Published: June 19, 2001
Emphasizing the ‘American Experience within a Global Mission’ at the New American Folk Art Museum
NEW YORK CITY – The American Folk Art Museum – formerly the Museum of American Folk Art -announced June 12 that it will inaugurate its new $22 million, 30,000 square-foot building at 45 West 53rd Street, designed by the New York architectural firm of Tod Williams Billie Tsien and Associates, on December 11, 2001.
In anticipation of this major expansion and to underscore a spirit of dynamic growth, the museum is changing its name to American Folk Art Museum. The new name emphasizes the American experience within a global mission. The American Folk Art Museum’s inaugural season of exhibitions, launched with the opening of the new building, will illustrate the museum’s commitment to an expanded range of interests from traditional folk art of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries to the work of contemporary self-taught artists from the US and abroad.
“The name change marks the beginning of a new and exciting chapter in the 40-year history of this institution as we eagerly await the completion of the expansion,” said Gerard C. Wertkin, director of the American Folk Art Museum. “The new name makes a subtle but significant difference, reflecting our mission as America’s foremost institution dedicated to promoting the knowledge and appreciation of folk art from this country and abroad, past and present.”
The American Folk Art Museum’s increasingly broadened outlook has been evident in a series of rotating exhibitions organized by the museum over the past several years, including exhibitions on the folk art of Latin America, England, and Norway, among other countries and continents. The Museum is currently presenting the work of Twentieth Century European and American self-taught artists who fit French artist Jean Dubuffet’s definition of art brut. A number of paintings by artists represented in the exhibition “ABCD: A Collection of Art Brut” have already entered the museum’s permanent collection.
The inaugural season of exhibitions will open in December with “American Anthem Part I,” which includes “American Radiance: The Ralph Esmerian Gift to the American Folk Art Museum” and “Darger: The Henry Darger Collection,” followed in the spring of 2002 by “American Anthem Part II, Masterworks from the Collection.” On view at the American Folk Art Museum/Eva and Morris Feld Gallery at Lincoln Square from January 21 to May 2002 is the exhibition “Studies and Sketches: Henry Darger.”
“The inaugural season of exhibitions will demonstrate the extraordinary range of artistic expressions that fall within the range of the museum’s mission,” comments Stacy Hollander, senior curator and director of exhibitions at the American Folk Art Museum. “It will provide an extraordinary overview of the creative human spirit as exemplified in the exuberant works, many of which are new gifts generously donated in honor of the museum’s opening.”
“American Radiance: The Ralph Esmerian Gift to the American Folk Art Museum” will feature the complete Esmerian Collection, long recognized as the preeminent folk art collection in private hands which Esmerian recently donated to the museum. The largest and most important gift in the history of the Museum, the Esmerian collection includes over 400 paintings, sculptures, watercolors, weathervanes, carvings, pottery, Fraktur, textiles, samplers, scrimshaw, and furniture from the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries – many of them celebrated icons of American folk art.
The Esmerian Collection will be on public view for the first time in its entirety when the new building opens in December. Highlights will include “Young Woman of the Folsom Family,” an exquisite portrait that belongs to a striking group of oil paintings of singular individuals; “Girl in Red Dress with Cat and Dog” by Ammi Phillips, the best known painting in this group which Esmerian purchased in 1984 and immediately transferred to the custody of the museum; and the iconic Statue of Liberty weathervane, Esmerian’s first major folk sculpture acquisition.
“Darger: The Henry Darger Collection” will include works drawn from the museum’s significant holdings of 26 paintings and drawings, and the complete manuscripts of Darger’s three books recently acquired through gift and purchase. The exhibition examines the range of themes in Darger’s art. Enriching the presentation, the Eva and Morris Feld Gallery at Lincoln Square will show “Studies and Sketches: Henry Darger.”
More than 75 drawings and studies selected from the extensive archives of the museum’s Henry Darger Study Center reveal the artist’s working methods and his connections to his time and cultural environment. The museum maintains the largest repository of works by Henry Darger in America.
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