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November 21 2018

Native American Art Receives Broad Reassessment Across American Museums


Chadd Scott of Forbes Magazine is emphasizing the wide-ranging reassessment of Native American art in museums across the United States. The article coincides with the opening of Art of Native America: The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection, the first exhibition of Indigenous works held in the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

The article quotes Ned Blackhawk, professor of history and American studies at Yale University as saying that ‘the American Wing of the Met is an ideal space to exhibit this particular collection.’ Works produced by the Indigenous peoples of Canada and the US have not historically been exhibited as art. ‘The longstanding territorial practice of designating arts as "primitive" or "ethnographic" or as "non-Western" has limited our capacity to see a broader and more shared humanity,’ Blackhawk says. 'I would like to think that the Diker Collection is the beginning of a major, if not radical, reorientation of–not just the Met–but other American museums commitments to seeing past a limited vision of what it means to call something "American art.”'

Other institutions working on reassessing their collections include the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas and the Toledo Museum of Art in Toledo, Ohio. “Native American artists offer crucial and important perspectives,” Dr. Halona Norton-Westbrook, director of curatorial affairs at the Toledo Museum of Art, said. “If society fails to hear these voices, then it fails to embrace a truer and fuller picture of America and all its inherent richness and complexity.

Donald Ellis Gallery has been working on elevating Native American works to the status of art with museums and private collectors for decades. The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection now on view at the MET was largely acquired from the gallery.

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