Briscoe Western Art Museum opens in San Antonio

Vision of former governor now reality

San Antonio has a new museum of art: the Briscoe Western Art Museum, located downtown.

“We are not a history museum -- we are an art museum -- but history clearly plays a role in what we do," said Dr. Steven Karr, the executive director of the museum.

The museum is a collection of western art, paintings, sculptures and artifacts. Some pieces are 200 years old, while others may be just a year or two old.

“The important part is that it is western art or artifact and tells a broader story about our region,” Karr said.

The museum is actually located in the old downtown central library.

The collection comes mostly from personal contributors.

The themes of the museum are movement, work, conflict and opportunity.

One of the most attractive pieces is what is thought to be the last saddle used by Pancho Villa.  He was given the saddle in the early 1920s by a couple of saddle-makers in Mexico. 

It is highly detailed with leather and silver snakes and devils. The makers got the idea after Gen. Joseph Pershing used those words to describe Villa.

“It’s a beautiful saddle (with) really fine craftsmanship. It's wonderful and then when you find out it was Villa's, it becomes more of a significant piece," Karr said.

There is also a sword presented to Santa Ana back in 1852 from a company out of Massachusetts that was looking for a contract with the Mexican Army.

“A beautiful piece, artistically,” Karr said.

There was a reason that the late governor and other contributors wanted a western art museum in San Antonio.

“Western art is a part of the American identity and character (and) San Antonio is, arguably, the most iconic of western cities, " Karr said.

He also said that there is now another special place for the visitors from around the world.

“They are looking for flavor of the west in San Antonio and we hope we can help meet that expectation," he said.

The grand opening set for Saturday, Oct. 26.

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