New Book | Native American Art from the Weisel Collection

Posted in books, museums by Editor on April 26, 2023

From the FAMSF press release for the catalogue, co-published with DelMonico Books:

Bruce Bernstein, Hillary C. Olcott, Christina Hellmich, Deana Dartt, and Jill D’Alessandro, eds., Native American Art from the Thomas W. Weisel Family Collection (New York: DelMonico Books, 2023), 432 pages, ISBN: 978-1636810966, $85.

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco are pleased to announce the publication of Native American Art: From the Thomas W. Weisel Family Collection, co-published with DelMonico Books, and co-edited by Bruce Bernstein, Hillary C. Olcott, Christina Hellmich, and Deana Dartt with Jill D’Alessandro. The expansive 432-page catalogue celebrates a transformative gift to the Museums that spans nearly one thousand years of artistic creativity by Native American artists.

The volume brings together 206 works of art, exemplifying the exquisite artistry and rich cultural histories represented therein. Highlights of objects researched and presented in the book include 19th-century Diné/Navajo weavings, Ancestral and historic Pueblo pottery, Hopi and Zuni carved figures, and Yavapai and Apache basketry, as well as works from the Pacific Northwest and the Plains. Developed in collaboration with cultural advisors, including Joseph R. Aguilar (San Ildefonso), Stewart B. Koyiyumptewa (Hopi), Arden Kucate (Zuni), Christopher Toya (Jemez) and Brian Vallo (Acoma), the catalogue reflects the complex and multilayered nature of the works in the collection and, more broadly, the field of Native American art.

“The publication of Native American Art has been a monumental, five-year undertaking for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco,” said Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of FAMSF. “Our team has worked directly with communities of origin represented in the collection, cultural practitioners, artists, art historians, and museum professionals to share different perspectives on the objects in this collection. We are enormously proud of this collaboration and grateful to each of our authors and advisors for the care they have extended to this project and the knowledge they have shared with us.”

Building upon the Fine Arts Museums’ first publication on the Thomas W. Weisel Family Collection, Lines on the Horizon (2014), Native American Art is an expanded scholarly catalogue that features new research, 30 specially commissioned essays, and 100 extended captions. Contributions by more than 80 authors from different disciplines and cultural backgrounds illuminate details about the living histories of the works. The multitude of perspectives and voices offered here embraces the complexity of the dialogue surrounding Native works past and present, ensuring that Native American Art will be a cornerstone publication in the field of Native American art history.

“The gift of the Thomas W. Weisel Family Collection of Native American Art to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco provided the extraordinary opportunity for an open-ended, two-year-long conversation between the Museums and Native communities about the display, imaging, care, and disposition of our Ancestral pottery.” write Joseph R. Aguilar, Stewart B. Koyiyumptewa, Arden Kucate, Christopher Toya and Brian Vallo in their introduction. The results of the dialogue are in this catalogue, including a culturally sensitive approach to reproducing Ancestral pottery images. Every pot was individually considered, most generating lively discussions, and others soliciting respectful silence. The work we have been doing together has been an opportunity to learn from one another.”

Among the important scholarly innovations in Native American Art is the representation of Mimbres bowls and other Ancestral Pueblo pottery forms. Working closely with cultural advisors from five Pueblo communities, the editors and advisory group developed three representative styles for the Mimbres bowls and other Ancestral pottery reproduced in the catalogue. A screen of gold dots takes the place of objects that are culturally sensitive; while drawings made by Acoma artist Michelle Lowden represent bowls that were determined to be from burial contexts but do not feature culturally sensitive imagery. Photography is used when objects are not culturally sensitive.

The catalogue was designed by James Brendan Williams of The Common Era.

A free, public launch event celebrating Native American Art was held Saturday, April 22 at the de Young’s Koret Auditorium. The program included an introduction by volume co-editor Deana Dartt (Coastal Band, Chumash), followed by presentations about Ancestral and historic Pueblo pottery by project contributors Bobby Silas (Hopi-Tewa) and Deborah A. Jojola (Isleta/Jemez Pueblo). The program concluded with a panel discussion between members of the book’s Pueblo Advisors group, Governor Arden Kucate (Zuni), Brian Vallo (Acoma), and Joseph R. Aguilar (San Ildefonso), with volume co-editor Bruce Bernstein.

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