American Folk Art Museum

American Folk Art Museum

Overview
The American Folk Art Museum is a museum devoted to American folk art
Folk art
Folk art encompasses art produced from an indigenous culture or by peasants or other laboring tradespeople. In contrast to fine art, folk art is primarily utilitarian and decorative rather than purely aesthetic....

, as well as the work of international self-taught artists. It has branches at 45 West 53rd Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, in Midtown Manhattan
Midtown Manhattan
Midtown Manhattan, or simply Midtown, is an area of Manhattan, New York City home to world-famous commercial zones such as Rockefeller Center, Broadway, and Times Square...

 (New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 and 2 Lincoln Square by Lincoln Center, USA).

In May 2011 the Museum of Modern Art bought its 53rd Street location. The Folk Museum pays $1/year for its 5000 square feet (464.5 m²) Lincoln Square branch which is one-sixth the size of its 53rd Street location.

The museum was founded on June 23, 1961, and opened its doors to the public for the first time on September 27, 1963, in the rented parlor floor of a townhouse at 49 West 53rd Street. In 1979, the museum purchased two townhouses adjacent to 49 West 53rd Street.
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Encyclopedia
The American Folk Art Museum is a museum devoted to American folk art
Folk art
Folk art encompasses art produced from an indigenous culture or by peasants or other laboring tradespeople. In contrast to fine art, folk art is primarily utilitarian and decorative rather than purely aesthetic....

, as well as the work of international self-taught artists. It has branches at 45 West 53rd Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, in Midtown Manhattan
Midtown Manhattan
Midtown Manhattan, or simply Midtown, is an area of Manhattan, New York City home to world-famous commercial zones such as Rockefeller Center, Broadway, and Times Square...

 (New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 and 2 Lincoln Square by Lincoln Center, USA).

In May 2011 the Museum of Modern Art bought its 53rd Street location. The Folk Museum pays $1/year for its 5000 square feet (464.5 m²) Lincoln Square branch which is one-sixth the size of its 53rd Street location.

Museum History


The museum was founded on June 23, 1961, and opened its doors to the public for the first time on September 27, 1963, in the rented parlor floor of a townhouse at 49 West 53rd Street. In 1979, the museum purchased two townhouses adjacent to 49 West 53rd Street. While plans for a development of these properties were being devised, the institution continued to present its exhibitions in the rented gallery until 1984, when it opened facilities in a former carriage house at 125 West 55th Street
55th Street (Manhattan)
55th Street is a two-mile-long, one-way street traveling east to west across Midtown Manhattan.-Sutton Place South:*The route officially begins at Sutton Place South which is on a hill overlooking FDR Drive....

. That building, however, was razed just two years later, leaving the museum without galleries of its own for almost four years. During that time, the institution continued to organize a full schedule of exhibitions and educational programs, utilizing public spaces and corporate galleries, and offered an extensive traveling exhibition program to museums throughout the country. In 1989, exhibition facilities at 2 Lincoln Square
Lincoln Square, New York
Lincoln Square is the name of both a square and the surrounding neighborhood within the Upper West Side of the New York City borough of Manhattan...

, opposite Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts is a complex of buildings in the Lincoln Square neighborhood of New York City's Upper West Side. Reynold Levy has been its president since 2002.-History and facilities:...

, were opened.

Diversity in programming became a growing emphasis for the institution in the 1990s. Major presentations of African American
African American
African Americans are citizens or residents of the United States who have at least partial ancestry from any of the native populations of Sub-Saharan Africa and are the direct descendants of enslaved Africans within the boundaries of the present United States...

 and Latino
Latino
The demonyms Latino and Latina , are defined in English language dictionaries as:* "a person of Latin-American descent."* "A Latin American."* "A person of Hispanic, especially Latin-American, descent, often one living in the United States."...

 artworks became a regular feature of the museum's exhibition schedule and permanent collection. In 1998, the formation of the Contemporary Center was announced, a division of the museum that is devoted entirely to the work of 20th- and 21st-century self-taught artists, as well as non-American artworks in the tradition of European art brut
Outsider Art
The term outsider art was coined by art critic Roger Cardinal in 1972 as an English synonym for art brut , a label created by French artist Jean Dubuffet to describe art created outside the boundaries of official culture; Dubuffet focused particularly on art by insane-asylum inmates.While...

. Within a short time, the Contemporary Center established a leadership role in this field. In 2001, the Center announced the acquisition of twenty-four works by Chicago artist Henry Darger
Henry Darger
Henry Joseph Darger, Jr. was a reclusive American writer and artist who worked as a custodian in Chicago, Illinois...

, as well as a huge archival collection of Darger’s books, tracings, drawings, and source materials, which combined now form the basis of the Henry Darger Study Center.

