The brilliance of Native American artists from across the United States and Canada is affirmed in this installation of historical and contemporary works. Honoring the diversity of Native life, the display reveals complex perspectives on America’s past and the deep significance of these artworks to Native and non-Native communities in the present. The work of more than fifty Indigenous groups is represented, as well as major Native American aesthetic forms: painting, drawing, sculpture, textiles, quill and bead embroidery, basketry, and ceramics.
Most of the items—made to be worn; to nourish; to hunt, defend, and protect; to cradle the young; and to restore balance and wellness—are from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Also included are modern and contemporary artworks that demonstrate unbroken aesthetic lineages. All were created against the backdrop of ongoing Euro-American colonialism and environmental devastation. They are organized into seven geographical regions: Woodlands, Northwest Coast, Arctic, Plateau, Plains, Southwest, and California and Great Basin.
This long-term installation consists primarily of promised gifts, donations, and loans from the major collectors Charles and Valerie Diker as well as other patrons. Their belief in the power of these works to broaden historical, cultural, and aesthetic understandings inspired their generosity. The presentation marks the commitment of the American Wing, established in 1924, to foregrounding Native cultural expressions and perspectives in meaningful, inclusive contexts.
Accompanied by a catalogue.
This statement demonstrates our institutional commitment to respectfully recognizing the original Native American communities and their kinship ties to the lands and waters of this place.
The American Wing acknowledges the sovereign Native American and Indigenous communities dispossessed from the lands and waters of this region. We affirm our intentions for ongoing relationships with contemporary Native American and Indigenous artists and the original communities whose ancestral and aesthetic items we care for.
We understand that these items—vibrant expressions of Native sovereignty, identity, and connections to community and family—embody intergenerational and environmental knowledge, including origin stories, languages, songs, dances, and ties to homelands.
We commit to pursuing continuous collaborations with Indigenous communities and to presenting Native American art in a manner that is inclusive of Indigenous perspectives, involves guidance from source communities, and creates space for respectful listening and thoughtful dialogue. We will work to advance Indigenous experiences in The Met’s exhibitions, collections, and programs.
We will strengthen our awareness of historical and contemporary environmental issues in the New York region and throughout North America, in order to thoughtfully reckon with our institutional legacy and its impact on the lands, waters, and original peoples of this place, which are, and will always be, inextricable.
The catalogue is made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Art of Native America: The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection is complemented by the exhibition Artistic Encounters with Indigenous America, on view at The Met Fifth Avenue from December 3, 2018, through May 13, 2019.
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