New Additions / New Perspectives: American Indian Art

Cradle Cover Panel, ca. 1800-1825; Eastern Sioux (Dakota); Hide, porcupine quill, birch bark, metal cones; T0847

In 1995, Eugene and Clare Thaw chose the New York State Historical Association to house their extraordinary collection of American Indian Art. The collection now numbers over 855 objects and continues to grow in number as well as artistic, geographic and chronological scope. The collection also includes objects generously given by other donors. 

Each new work enriches the collection in several ways. They fill gaps in representations of particular culture areas and time periods and they increase our knowledge and understanding of the field of American Indian art by frequently focusing upon known and documented artists. 

New Additions / New Perspectives: American Indian Art features many works by contemporary American Indian artists and exemplifies the varied artistic output of vibrant communities. Many artists employ traditional methods and designs while incorporating new themes in order to create reinterpretations of ancient expressions. Here we see how Native artists continue to be influenced by tradition and innovation, combining these elements according to their personal vision and aesthetic.

Most importantly, each new acquisition to the collection 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 Thaws have been instrumental in advancing this approach and their dedication and appreciation reflects the vitality and richness of this art. The human aspiration to create beautiful objects, which express a unique world view, is what drew the Thaws to collect this body of work. Ultimately, it is the fundamental humanity of these extraordinary artworks that continues to draw diverse audiences today.