As the collection and the reputation of the museum continued to mature, so did the effort to develop a permanent home. It was determined that the museum would erect a 30000 square feet (2,787.1 m²), eight-level structure on the 45 and 47 West 53rd Street lots, to be designed by the internationally recognized firm of Tod Williams & Billie Tsien
Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects
Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects are a husband-and-wife architectural firm founded in 1974, based in New York....

. This building was inaugurated on December 11, 2001.

During the more than four decades of growth and development, the museum has enlarged its mission and extended the purview of its interests. Known initially as the Museum of Early American Folk Arts and concerned principally with the vernacular
Vernacular
A vernacular is the native language or native dialect of a specific population, as opposed to a language of wider communication that is not native to the population, such as a national language or lingua franca.- Etymology :The term is not a recent one...

 arts of 18th- and 19th-century America, especially of the Atlantic Northeast
Atlantic Northeast
The Atlantic Northeast, or Arcadia, is a region of North America, comprising New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine and the Canadian Maritimes. Definitions of the region vary; it may extend to upstate New York and/or all of Atlantic Canada....

, the institution adopted a simpler but more inclusive name in 1966: the Museum of American Folk Art. As an expression of a further extension of mission, the institution chose its current name, American Folk Art Museum, in 2001. Recognizing that American folk art
Folk art
Folk art encompasses art produced from an indigenous culture or by peasants or other laboring tradespeople. In contrast to fine art, folk art is primarily utilitarian and decorative rather than purely aesthetic....

 could be fully understood only in an international context, the word American functions as an indication of the museum's location, emphasis, and principal patronage rather than as a limitation on the kinds of art it collects, interprets, or presents.

In 2007, it was among over 530 New York City arts and social service institutions to receive part of a $20 million grant from the Carnegie Corporation, which was made possible through a donation by New York City mayor
Mayor
In many countries, a Mayor is the highest ranking officer in the municipal government of a town or a large urban city....

 Michael Bloomberg
Michael Bloomberg
Michael Rubens Bloomberg is the current Mayor of New York City. With a net worth of $19.5 billion in 2011, he is also the 12th-richest person in the United States...

.

Artworks and Exhibitions



The museum began to build a collection almost immediately after it was established. The now iconic Flag Gate (c. 1876) was its initial accession, in 1962, followed, a year later, by the Archangel Gabriel Weathervane (c. 1840) and the monumental St. Tammany Weathervane (c. 1890), now a centerpiece in the museum. The purchase, in 1979, of the famous Bird of Paradise Quilt Top (1858–1863) represented a turning point: The art of quilt
Quilt
A quilt is a type of bed cover, traditionally composed of three layers of fiber: a woven cloth top, a layer of batting or wadding and a woven back, combined using the technique of quilting. “Quilting” refers to the technique of joining at least two fabric layers by stitches or ties...

making would become a major emphasis in the collection and public programs of the institution. Throughout the 1980s, the permanent collection continued to grow with major acquisitions of early American folk art
Folk art
Folk art encompasses art produced from an indigenous culture or by peasants or other laboring tradespeople. In contrast to fine art, folk art is primarily utilitarian and decorative rather than purely aesthetic....

, including Ammi Phillips
Ammi Phillips
Ammi Phillips , a self-taught New England portrait painter, is regarded as one of the most important folk artists of his era.Phillips was born in Colebrook, Connecticut, and began painting portraits as early as 1810...

’s masterpiece, Girl in Red Dress with Cat and Dog (1830–1835).

Throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s, the institution was recognized for its lively exhibitions, many of which were pioneering in scope, including the wide-ranging and influential "Twentieth-Century American Folk Art and Artists" in 1970, which explicitly took a broader view of the field than that originally articulated by the organization's founders. In this and other exhibitions, the museum argued against the notion that the creation of folk art
Folk art
Folk art encompasses art produced from an indigenous culture or by peasants or other laboring tradespeople. In contrast to fine art, folk art is primarily utilitarian and decorative rather than purely aesthetic....

 was a thing of the past.

In anticipation of the completion of the new building in 2001, more than four hundred important works of early American folk art
Folk art
Folk art encompasses art produced from an indigenous culture or by peasants or other laboring tradespeople. In contrast to fine art, folk art is primarily utilitarian and decorative rather than purely aesthetic....

 from the renowned collection of Ralph O. Esmerian were promised to the museum. These included a comprehensive collection of Pennsylvania German material, Shaker gift drawings, needlework
Needlework
Needlework is a broad term for the handicrafts of decorative sewing and textile arts. Anything that uses a needle for construction can be called needlework...

 samplers, and paintings by artists such as Edward Hicks
Edward Hicks
Edward Hicks was an American folk painter, a distinguished minister of the Society of Friends, and he also became a Quaker icon because of his paintings.-Early life:...

 and Sheldon Peck.

