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A Look Into the Life of Bowie House’s Jo Ellard

Bowie House owner Jo Ellard has amassed an impressive assemblage of accolades and occupations. Her latest endeavor showcases another prized collection: her art.
| |Photography Courtesy of Elizabeth Lavin
Art Department: A piece by Kenyan photographer Thandiwe Muriu hangs behind Jo Ellard in the library of her new hotel, Bowie House. Elizabeth Lavin

Renaissance woman Jo Ellard has lived her life with a curator’s eye. A legendary equestrian (she’s been inducted into the National Cutting Horse Association Non-Pro Hall of Fame), she’s also a champion horse breeder, a successful rancher, a yachting enthusiast, and a connoisseur of art and antiques. 

Her latest endeavor—the five-star Bowie House, Auberge Resorts Collection in Fort Worth—is another passion-turned-career she is mastering with her indomitable taste. Having frequented Fort Worth for equestrian shows and sales for more than 30 years, Dallas-based Ellard saw the need for a luxury hospitality option in the area. With the help of design director Michael Crosby and architecture firm BOKA Powell, she developed the spectacular property to give visitors and locals an elegant place to gather in the Cultural District.

In addition to top-notch service and accommodations, part of what makes the 106-room hotel special is the art that adorns the rooms and public spaces. Each piece was hand-picked by Ellard, either plucked from her personal collection or bought with the hotel in mind. Though Ellard has purchased art all her life, she began thinking about collecting on a higher level when she lost her husband to cancer in 2010. “I updated my 1980s home and started buying better,” she recalls. “I had some wonderful mentors that led me down the right path.” 

At the top of that list was fellow cutting-horse competitor and Walmart heiress Alice Walton, who inspired Ellard with her personal collection, much of which now resides in the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. 

“We started palling around and going to Art Basel Switzerland, London, Paris—all over the world,” Ellard recalls. “[Amon Carter Museum of American Art founder] Ruth Carter Stevenson was with us on several trips to New York and the Hudson Valley, and that just opened my eyes to another level of art appreciation.” 

The 400-plus works that currently hang in Bowie House span all genres and subjects, from L.A. street artist Hijack’s sculptural mashups to Karen Navarro’s photographic collages. Nearly every piece is for sale. Overseeing the collection is former Samuel Lynne Galleries assistant director Emily Gregoire, who was named director of The Gallery at Bowie House. As part of her role, she leads art walks, which allow guests and locals to take an immersive view of Bowie House’s ever-evolving collection, and manages intimate artist talks and live works.  

Ellard is already planning trips for herself and Gregoire to Switzerland and Art Basel Miami Beach to keep things fresh. Whatever direction The Gallery at Bowie House will take, its owner promises it will consistently be elevated, engaging, and visionary—much like the hotel itself. 

“The hotel itself is a work of art, but the art just takes it to another level of interest,” says Ellard. “It’s just like the furnishings or the design; it’s not traditionalist, it’s not modern, it’s not contemporary, but it has all those elements. Every single inch is curated. I feel like we’ve created a masterpiece.”


Collect Calling

A collection like Jo Ellard’s doesn’t happen overnight. Yet any art fan at every level (or budget) can easily build a stellar grouping of work with Ellard’s simple-to-follow tips.

Let the right pieces find you.

When arriving at a gallery or art fair, Ellard lets her eyes travel, seeing what works or themes intrigue her.

Don’t buy simply for investment purposes.

Instead, see what visually attracts you or makes you smile.

Framing is everything.

Says Ellard, “If you skimp on the framing, it can make your piece look less than it is, and if you change the framing, it can make the piece look more than it is.”

Prints are a great starting point.

For young couples on a budget, a great print in an even better frame will brighten any wall.

Don’t be afraid to keep things moving.

“You start out buying what you can afford and like, and as your appreciation and your eye mature and grow,, you start evolving and buy better and different, and it’s time to let the other go.”


Kendall Morgan

Kendall Morgan