Homecoming: Native American Art Exhibition Returns to Cooperstown

Press Release Contact: 

Todd Kenyon, Public Relations
New York State Historical Association
Fenimore Art Museum/The Farmers' Museum
Phone: (607) 547-1472 / E-mail: t.kenyon@nysha.org

A visit to the Fenimore Art Museum is always worthwhile in part because of the variety of exhibitions that change throughout the year.  This year being no exception, one exhibition made a grand tour: To Great Acclaim: Homecoming of the Thaw Collection. Selected artwork from the Eugene and Clare Thaw Collection of American Indian Art, having traveled to some of the finest art museums in the country, return to the Fenimore and open in this exhibition on April 1.

The Cleveland Museum of Art, Dallas Museum of Art, Indianapolis Museum of Art, and Minneapolis Institute of Arts all hosted the Thaw exhibition to great acclaim by the public and media. Over 100,000 visitors took advantage of the opportunity to see this superlative collection. In the words of Joe Horse Capture, curator at the MIA, "If you are ever going to see a Native American Art exhibition, this is the one." 

The Thaw collection's curator, Eva Fognell, comments, "Here in the Fenimore's Great Hall is a selection of the objects that toured the museums. We wanted to share with you the ways other museums installed, wrote about and promoted the Thaw Collection."

The objects were chosen both for their high artistic quality and to provide insight into the complex cultural, aesthetic and spiritual meanings embedded in the art. The objects date from well before first European contact to the present, and celebrate the continuing vitality of American Indian art. It reveals the exceptional variety of Native artistic production, ranging from the ancient ivories and ingenious modern masks of the Arctic to the dramatic sculptural arts of the Pacific Northwest.  It spans from the millennia-long tradition of abstract art in the Southwest, the refined basketry of California and the Great Basin, the famous beaded and painted works of the Plains to the luminous styles of the Eastern Woodlands.

"The collection has long been recognized as a national treasure.  This traveling exhibition gave us the opportunity to finally share these significant works with a much larger, national audience," said Paul D'Ambrosio, Vice President and Chief Curator at the Fenimore Art Museum.

A 120-page, full-color catalogue accompanied the exhibition, which was been made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts as part of American Masterpieces: Three Centuries of Artistic Genius.

Also opening on April 1, A Lineage of Iroquois Artistry tells a story stretching back to the 1600s with carved pipes, knives, and beaded bags. Today, many Haudenosaunee people continue to produce these and other objects, articulating an ancient cultural heritage still very much alive today.  Using both old and new techniques, materials, and concepts, these artists continue to communicate who they are, where they come from, and what is important to them as Native people.

About The Eugene and Clare Thaw Collection of American Indian Art at Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, New York: Comprising more than 850 masterpieces of Native American art from across North America that span more than 2,000 years, The Eugene and Clare Thaw Collection of American Indian Art is widely recognized as one of the most significant collections of American Indian art in the world. The Thaws began to collect these artworks in 1987 on the basis of their visual impact, superb artistry, and exceptional aesthetic qualities and they reveal, in Mr. Thaw's words, that "Indian material culture stands rightfully with ancient art, with masterpieces of Asia and Europe, as their equivalent."

Press Release Category: 
Exhibition Press Releases
Publication Date: 
March 2012