Visitors to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City can finally find a major Native American art exhibit in the American Wing.
For nearly a century, visitors were easily confused when looking for Native American art. To many people, it didn’t make sense. Native American art wasn’t displayed on the American Wing of the museum. Rather, a search for Native American art led guests to the tribal Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas exhibits. Why not the American Wing?
Established in 1924, the American Wing has always been filled with Colonial and early Federal art. It portrays American history, without crediting Native American artists, whose art is a significant part of America’s story. Many people agree that Native American art belongs in the American Wing of the museum. That’s why the unveiling of a major Native American art exhibit there is a big deal.
There are 116 works in the exhibit called “Art of Native America: The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection.” The Dikers have been collecting the exhibit’s components for 45 years. The pieces come from more than 50 cultures in North America. Some are as old as the second century. The Dikers offered their collection to the museum with a request. They wanted the pieces displayed in the American Wing. Their collection is Native American art—not tribal art.
Drawings, sculpture, textiles, embroidery, basketry, and ceramics are featured in the exhibit. Examples include a shoulder bag from around 1800 and a ceramic jar made by a Hopi-Tewa potter. A Washoe artist’s woven basket is also featured. According to Gaylord Torrence, a curator of American Indian Art, “The Dikers looked for pieces that were in remarkable condition, and they had a real eye for quality.”
This particular exhibit will be on display until October 6. But that doesn’t mean that Native American art will exit the American wing any time soon. The museum is committed to displaying Native American art on the wing for at least 10 more years.
Another smaller but notable exhibit has also found a place at the museum. The “Artistic Encounters with Indigenous America” exhibit features drawings, prints, watercolors, and photographs that reflect Native Americans as viewed by Non-Native American artists. Many of this exhibit’s works are labeled with stereotypes of Native Americans, intended to be humorous or insightful. Other works in the museum have Native American comments. For example, when wandering by the famous Emanuel Luetze painting Washington Crossing the Delaware, you can read unique commentary by a member of the Mohawk tribe.
(Osage Warrior, a watercolor in the collection called “Art of Native America: The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection.” Metropolitan Museum of Art Photo, via AP)