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American Indian Art from Fenimore Art Museum: The Thaw Collection

October 13 - December 30, 2018

The great achievements of North America’s first artists are celebrated in American Indian Art from Fenimore Art Museum: The Thaw Collection, an exhibition that demonstrates the long-standing excellence of the aesthetic traditions of North America’s native peoples. Spanning the continent from the first millennium to the 20th century, the exhibition of more than 35 exceptional objects showcases masterpieces in various media—sculpture, painting, drawing, basketry, textiles, ceramics, and the decorative arts.

Native Americans took great pleasure in the visual beauty of these objects made with imagination and skill, but they also prized qualities invisible in the finished work.  These vary from place to place and may include the ritual correctness of gathering raw materials; sound construction and usefulness; the power that comes from an object’s conception in a vision or dream; or how often an object appears in performances, feasts, and ceremonies, during which oratory, dance, song, and movement give it animating force. For instance, a whelk shell neck ornament exquisitely carved by an unrecorded Caddoan artist between 1200 and 1350, depicts a figure involved in a ritual observance and was worn as a sign of status or office. In a more recent example, which dates to 1880-1881, the Sans Arcs Lakota artist, Black Hawk, created drawings of hunting, dance, warfare and ceremony.  He used minimal outlining and animated his rendering with pattern, textured surfaces, and pale, translucent color.

Art such as Black Hawk’s bears witness to Native American artists’  experimentation with the new materials, techniques, and imagery introduced by Euro-Americans.  Such objects record artists’ ability to absorb without being absorbed, despite intense pressure to assimilate into Euro-American culture.  They testify to their creators’ ingenuity and resilience, and to the importance of the arts in sustaining traditions that have not vanished but continue today stronger than ever.

This selection of artistic landmarks is drawn entirely from the collection of Native North American art that was assembled by Eugene and Clare Thaw. Recognized as a leading dealer and collector of Old Master drawings and paintings, Eugene Thaw approached Native American material culture as fine art, applying the same exacting standards of connoisseurship here as in other areas. Today, his collection of American Indian art encompasses more than 875 objects and is widely recognized as one of the most significant in the world. Discover the transcendent beauty of the choicest of these works of art on view for the first time for our Utica community.  

The exhibition is organized by Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York, in collaboration with the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute. It is supported by a generous grant from the Eugene V. & Clare E. Thaw Charitable Trust.

Exhibition Programs

War Record ca 1880 520 x 372 Event Image
American Indian Art from Fenimore Art Museum: The Thaw Collection

American Indian Art from Fenimore Art Museum: The Thaw Collection, celebrates the great achievements of North America’s first artists. Explore the long-standing excellence of the aesthetic traditions of North America’s native peoples. Spanning the continent from the first millennium to the 20th-century, works in the exhibition showcase indigenous masterpieces in various media—sculpture, painting, drawing, basketry, textiles, ceramics, and decorative arts. Discover objects of transcendent beauty on view for the first time for our Utica community.

  • Saturday, October 13, 2018, 5:30 pm - 7:30 pm
Guided Tours American Indian Art 520 x 372 Event Image
American Indian Art from Fenimore Art Museum: The Thaw Collection

Free and open to the public

  • Saturday, October 13, 2018, 1 pm
  • Saturday, October 20, 2018, 1 pm
  • Saturday, October 27, 2018, 1 pm
  • Saturday, November 3, 2018, 1 pm
  • View All Dates
T177 520 x 372 Event Image
American Indian Art from Fenimore Art Museum: The Thaw Collection

Contact Meg Gianetti, School Programs Coordinator, 315-797-0000, ext. 2146 or by email at mgianetti@mwpai.edu.

Tour times still available Tuesdays through Fridays, starting at 10 a.m.

Teachers, take advantage of this opportunity! Your students can discover the early history of New York State and the culture of American Indians from Northeast woodland regions. Tour themes examine similarities and differences in place, ritual, and personal adornment among North American Indian nations.

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New York State Council on the Arts with the support of
Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

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