Building History



The striking building now housing the American Folk Art Museum allows the institution to display more than five hundred artworks from its collection of more than five thousand objects.

The façade
Facade
A facade or façade is generally one exterior side of a building, usually, but not always, the front. The word comes from the French language, literally meaning "frontage" or "face"....

 of the 85 feet (25.9 m) tall building is clad in sixty-three textured panels of a lustrous white bronze
Bronze
Bronze is a metal alloy consisting primarily of copper, usually with tin as the main additive. It is hard and brittle, and it was particularly significant in antiquity, so much so that the Bronze Age was named after the metal...

 alloy
Alloy
An alloy is a mixture or metallic solid solution composed of two or more elements. Complete solid solution alloys give single solid phase microstructure, while partial solutions give two or more phases that may or may not be homogeneous in distribution, depending on thermal history...

 known as Tombasil. The material—never before used architecturally—is faceted in three large planes that evoke the human hand and catch the light at different angles. A large skylight crowns a ceiling-to-floor open core, sending natural light through the entire height of the building.

Intimate areas, reflecting the domestic scale of much of the museum's collection, allow for a personalized art experience. Open galleries feature spaces for the display of larger, more dramatic works. A unique cantilevered concrete stairway connects all levels of the building. Additional types of staircases not only provide varied paths of circulation between floors but also give visitors different visual experiences.

Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects
Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects
Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects are a husband-and-wife architectural firm founded in 1974, based in New York....

 have won numerous awards for the building—among others, an American Institute of Architects
American Institute of Architects
The American Institute of Architects is a professional organization for architects in the United States. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the AIA offers education, government advocacy, community redevelopment, and public outreach to support the architecture profession and improve its public image...

 National Honor Award (in 2003); the World Architecture Awards for Best Building in the World, Best Public/Cultural Building in the World, and Best North American Building, as well as the New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 American Institute of Architects
American Institute of Architects
The American Institute of Architects is a professional organization for architects in the United States. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the AIA offers education, government advocacy, community redevelopment, and public outreach to support the architecture profession and improve its public image...

 Design Award (all in 2003); and the Municipal Art Society
Municipal Art Society
The Municipal Art Society of New York, founded in 1893, is a non-profit membership organization that fights for intelligent urban planning, design and preservation through education, dialogue and advocacy in New York City....

 New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 Masterwork Award (in 2001).

The building is adjacent to the Museum of Modern Art
Museum of Modern Art
The Museum of Modern Art is an art museum in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, on 53rd Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. It has been important in developing and collecting modernist art, and is often identified as the most influential museum of modern art in the world...

, which is buying the building on West 53rd Street of the now-struggling American Folk Art Museum, as reported in the New York Times, on May 11, 2011. The museum had taken on $32 million in debt to build the 53rd Street structure and then defaulted on the debt. MOMA paid $31.2 million for the structure.

Further reading

  • Folk Art. Magazine published annually by the American Folk Art Museum.
  • Anderson, Brooke Davis. Darger: The Henry Darger
    Henry Darger
    Henry Joseph Darger, Jr. was a reclusive American writer and artist who worked as a custodian in Chicago, Illinois...

     Collection at the American Folk Art Museum
    . New York: American Folk Art Museum in association with Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2001.
  • Anderson, Brooke Davis. Martín Ramírez. Seattle: Marquand Books in association with American Folk Art Museum, 2007. A New York Times Notable Book.
  • Hollander, Stacy C. American Radiance: The Ralph Esmerian Gift to the American Folk Art Museum. New York: American Folk Art Museum in association with Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2001.
  • Hollander, Stacy C., and Brooke Davis Anderson. American Anthem: Masterworks from the American Folk Art Museum. New York: American Folk Art Museum in association with Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2001.
  • Zimiles, Murray. Gilded Lions and Jeweled Horses: The Synagogue to the Carousel. With a foreword by Gerard C. Wertkin and an essay by Vivian B. Mann. Lebanon, N.H.
    Lebanon, New Hampshire
    As of the census of 2000, there were 12,568 people, 5,500 households, and 3,178 families residing in the city. The population density was 311.4 people per square mile . There were 5,707 housing units at an average density of 141.4 per square mile...

    : University Press of New England
    University Press of New England
    The University Press of New England , located in Lebanon, New Hampshire and founded in 1970, is a university press consortium including Brandeis University, Dartmouth College , the University of New Hampshire, and Northeastern University...

    /Brandeis University
    Brandeis University
    Brandeis University is an American private research university with a liberal arts focus. It is located in the southwestern corner of Waltham, Massachusetts, nine miles west of Boston. The University has an enrollment of approximately 3,200 undergraduate and 2,100 graduate students. In 2011, it...

     Press in association American Folk Art Museum, 2007. Winner of the 2007 National Jewish Book Award, Visual Arts.

External links


See also