American Folk Art Museum Logo

Made in New York City: The Business of Folk Art

March 15, 2019–July 28, 2019
At the American Folk Art Museum
Lincoln Square, Manhattan

Folk art has flourished in the heart of New York City since the eighteenth century, contrary to popular belief that it was a rural genre that reflected local tastes, traditions, and needs. In fact, many of the objects that have been associated with the heartland were manufactured and used in New York City by artists and artisans who, in the tradition of self-taught artists around the world, learned their skills by joining family businesses, apprenticing to masters, or by teaching themselves the expertise needed to produce those pieces that we now consider among the core expressions of American folk art. Around 100 works of art by self-taught artists tell the story about New York City as the center of America’s financial and commercial world from two perspectives simultaneously: “The Art of Business” portrays the people and places that were part of the city’s thrumming commercial life, and “The Business of Art” highlights the diverse mediums and formats used by the artists, artisans, and manufacturers. The exhibition draws on the collections of a number of New York City museums, including the American Folk Art Museum, The New-York Historical Society, and historical societies and museums in all five boroughs, as well as private collections.

Curator: Elizabeth V. Warren

A 136-page catalog, Made in New York City: The Business of Folk Art (American Folk Art Museum, 2019), is available to purchase at the Museum Shop.

Installation photos by Olya Vysotskaya.


Exhibition-Related Programs

Curator’s Perspective Tour
Families and Folk Art: New York City—Then and Now
Best of the Boroughs: State Island Day
Dialogue + Studio: Spoon Carving
Gallery Talk: New Perspectives with Teaching Fellows
Best of the Boroughs: Queens Day
City of Dreams: Immigrant Life in 19th-Century New York
Families and Folk Art: Carousel Animals
Gallery Talk: New Perspectives with Teaching Fellows
Boroughs in Business: Art and Commerce in New York City
Best of the Boroughs: Bronx Day
Verbal Description Program
Critical Walk-Through: Daniel A. Bruce
Family and Folk Art: Sampler Making
Gallery Talk: New Perspectives with Teaching Fellows
Making Gotham: A Talk with Kamau Ware
Making Gotham: A Walk with Kamau Ware
Expanding Perspectives: Our New York Histories
Best of the Boroughs: Brooklyn Day
Dialogue + Studio: Sampler Workshop


Images: Optician’s Trade Sign; E. G. Washburne & Co., 207 Fulton Street, New York City; c. 1915; paint and gold leaf on zinc and iron, with glass and light bulbs; 26 x 54 x 4 in.; collection of Penny and Allan Katz. Photo by Gavin Ashworth.

Herman Raub Engaged in Weighing Gold at the Manhattan Bank at New York (detail), artist unidentified (possibly Mr. Thompson”), New York City, 1805, watercolor and pen and ink on paper, 12 1/4 x 9 3/4 in., private collection. Photo by Gavin Ashworth.

Portrait of Peter Williams; artist unidentified; New York City; c. 1810–1815; oil on canvas, 25 x 20 1/2 in.; collection New-York Historical Society, X.173. Photo © New-York Historical Society.

New York Harbor with Castle Williams and Ships, attributed to Thomas Chambers (1808–1869), New York City, c. 1838–1845, oil on canvas, 22 x 30 in., private collection. Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Captain Jinks Show Figure, possibly Thomas J. White (1825–1902), New York City, c. 1880, paint on wood, 75 x 17 x 17 in. with base, collection of John and Barbara Wilkerson. Photo by Ellen McDermott Photography.

Reconciliation Quilt; Lucinda Ward Honstain (1820–1904); Brooklyn, New York; 1867; cotton; 97 x 84 ½ in.; collection of International Quilt Study Center & Museum, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, gift of Robert and Ardis James, 2001.0011.0001.

Situation of America, 1848.; artist unidentified; New York City; 1848; oil on wood panel; 34 x 57 x 1 3/8 in.; collection of American Folk Art Museum, New York, gift of Ralph Esmerian, 2013.1.21.

Two-Gallon Crock with Eagle; W. A. MacQuoid and Company Pottery Works, Little West 12th Street, New York City; c. 1869; stoneware with cobalt decoration; 11 ½ x 10 ½ in. diameter; private collection. Photo by Gavin Ashworth.

Fame Weathervane; attributed to E. G. Washburne & Co.; New York City; c. 1890; copper and zinc with gold leaf; 39 x 35 ¾ x 23 ½ in.; collection of American Folk Art Museum, New York, gift of Ralph Esmerian, 2005.8.62. Photo by Gavin Ashworth.



Major support for this exhibition is provided by the Lily Auchincloss Foundation, Inc., with additional support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the David Davies and Jack Weeden Fund for Exhibitions, the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, the Ford Foundation, Richard C. von Hess Foundation, and the American Folk Art Society. Public funds were provided by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. Special funds for the catalog were provided by Furthermore: a program of the J. M. Kaplan Fund, and the Dorothea and Leo Rabkin Foundation.

Made In New York: The Business Of Folk Art
– Laura Beach