Basha’s Art Gallery: A hidden masterpiece

It’s no secret that corporate offices throughout the country are filled with famous works of art. Paintings, sculpture, multimedia creations from nationally-known and regional artists occupy the walls, cases and pedestals of corporate galleries, lobbies, hallways and lounges. But it’s a little known fact that Arizona supermarket giant, Basha’s, has maintained a vast collection of American Cowboy and Native American art, basketry, jewelry and artifacts in its Chandler headquarters.

Basha’s Art Gallery front hall features works by Joe Beeler

The Zelma Basha Salmeri Gallery of Western American and Native American Art houses over 3,000 pieces in a wide range of media: oil, watercolor, acrylics, charcoal and pastels on canvas and paper as well as three-dimensional works in bronze, wood, granite, marble. The Pima and Apache baskets, Zuni and Navajo jewelry and Hopi kachinas not only “catch the eye;” they entice the visitor’s curiosity.

Bronze piece shows intricate details of animals

Zelma Basha Salmeri was an aunt of board chairman and CEO Eddie Basha Jr., who died March 26. Zelma passed along her love of art to her nephew and encouraged his hobby as a collector, so this collection is a tribute to her. He began collecting these works in 1971, and continued to expand the gallery throughout his life.

Contemporary pieces include ink and watercolor paintings

Many of the artists can be identified with the organization of western artists, Cowboy Artists of America. Joe Beeler, James Reynolds, Howard Terpning and George Phippen are represented here as well as John Clymer, who is known for his western art and his famous magazine art used on 80 front covers of “Saturday Evening Post.” Display cases created with hammered copper and glass boast fine examples of silver, turquoise and coral jewelry, Zuni fetishes and seed pots.

Paintings often depict an eventful scene as in John Clymer’s

Basha’s Art Gallery-goers should opt to take a few minutes to read the captions – to learn about the scene’s background and become acquainted with the artist. Then one can ascertain how each work is the sum of much historical data collection, creative imagination and technical interpretation. These artists must have also carried a fierce determination, as if it’s a parallel to their subjects and the spirit of the American frontier.

One part of the Kachina (or katsina) collection

There is no charge to visit the gallery, located in south Chandler, at 22402 S. Basha Road. Hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit the website.

Yavapai, Navajo, Apache and Pima tribes represented in the basket room

Note: This blog post first appeared April 21, 2011. I wanted to reprise an updated version now as kind a personal tribute to the late Eddie Basha Jr. I believe this amazing art gallery that Mr. Basha opened to all demonstrates how much he cared about his community as well as Arizona’s diverse history and cultural heritage.

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