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05 Dec 2012

Director's Message: December 2012

Anne-Imelda Radice, PhD

Dear members and friends,

The year 2012 is drawing quickly to a close, as is my third month with the American Folk Art Museum. Thank you for your warm welcome and support! Here is an update of our activities.

A monumental artwork in the American Folk Art Museum collection is the inspiration for the next Venice Biennale. The 55th installation of the international contemporary art exhibition, which takes place June 1–November 24, 2013, is titled The Encyclopedic Palace after the 1950s eleven-foot-high architectural model of the same name by Marino Auriti (1891–1980). The self-taught Italian American artist envisioned (and patented) his Encyclopedic Palace as a museum in which all worldly knowledge would be documented, preserved, and exhibited. We are thrilled to be at the center of the Biennale (anticipated attendance: 400,000) and honored by Artistic Director Massimiliano Gioni’s recognition of the Museum and all that we have to offer.

In other news on the international front, an upcoming exhibition at the Haifa Museum of Art, in Haifa, Israel, will feature major loans from our collection (January–June 2013), and the Museum is cosponsoring an exhibition of Hiroyuki Doi’s meticulous ink drawings at the Pen Station Museum at the Pilot Corporation’s headquarters, in Tokyo (October 7–December 20, 2013). These new drawings were created as a response to the devastation of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Here in the United States, we have two traveling exhibitions of quilts from the collection on the road. Politics NOT As Usual: Quilts with Something to Say, which explores the role of quiltmaking as a medium for both art and social change, is down south at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, in Florida (through January 13, 2013). And the Figge Art Museum, in Davenport, Iowa, is presenting Quilts: Masterworks from the American Folk Art Museum (through February 3, 2013), a sampling of the best of the best, quilts that represent the finest examples in a variety of techniques, time periods, and regions.

In New York, the Museum once again played a major role at the annual Lincoln Square neighborhood Winter’s Eve event, a seasonal celebration that attracts thousands of people. The Museum Shop was responsible for the glittery, sparkly ornaments on the Christmas tree at Dante Park opposite Lincoln Center, and we were featured on prime-time television news (WABC-TV) that evening. The inspiration for this year’s ornaments was our current exhibitions Foiled: Tinsel Painting in America and Ooh, Shiny! Curator Lee Kogan can be seen giving an illuminating tour of Foiled on the PBS show NYC-ARTS; a catalog of the exhibition will be available later this winter.

Downtown, our sister organization the South Street Seaport Museum, which flooded during Hurricane Sandy, will re-open on December 14, and we look forward to the same robust attendance for our exhibition Compass: Folk Art in Four Directions that we saw prior to the storm. As you already know, none of our artworks were damaged; however, the Seaport Museum buildings took a blow. We are very happy to see that they will soon be up and running again, and we thank those of you who contributed to that effort. If you haven’t seen Compass, called “a trip to visual heaven” by New York magazine art critic Jerry Saltz, I encourage you to visit. See the exhibition soon, because it closes on February 3, 2013.

Later this winter the American Folk Art Museum will present the exhibition Artist & Visionary: William Matthew Prior Revealed, organized by the Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York. Prior (1806–1873) “democratized” portraiture by devising a sliding-scale fee structure that made such visual documents available to a broad cross-section of American society. He adjusted his painting style accordingly, offering flat portraits “without shade” for less money than fully modeled depictions. This also allowed him to compete with the growing popularity of photography that was threatening to replace the painted portrait. Prior was a fierce abolitionist, and his legacy includes a significant number of portraits of free African Americans in the pre–Civil War era. He was also deeply involved with the Adventist Movement started by prophet William Miller, who predicted the second coming of Christ in 1844; Prior painted leading members of this movement as well as Miller himself. Today, Prior is celebrated for the freshness and spontaneity of his portraits, particularly those that relied less on academic conventions. A rich history of America can be found in this fascinating exhibition, which will be on view January 24–May 26, 2013. As a companion to this show the Museum will present Women’s Studies, a selection from the collection of drawings and photographs of women by four self-taught artists from the 1940s through the late twentieth century, two male, two female. Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, Paul D. Humphrey, Nellie Mae Rowe, and Inez Nathaniel Walker offer four very different approaches that raise questions of intent, portrayal, and self-identity.

Recently I had the incredible experience of traveling across the country on behalf of the Museum. I have met with trustees, patrons, potential donors, and a number of museum directors. I am pleased to report that we have many partners moving forward.

I will be giving a talk at the Museum on Wednesday, December 19, at 6 p.m., entitled “Masterpieces—Who Says?” as part of our ongoing Masterworks series, which examines art and artists in the Museum’s exhibitions and collection from multiple perspectives. I invite you to join me in the galleries.

And, if I am not able to greet you in person, on behalf of all of us at the American Folk Art Museum, I wish you a happy, healthy, and peaceful holiday season. And all best in 2013!


The Honorable Anne-Imelda Radice, PhD
Executive Director

Image: Encyclopedic Palace/Palazzo Enciclopedico/Palacio Enciclopedico/Palais Encyclopédique or Monumento Nazionale. Progetto Enciclopedico Palazzo (U.S. patent no. 179,277), Marino Auriti (1891–1980), Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, c. 1950s, wood, plastic, glass, metal, hair combs, and model kit parts, 11 x 7 x 7′, American Folk Art Museum, gift of Colette Auriti Firmani in memory of Marino Auriti, 2002.35.1.


Sunburst Quilt
Probably Rebecca Scattergood Savery (1770–1855)


Untitled (Figures and Construction with Blue Border)
Bill Traylor (1854–1949)


Drawing for Salome Wagner
Artist unidentified