Masterpieces Of American Indian Art at The Fenimore Art Museum

The Fenimore Art Museum has announced a new traveling exhibition entitled “The Thaw Collection: Masterpieces of American Indian Art.” This major exhibition is currently scheduled to travel to three cities, bringing to light rarely seen treasures from the extensive holdings of The Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw Collection of American Indian Art. The collection is widely recognized as one of the most important assemblages of this type in the world. The New York Times has described it as “a collection any museum in the world should envy.”

“The Thaw Collection: Masterpieces of American Indian Art” is scheduled to travel to the following locations with more venues to be announced:

* The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH (Mar. 7, 2010 – May 30, 2010)

* Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, MN (Oct. 24, 2010 – Jan. 9, 2011)

* Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, IN (Dec. 4, 2011 – Feb. 12, 2012)

In 1995, the Fenimore Art Museum embarked upon a new era, with the addition of a spectacular new American Indian Wing designed to house the extraordinary gift from Eugene and Clare Thaw of their collection of American Indian Art. The collection has continued to grow and new objects are periodically added, by the Thaws and other donors. Today, it includes over 850 objects. Each new object reaffirms the Thaws’ commitment to the beauty and artistry of American Indian art, and thus strengthens the philosophical foundation of the collection: that the aesthetic power of American Indian art is equivalent to that from any culture.

The collection features art from a broad range of cultural areas, including Northwest Coast, Woodlands, Prairie, Plateau, Plains, Southwest, California, The Great Basin, Arctic and Subarctic, dating from pre-history to today.

The exhibition “Masterpieces of American Indian Art” explores the extraordinarily diverse forms of visual expression in American Indian heritage. Organized by geographic culture areas, the objects were chosen both for their high artistic quality and to provide insight into the complex cultural, aesthetic and spiritual meanings embedded in the art. The objects date from well before first European contact to the present, and celebrate the continuing vitality of American Indian art.

“The collection has long been recognized as a national treasure. This traveling exhibition gives us the opportunity to finally share these significant works with a much larger, national audience,” said Paul D’Ambrosio, Vice President and Chief Curator at the Fenimore Art Museum.

Eugene Victor Thaw and his wife Clare have an extraordinary sense of public duty. Their many and continuing benefactions in the arts, music, education, environment and ecology, and cultural preservation, among other causes, reflect their broad interest in the world. In the area of art, their generosity has enriched many great public institutions both through gifts of important objects and contributions that further the intellectual and practical aims of art history. The Thaws have always recognized the necessity of enhancing collections and supporting scholarship. In recent years, they have donated an extraordinary collection of Old Master drawings to the Morgan Library in New York while at the same time making possible there the construction of a modern conservation laboratory. Eugene Thaw, recognized as one of the premier fine arts experts in the world, has a seemingly incurable curiosity about all art. He recently assembled and donated to the Metropolitan Museum in New York, a great collection of ancient Ordos bronzes. If a single consideration might be said to inform his collecting, it is an insistence on the highest aesthetic quality of everything he acquires.

When the Thaws established a home in Santa Fe in the 1980’s, Eugene Thaw became interested in the art of American Indians, starting with the beadwork of Plains peoples. Before long he had become thoroughly conversant with the aesthetic values of all American Indian art, and was collecting the finest objects from many cultural areas. Having had a farm for many years in central New York, near Cooperstown, the Thaws eventually decided to donate their American Indian collection to the Fenimore Art Museum. A new wing to house the collection opened in 1995. Since that time the Thaws have continued to donate objects that improve the collection in quality and scope. Today, it is recognized as one of the great collections of American Indian masterpieces.

One of the nation’s premier art institutions, the Fenimore Art Museum is home to an exceptionally rich collection of American folk art and American Indian art as well as important holdings in American decorative arts, photography, and nineteenth and twentieth-century art. Founded in 1945 in Cooperstown, New York, the museum is part of the New York State Historical Association (NYSHA), founded in 1899. The museum’s renowned Eugene and Clare Thaw Collection, housed in the American Indian Wing, is a masterpiece collection of more than 850 art objects, representing a broad scope of North American cultures. The collections of American folk and fine art include seminal works by Grandma Moses, Gilbert Stuart, Thomas Cole, William Sidney Mount, and Benjamin West. The museum offers a range of interactive educational programming for children, families, and adults, including lectures and workshops for museum visitors and distance learning instruction for classrooms nationwide. The museum further explores and examines our cultural history by organizing and hosting nationally touring art and history exhibitions, including Grandma Moses: Grandmother to the Nation; A Deaf Artist in Early America: The Worlds of John Brewster, Jr.; and Ralph Fasanella’s America.

A 120 page, full color catalog accompanies the exhibition.

The Fenimore Art Museum is located on 5798 State Hwy. 80, Lake Road, in Cooperstown. The museum’s Fenimore Café, overlooking beautiful Otsego Lake, features wonderful views and a tranquil setting amid the terraced gardens.

The Museum Shop offers fine jewelry, art reproductions, and a wide selection of publications on folk art, history, and Native American art. Reduced admission price combination admission tickets that include The Farmers’ Museum and The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum are available. The museum is open from April 1 through December 31; closed January through March, except for special events and school groups.

For museum hours or general information, phone 1(888) 547-1450 or visit

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