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Memory Palaces: Inside the Collection of Audrey B. Heckler

September 17, 2019–January 26, 2020
At the American Folk Art Museum
Lincoln Square, Manhattan

The collection of Audrey B. Heckler is emblematic of the growth of the field of self-taught art in the United States, which manifests a strong interest for African American artists, a consistent attention on American classics, a curiosity for European art brut, and a search for international discoveries. For the last twenty-seven years, Heckler—a long time and committed patron of the American Folk Art Museum—has surrounded herself with excellent examples by the most significant artists associated to this art niche, among them Emery Blagdon, Aloïse Corbaz, William Edmondson, August Klett, Augustin Lesage, Martín Ramírez, Thornton Dial, and Anna Zemánková.

The perspective for this exhibition is centered on an individual approach to each work and its creator. The viewer is invited to consider the artworks as memory palaces—known as the “method of loci”—visualizations used to organize and recall stores of information in an ever-expanding mental landscape. The one hundred and sixty works selected, created by more than seventy artists, are paired with primary and secondary sources (artist statements, oral histories, interviews, and museum archives) or offered a closer look in the form of case studies, considering their visual grammar, technical ingenuity, and materiality.

Exhibition curator: Valérie Rousseau, PhD, Senior Curator & Curator of Self-Taught Art and Art Brut

A 272-page book, The Hidden Art: 20th- & 21st-Century Self-Taught Artists from the Audrey B. Heckler Collection (New York: Skira Rizzoli, 2017) is available to purchase at the Museum Shop.


Exhibition-Related Programs

Curator’s Perspective Tour – November 12, 2019
Verbal Description Program – November 29, 2019


Images: Aloïse Corbaz (Switzerland, 1886–1964); untitled (l’Amérique Stubborn Président); 1953; colored pencil, graphite, and sewn paper cutouts on paper; 47 x 30 in., Collection of Audrey B. Heckler, © L’association Aloïse. 

Charlie Willeto (United States, 1897– 1964), untitled, 1961–1964, paint on wood, 16 1/4 x 7 1/4 x 2 3/4 in., Collection of Audrey B. Heckler. 

Martín Ramírez (Mexico, 1895–United States, 1963); untitled; 1960–1963; gouache, graphite, and black pencil on paper; 32 1/2 x 24 1/2 in.; Collection of Audrey B. Heckler. © Estate of Martín Ramírez.

Scottie Wilson (United Kingdom, 1888–1972); Scottie’s Art Gallery, no. 2; May 1949; pen, ink, and gold crayon on paper; 10 1/2 x 8 1/2 in.; Collection of Audrey B. Heckler.

Anna Zemánková (Czech Republic, 1908–1986); untitled; n.d.; crayon, pen, and ink on paper; 25 1/2 x 35 in.; Collection of Audrey B. Heckler. © Estate of Anna Zemánková.

William Edmondson (United States, 1874–1951), untitled (Angel), 1937, limestone, 18 x 13 x 6 1/2 in., Collection of Audrey B. Heckler.

August Klett (Germany, 1866–1928), untitled (Dr. Pardel), c. 1914–1918, watercolor and graphite on paper, 16 1/4 x 11 3/4 in., Collection of Audrey B. Heckler.

Adolf Wölfli (Switzerland, 1864–1930), untitled, 1918, graphite and crayon on paper, 19 1/2 x 27 in., Collection of Audrey B. Heckler.

All photography © Visko Hatfield, courtesy of the Foundation to Promote Self Taught Art and Rizzoli International Publications, Inc.


The exhibition is supported in part by the David Davies and Jack Weeden Fund for Exhibitions, the Ford Foundation, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and the Council for Self-Taught Art and Art Brut.