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Museum News
22 Sep 2020

The American Folk Art Museum and Trustee Audrey B. Heckler Announce Collection Agreement

Initial Gift of Three Masterworks Kicks off Anniversary Campaign

(New York, September 22, 2020) — The American Folk Art Museum and Audrey B. Heckler announced today that Ms. Heckler will donate her collection to the museum, beginning with the immediate gift of three masterworks by Martín Ramírez, Barbus Müller (a.k.a. Antoine Rabany), and Achilles B. Rizzoli. These initial works will go on view later this year in a permanent gallery named in Ms. Heckler’s honor.

“Audrey B. Heckler has been involved in this institution—as a trustee, supporter, and as a passionate champion of self-taught art—for three decades,” said Jason T. Busch, Director of the American Folk Art Museum (AFAM). “With this expression of her generosity, Audrey has again demonstrated a deep commitment to the museum and to the field. We are at once honored and humbled. There is no better way to launch the museum’s 60th Anniversary gifts of art campaign.”

The collection agreement with Ms. Heckler and the gallery naming designation were formally announced today at the September meeting of the museum’s Board of Trustees.

Ms. Heckler commented: “I love these artworks and have collected them with care. I want them to stay together and to be a part of the American Folk Art Museum—a place I deeply cherish—so that they can be enjoyed by visitors, scholars, and artists for years to come.”

Ms. Heckler, a devoted trustee since 2003, has enriched the museum through loans for exhibitions, gifts to the collection, and financial support of the museum’s initiatives, notably the leadership of the Council for Self-Taught Art and Art Brut, and the annual Visionary Award, which honors an individual or an organization that has made a distinctive contribution toward the recognition of self-taught artists. Past recipients have included the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, Phyllis Kind, Tom di Maria and Creative Growth, John Maizels and Raw Vision, as well as the 1982 Corcoran Gallery of Art exhibition Black Folk Art in America, 1930–1980. The award ceremony has been hosted by the museum for twelve years. In 2019, Ms. Heckler was honored at AFAM’s annual gala for her longstanding and impactful contributions to the museum.

“Audrey has meticulously built one of the richest collections of self-taught art in the country over the last twenty-five years,” said AFAM Senior Curator Dr. Valérie Rousseau. “It translates a wide horizon of expertise, aesthetics, inventiveness, and artistic mindsets, as well as provides an in-depth global landscape of individual creativity. This gift creates a unique opportunity for the museum to continue its mission and further contextualize self-taught art for its audiences.”

Anniversary Acquisition Campaign Launches with Gift

Today’s announcement formally launches the museum’s 60th Anniversary campaign to deepen and further diversify the museum’s collection. Throughout its anniversary, the museum will share news of major acquisitions, as well as exhibitions, programs, and initiatives that bring forth the full and dynamic story of self-taught art, in all media, from its beginning to the present. A full announcement about the museum’s anniversary plans will be made in early January 2021.

About the Audrey B. Heckler Collection

The Audrey B. Heckler Collection encapsulates the growth of the field of self-taught art in the United States. There are key examples of European art brut, including works by Aloïse Corbaz, August Klett, Augustin Lesage, and Anna Zemánková; works by African American artists such as Thornton Dial, William Edmondson, Sister Gertrude Morgan, and Sam Doyle; American classics by Henry Darger, Emery Blagdon, Morris Hirshfield, and James Castle; and twenty-first century additions from around the world by artists such as Guo Fengyi and Christine Sefolosha.

Artworks from this collection were presented to critical acclaim and near record attendance during Memory Palaces: Inside the Collection of Audrey B. Heckler. The exhibition, which was on view at the American Folk Art Museum from September 16, 2019 to January 26, 2020, included more than one hundred sixty works by over eighty artists and was drawn exclusively from Ms. Heckler’s collection. The international scope and diversity underlying her collection was the subject in 2017 of a  publication titled The Hidden Art: Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Self Taught Artists from the Audrey B. Heckler Collection. This important resource celebrates the individual contributions and legacy of self-taught artists, with thoughtful essays by thirty-two renowned specialists on these artists. The Hidden Art was published by the American Folk Art Museum in partnership with Rizzoli International Publications.

About the American Folk Art Museum

Since 1961, the American Folk Art Museum has been the leading institution shaping the understanding of art by the self-taught through its exhibitions, publications, and educational programs. As a center of scholarship, it showcases the creativity of individuals whose singular talents have been refined through personal experience rather than formal artistic training. Its collection includes more than eight thousand works of art from four centuries and nearly every continent—from compelling portraits and dazzling quilts to powerful works by living artists in a variety of mediums. The museum will celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2021.


Image: Achilles G. Rizzoli (1896–1981, United States); Mother Symbolically Represented/The Kathredal; November 11, 1936; ink on rag paper; 27 3/4 x 47 5/8 in.; American Folk Art Museum, New York, gift of Audrey B. Heckler. Photography © Visko Hatfield, from The Hidden Art (Rizzoli Electa, 2017).