An entrepreneur in Tulsa has paid $150,000 for a set of six KU Jayhawk paintings that contain rock chalk (limestone dust). The paintings by Kansas City artist Megh Knappenberger were for sale at Niall, a luxury watch boutique on The Country Club Plaza.
The buyer, who asked not to be identified, had ordered a set of six limited edition prints for $1,500 and was at Niall to pick them up a couple of weeks ago when he decided to buy the originals as well.
“The prints are great. I have them in my office,” he said. “But when we saw the originals — the size, the colors, the texture — you can’t reproduce that. My wife and I thought, ‘Wow, those are really spectacular.’ ”
The paintings are unusual in that they’re officially licensed depictions of a sports logo with a fine-art feel and price tag to match.
Each painting depicts one of six Jayhawk logos over the years and are numbered with the year they were trademarked.
The idea for them came about after Knappenberger painted a portrait of James Naismith as a Father’s Day gift for her husband. Naismith devised the first rules for basketball and was the first basketball coach at KU.
Friends and family liked the portrait so much that she started selling prints online. Michael Wilson, owner of Niall and a KU alumnus, ordered one for his shop.
He had created the Fieldhouse Blue, a wristwatch with Naismith’s original 13 rules of basketball inscribed on its dial, which sells for $4,450. The rules are so tiny as to appear like pin dots, but are legible under the lens of a microscope.
When Knappenberger delivered the prints to him herself, they came up with the idea for the paintings of the six Jayhawk logos. Then the idea struck, she says, to incorporate actual Kansas limestone dust, limestone being the “rock chalk” in the Jayhawk chant.
Wilson helped Knappenberger get the paintings officially licensed through KU so she could sell them. KU will receive a 12 percent royalty from sales of the paintings and prints.
Knappenberger is still selling limited edition prints. The 152 hand-signed and numbered sets come with a small jar of the same chalk rock dust used in the paintings and are priced at $1,500 for 18-by-18-inch framed and matted prints or $1,200 for 14-by-14-inch unframed prints.
Knappenberger and a professional art installer from a gallery in Tulsa installed the paintings in the buyer’s home earlier this week.
“Two are in my home office and the others are in an alcove outside our bedroom, but you can see all of them from one spot,” said the buyer.
The buyer is a KU alum and says that if his sons enroll there, which he’s pretty sure they will, they’ll be the fifth generation in his family to attend the university.
“My wife’s side of the family is even more ingrained in KU,” he says. “That’s where I met my wife. If my sons enroll there, we’re thinking of buying a little house in Lawrence so we can have a semi-retirement home up there.”