissioned by Charles W. Bidwell Jr. for Sportsman’s Park in Cicero, Ill. The overall auction will feature approximately 200 works, primarily paintings and sculptures.
Works in the auction will be on display at Keeneland through the fall race meet in October as well as the September and November sales. Keeneland’s proceeds from the sales will go to support its not-for-profit initiatives, including the Keeneland Library Foundation.
Lexington washes across the walls of Cross Gate Gallery this month in streams of watercolor, forming images of Cheapside, the Lexington Opera House, Al’s Bar and many other familiar locations rendered in dreamy impressions from the brush of Sandra Oppegard.
“There was one lady in here who said, ‘You make Lexington look like Paris,’” Oppegard says, leading a casual tour of her exhibit, Landscapes and Townscapes. She quickly steers toward a painting and says, “I think she was referring to the old Metropol at dusk, because that has a kind of Parisian feel.”
In her image, the restaurant, which was in the building now occupied by The Village Idiot pub, is framed by lights and occupied by a reveling crowd.
Others have told her that she makes Lexington look fabulous.
“To me, it looks that way,” Oppegard says. “That’s the thing about someone coming in from another area: new eyes.”
Oppegard, 71, was born in Cincinnati and then began moving west, eventually settling in California. Her love of art coincided with a love of horses. She was encouraged through art classes in high school to go to art school and attended the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif. From there, she went on to a 23-year career as a freelance illustrator based in Southern California with a list of clients that included Max Factor, Redken, Mattel Toys and Baskin-Robbins.
In 1974, she married Thoroughbred trainer Victor Ellis Oppegard. The couple moved to Montana in the 1980s and Lexington in 1999.
“I even got an assistant trainer’s license in California,” Oppegard says. “I got to saddle horses at Santa Anita and Hollywood Park. I learned things that were very handy to me getting commissions to paint horses and selling work because it’s very authentic. I really know what’s going on. You can tell if an artist knows horses or not.”
While working in California, Oppegard met Cross Gate Gallery owner Greg Ladd and he started buying her work. In 1994, she visited Lexington for the first time and says that’s when she and her husband first considered moving to the Bluegrass. An added draw was family that had moved to Northern Kentucky.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich