The Fenimore Art Museum debuts new traveling exhibition – Art of the American Indians: The Thaw Collection

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Cooperstown, NY (09/28/2009) - The Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, New York announces a new traveling exhibition entitled Art of the American Indians: The Thaw Collection.  This major exhibition is currently scheduled to travel to three cities, bringing to a national audience treasures from the extensive holdings of The Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw Collection of American Indian Art.  The collection is widely recognized as one of the most important assemblages of this type in the world. The New York Times described it as “a collection any museum in the world should envy.”

Art of the American Indians: The Thaw Collection is scheduled to travel to the following locations with more venues to be announced.

* The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH (Mar. 7, 2010 - May 30, 2010)
* Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, MN (Oct. 24, 2010 - Jan. 9, 2011)
* Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, IN (Dec. 4, 2011 – Feb. 12, 2012)

The exhibition explores the extraordinarily diverse forms of visual expression in American Indian heritage. Organized by geographic culture areas, 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.

“The collection has long been recognized as a national treasure.  This traveling exhibition gives 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 catalog will accompany the exhibition.


About The Eugene and Clare Thaw Collection of American Indian Art

In 1995, the Fenimore Art Museum embarked upon a new era with the addition of a spectacular new American Indian Wing designed to house the extraordinary gift from Eugene and Clare Thaw of their collection of American Indian Art. The collection has continued to grow and new objects are periodically added by the Thaws and other donors.  Today, it includes over 850 objects. Each new object reaffirms the Thaws’ commitment to the beauty and artistry of American Indian art, and thus strengthens the philosophical foundation of the collection: that the aesthetic power of American Indian art is equivalent to that from any culture.

The collection features art from a broad range of cultural areas including Northwest Coast, Woodlands, Prairie, Plateau, Plains, Southwest, California, The Great Basin, Arctic and Subarctic, dating from pre-history to today.

About Eugene and Clare Thaw

Eugene Victor Thaw and his wife Clare have an extraordinary sense of public duty.  Their many and continuing benefactions in the arts, music, education, environment and ecology, cultural preservation and animal rights among other causes, reflect their broad interest in the world.  In the area of art, their generosity has enriched many great public institutions both through gifts of important objects and contributions that further the intellectual and practical aims of art history.  The Thaws have always recognized the necessity of enhancing collections and supporting scholarship.  In recent years, they have donated an extraordinary collection of Old Master drawings to the Morgan Library in New York while at the same time making possible there the construction of a modern conservation laboratory.  Eugene Thaw, recognized as one of the premier fine arts experts in the world, has a seemingly incurable curiosity about all art.  He recently assembled and donated to the Metropolitan Museum in New York, a great collection of ancient Ordos bronzes.  If a single consideration might be said to inform his collecting, it is an insistence on the highest aesthetic quality of everything he acquires. 

When the Thaws established a home in Santa Fe in the 1980s, Eugene Thaw became interested in the art of American Indians, starting with the beadwork of Plains peoples.  Before long he had become thoroughly conversant with the aesthetic values of all American Indian art, and was collecting the finest objects from many cultural areas.  Having had a farm for many years in central New York, near Cooperstown, the Thaws eventually decided to donate their American Indian collection to the Fenimore Art Museum.  A new wing to house the collection opened in 1995.  Since that time the Thaws have continued to donate objects that improve the collection in quality and scope.  Today, it is recognized as one of the great collections of American Indian masterpieces.

About the Fenimore Art Museum

The Fenimore Art Museum, located on the shores of Otsego Lake -- James Fenimore Cooper’s “Glimmerglass Lake” -- in historic Cooperstown, New York, features a wide-ranging collection of American art including: folk art; important American 18th- and 19th-century landscape, genre, and portrait paintings; an extensive collection of domestic artifacts; more than 125,000 historical photographs representing the technical developments made in photography and providing extensive visual documentation of the region’s unique history; and the renowned Eugene and Clare Thaw Collection of American Indian Art comprising more than 800 art objects representative of a broad geographic range of North American Indian cultures, from the Northwest Coast, Eastern Woodlands, Plains, Southwest, Great Lakes, and Prairie regions.  Founded in 1945, the Fenimore Art Museum is NYSHA’s showcase museum.

For more information or images, please contact:
Todd Kenyon, Public Relations
New York State Historical Association
Fenimore Art Museum/The Farmers’ Museum
Phone: (607) 547-1472 / E-mail:

Press Release Category: 
Recent Announcements
Publication Date: 
September 2009