Dear members and friends,
Two summer events always seem to signal celebration: the first is the end of the Museum’s fiscal year, which occurs annually on June 30, and the second is Labor Day, which marks the beginning of the upcoming season. We closed the fiscal year with great news: 150,018 visitors came through our doors, experiencing exhibitions, programs, events, the shop, and more. This represents a 30% increase from the previous year. And we are looking ahead with greater enthusiasm than ever before.
Many of you will recall the spectacular 2011 exhibition of more than 650 quilts—each and every one of them in shades of red and white. This astonishing presentation of one woman’s collection revealed the history, complexity, and artistry of a beloved icon of American folk art. The exhibition took place at the Park Avenue Armory for one week only, and it’s still the subject of excited discussion.
This once-in-a-lifetime exhibition and all the quilts are now documented in a magnificent book published by the Museum in conjunction with Skira/Rizzoli. Red & White Quilts: Infinite Variety is now available at the American Folk Art Museum Shop. So many people played such important roles in the making of this book. We are especially indebted to Mrs. Joanna Rose for her remarkable collection. Written by Museum Trustee Elizabeth V. Warren with Maggi Gordon, an expert in the field, the book includes essays from Stacy C. Hollander, the Museum’s Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs, Chief Curator, and Director of Exhibitions, and Tom Hennes of Thinc Design, who led the team that designed the exhibition. Gavin Ashworth captured the structural splendor of the exhibition in powerful photographs, and he photographed each quilt with care. Megan Conway, the Museum’s Director of Publications and Website, dedicated herself to this project, and the result is staggeringly beautiful.
We will celebrate this landmark publication with a book signing on Saturday, September 26, which will be the last day the book will be available at pre-order prices.
September 26 is also the second-to-last day of Folk Art and American Modernism. This scholarly and elegant exhibition reveals how early American art influenced the pioneers of modernist paintings in the U.S., and uncovers the beginnings of many of the most important folk art collections in the country. We also prepared an in-depth brochure to accompany the show. It reproduces many of the most important works on display and provides an excellent overview of how folk art evolved as a discipline and area of scholarship.
A more in-depth experience of the exhibition can be had in a series of programs we are calling “Folk Art Pioneers.” On Thursday, September 10, author Avis Berman will discuss Juliana Force, the first director of the Whitney Museum of American Art, who was a champion of folk art and helped bring it to widespread public attention. And on Thursday, September 17, Deputy Director Stacy C. Hollander will explore how modernist artists were influenced by and yet diverged from folk art, causing a ripple effect in the art world that led to the creation of the American Folk Art Museum. We encourage you to register soon for these presentations to ensure your participation.
Following the exhibition that is currently on view, the Museum will explore the arrival of art brut in America. The term art brut was coined by the iconoclastic and legendary French artist Jean Dubuffet (1901–1985). Art Brut in America: The Incursion of Jean Dubuffet opens October 13, and it will feature some two hundred works from the Collection de L’Art Brut in Lausanne, Switzerland. Many of the works have traveled to museums abroad, but they have never traveled to the U.S. in such a large and overarching grouping. This is a unique opportunity.
We celebrate American originality on Thursday, October 15, with a gala to benefit the Museum while honoring three of our “BFFs.” We are so pleased to salute these champions of folk art and long-time supporters of the Museum: Jerry Lauren, leading collector of American folk art and self-taught art, and Executive Vice President and Creative Director of Men’s Design, Ralph Lauren Corporation; the Leir Charitable Foundations, which will be represented by Arthur Hoffman, President; and Laura Parsons, American Folk Art Museum Board Chair and art philanthropist. Please join us at Gotham Hall (1356 Broadway at 36th Street), for an evening of sublime entertainment provided by the Grammy-nominated JC Hopkins Biggish Band, courtesy of Minton’s jazz club. Cocktails will be served at 6:30 p.m., followed by a seated dinner for 350 guests. Click here for ticket and table prices, and to learn more.
I’ll conclude with one other note of thanks: to the amazing interns who spent this past summer with us. Each and every one helped the Museum and staff in so many important ways. We are grateful for their participation, and we wish them success.
I hope to see you soon at the Museum.
Dr. Anne-Imelda Radice
Image: Elie Nadelman (1882–1946), Woman at the Piano, New York City, c. 1917, stained and painted wood, 35 1/8 x 23 1/4 x 9″ (including base), The Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Philip L. Goodwin Collection, 105.1958. Copyright © Estate of Elie Nadelman. Digital Image © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA/Art Resource, New York.