A new traveling exhibition of some of the best contemporary Native American artworks of the past 25 years, Native Art Now!, opens Nov. 11-12 at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art. The field of contemporary Native art takes center stage in Indianapolis as the exhibit opening coincides with a convening of leading Native artists, scholars and others for roundtable discussions, accompanied by a Native Art Now! television documentary and book.
As both a retrospective celebration and a summit meeting for influencers in contemporary art, Native Art Now! will promote appreciation for today’s Native art and artists, and generate dialogue about the current state of the field and its future challenges. The exhibition features 39 iconic works of Native art that the museum acquired primarily through its Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship, including installations, paintings, prints, sculptures and glass and fabric art. Visually compelling works from artists Truman Lowe, Allan Houser, Kay WalkingStick, Meryl McMaster and Nicholas Galanin among others will be on view in the special exhibition gallery that opens to visitors Saturday, Nov. 11.
In conjunction with the exhibition are two days of facilitated discussions Nov. 11-12 hosted by the museum that examine the importance of Native art in the contemporary art world and the obstacles such artists face today. The convening of Fellowship artists and scholars from across the U.S. and Canada will be moderated by a nationally known art and social justice expert, Betsy Theobald Richards (Cherokee Nation).
Every other year since 1999, the Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship has selected a group of five contemporary Native artists and provided them grant support so they can continue to pursue their art professionally and receive greater recognition. Through the support of the Lilly Endowment Inc., the Eiteljorg Museum has purchased more than 200 works of contemporary art since 1999 and received gifts of approximately 200 more to add to its permanent collections. Of the 50 past Fellowship artists, 45 still are living and many are scheduled to attend the Native Art Now! events opening weekend.
“We in Indianapolis are proud to be stewards of one of the most important collections of contemporary Native art in the nation and to support the artists who created it. These works challenge conventional notions that Native American art is limited to particular styles or materials or focused on particular eras. Instead, they reveal how thought-provoking contemporary art can be and how relevant it is to issues of today,” Eiteljorg President and CEO John Vanausdall said.
Developed by a team led by Jennifer Complo McNutt, the Eiteljorg’s curator of contemporary art, the traveling exhibition Native Art Now! is the culmination of the museum’s more than two decades of efforts to raise awareness of and build appreciation for artworks of Native American artists of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
A one-hour TV documentary that presents a more personal perspective of developments in contemporary Native art during the past 30 years is in production and will be broadcast in the near future. It features interviews with artists, writers, administrators and collectors. Excerpts will be shown during the Nov. 11 discussions Richards is facilitating at the museum.
The Eiteljorg also has produced a scholarly companion book for Native Art Now! that examines in depth the broad continuum of Native expression in contemporary art. The book will be available at the Frank and Katrina Basile Museum Store.
Once the Native Art Now! exhibition closes Jan. 28, it will travel to other institutions. Meanwhile, two other ongoing exhibitions of contemporary Native art are on view elsewhere in the Eiteljorg. Located in the Hurt and Harvey galleries, the exhibit In Their Honor pays homage to five influential contemporary Native artists, now deceased, who were awarded Eiteljorg Fellowships. Nearby in the Myrta Pulliam Photography Gallery are prints by renowned women artists, The Geometry of Expression.
For visitors, all exhibits are included in regular Eiteljorg admission and are free for museum members.
Intended primarily for working artists, scholars and art students, the roundtable and panel discussion sessions in the museum’s Clowes Court on Saturday Nov. 11 are open to the public, but there is a registration fee: $30 per person and $15 for students. An exhibit opening celebration Saturday evening Nov. 11 is $50 for museum members and $60 for nonmembers. Those interested in making reservations to attend either of the Saturday events should contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 317.275.1341. Meanwhile, a separate breakfast panel discussion with the artists on Sunday morning Nov. 12 is included with museum general admission, but attendees should make reservations.
About the Eiteljorg:
The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in White River State Park in downtown Indianapolis seeks to inspire an appreciation and understanding of the art, history and cultures of the American West and the Indigenous peoples of North America. Located on the Central Canal at 500 West Washington St., the Eiteljorg Museum recently was named one of the USA Today Readers’ Choice 10 Best Indiana Attractions.