American Folk Art Museum teeters towards dissolution

  • September 19, 2011 17:13

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KALEIDOSCOPIC XVI: MORE IS MORE by Paula Nadelstern (b. 1951) Bronx, New York. Dated 1996. Cottons and silk, 64 x 64". American Folk Art Museum, New York, gift of the artist, 2008.21.1.
Photo by Karen Bell, New York

The board of New York's beleaguered American Folk Art Museum are set to vote this week on the future of its holdings of classic American folk art and 20th-century outsider art.

An eleventh-hour benefactor might help to preserve the collection intact. Proposals from the Brooklyn Museum and the Smithsonian are under consideration, according to insiders, which would mean a dispersal of the collection. But many want to see the 50-year-old institution keep its contents even while it was forced to sell its flagship building early in the summer to cover a $31.2 million construction bond debt.

"Failures of vision, leadership, fund-raising, trustee giving and marketing" along with an expensive building construction, the downfall of a criminal board member, and even a lack of glamour surrounding the art itself, have been cited by New York Times writer Roberta Smith as elements in the museum's struggles.

However, the museum's strength seems to be curatorial vision. A number of critically-acclaimed and crowd-pleasing exhibitions made headlines. The collection itself represents the history of America.

Smith writes of the museum's importance as a "full-blooded expression of centuries’ worth of instinctive, self-taught artistry [that] is crucial in a city as fashion-forward and sometimes art-frivolous as New York."

Part of the museum's 5,000-piece collection has taken up residence at its old, smaller space near Lincoln Center. 

Read more at New York Times


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