Published: April 26, 2022
By Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy American Folk Art Museum
NEW YORK CITY – The American Folk Art Museum celebrated its 60 years with a glittering benefit gala at Gotham Hall on April 7; it was the first time since the museum’s 2019 edition that it was able to do this, and it pulled out all the stops. The event raised more than $475,000 for the museum’s programs, exhibitions and educational initiatives.
The museum’s annual gala routinely looks to honor people making a difference in the field, as well as one board member. They checked all the boxes with the roster of honorees selected.
“For our 60th, it was important to mark the occasion,” said Christopher Gorman, the museum’s deputy director and chief communications officer. “In 2020, when we set out to do our first online auction [on Artsy], we reached out to many contemporary artists to donate a work to auction. We’ve heard often enough from contemporary artists, like Cindy Sherman, how much they love the folk art museum, so we thought about how the museum has inspired artists. You could make the argument that a lot of artists, who do not self-describe as folk or self-taught, have looked to us for inspiration.”
“This year, we included Brian Donnelly, aka KAWS, who has been a board member since 2019. He’s supported the museum and is also a renowned artist and a collector of self-taught art.”
In addition to Donnelly, the museum selected Bisa Butler, who has done programs with the folk art museum in the past and whose work as a fiber artist has transformed the quilting genre.
“[Bisa Butler] says how much she connects with our mission,” Gorman said. “In her work, she’s threading works that people mistake for paintings. It [her work] overlaps in some ways with the materials of some of the works in our galleries.
“I don’t think we can honor Faith Ringgold enough,” he added. “She’s one of [today’s] most impactful artists.”
Rounding out the panel of honorees was Joyce Berger Cowin, who was honored as the most generous supporter in AFAM’s 60-year history.
“This event will go down in the books as one of the most successful benefit galas we have hosted,” said Karley Klopfenstein, AFAM’s chief development officer. “It was our honor to salute three of the most innovative and inspiring artists of our time, as well as celebrate Joyce Berger Cowin as the most generous philanthropist in AFAM’s history, and our six decades as New York City’s only museum devoted to folk and self-taught artists.”
Throughout its history, the museum has always bridged the gap between traditional folk art and modern and contemporary self-taught art. Gorman pointed out that the museum’s first monographic show was in 1965 and was titled “Folk Carvings by Will Edmondson; it featured the works of the self-taught stonecutter who is now widely recognized as an Outsider art Old Master. Notable modern artists like Andy Warhol have sat on the museum’s board.
“As we go forward, in our books, our exhibitions, our acquisitions, we’re looking to strike a balance across the entire field and trying to find ways to showcase it, to celebrate it,” Gorman concluded.
The event’s attendees were equally representative of that mission, including collectors of both traditional folk art as well as self-taught art. More than 300 people attended the event, including Bisa Butler, KAWS, John McEnroe, Serena Altschul, Jean Shafiroff, Miss Info, Lee Quinones, Erik Parker, Shaniqua Jarvis, Joe Coleman, Jerry Lauren, Dr Lisa Farrington, Max Anderson, Stephanie Stebich, Elizabeth V. Warren, Laura Parsons, Audrey B. Heckler, Lucy and Mike Danziger, Barbara Gordon, Brett Robbins, Gail Wright Sirmans, Laurent Delly, Anne Radice, Andrew Edlin and Matthew Higgs. Entertainment was provided by DJ Prince Hakim.
The American Folk Art Museum is at 2 Lincoln Square. For additional information, www.folkartmuseum.org.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm