With This Gift, Native American Art Will Now Be Displayed in The Met’s American Wing
(New York, April 6, 2017)—The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced today the promised gift from Charles and Valerie Diker of 91 works of Native American art—a selection of recognized masterworks from the collection they assembled over more than four decades. Joining another 20 works already given by the Dikers during the past two decades, these examples range in date from the 2nd to the early 20th century, and represent—through a wide variety of aesthetic forms and media—the achievements of artists from many culturally distinct traditions across the North American continent.
“These superb works will be an extraordinary addition to The Met collection,” said Carrie Rebora Barratt, Deputy Director for Collections and Administration, in making the announcement. “They have been selected from the largest and most comprehensive collection of its kind in private hands today and are of the highest aesthetic quality. This generous gift will considerably strengthen our holdings of the artistic production of native communities, and we are immensely grateful to our longtime friends and donors Chuck and Valerie Diker for their vision and generosity.”
“Valerie and I are honored to share the remarkable work of these Native American artists with the public, especially as an integral part of the broader story of American creativity,” noted Mr. Diker. “Over the past 45 years, our vision and advocacy has been to build appreciation of these great works of art from cultures across the United States and, through The Met’s stewardship, we are confident that both public recognition of the power and beauty of these works and scholarship on them will be greatly advanced. We’d like to thank the leadership of The Met, especially Carrie Rebora Barratt and Thomas P. Campbell, Director, for enabling us to present the work of these important artists within the context of their peers in the U.S. and around the world.”
This collection will be displayed in The Met’s American Wing starting with a major exhibition in fall 2018, marking The Met’s curatorial decision to display art from the first Americans within its appropriate geographic context. Sylvia Yount, the Lawrence A. Fleischman Curator in Charge of the American Wing, will oversee the integration of this material into the galleries.
“This transformative gift marks a turning point in the narratives presented within the American Wing,” said Ms. Barratt. “With the addition of these works, The Met will be able to offer a much richer history of the art of North America, one that will include critical perspectives on our past and represent diverse and enduring native artistic traditions.”
The receipt of this gift reflects The Met’s historic commitment to building the world’s greatest encyclopedic collection and is one of the first major gifts looking forward to celebrating the Museum’s 150th anniversary in 2020. In recent years, Native American art, along with Latin American and modern and contemporary art, have been identified as top acquisition priorities. Said Ms. Barratt: “Many years from now, future scholars and visitors will appreciate the significance of the Dikers’ enormous generosity.”
The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection
The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection of Native American art is the finest and most comprehensive private collection of its kind. Over the past 45 years, the Dikers have built an all-encompassing collection embracing the artistic achievements of Native Americans across North America, dating from the pre-Contact era to the 20th century. Unmatched in its breadth, quality, and diversity, the Diker Collection is further distinguished in its holdings of works that represent the height of aesthetic and technical achievement by individual artists working in their cultural traditions.
Highlights of the collection gift include: an elaborate dance mask (ca. 1900) with representations of a spirit, seal, fish, and bird held in a human hand, made by a Yup’ik artist from Alaska; a powerful ceramic jar (ca. 1895) with a portrayal of the Butterfly Maiden spirit being (Palhik Mana), created by renowned Hopi-Tewa potter Nampeyo, from Arizona; a magnificent basket (1907) superbly integrating form and design, by Washoe artist Louisa Keyser (also known as Datsolalee), from Nevada; and a delicate, black-dyed, porcupine quill embroidered shoulder bag (c. 1820) fashioned by an Ojibwa artist from Ontario, Canada.
Selected works from the collection were on view at the Museum in the recent exhibition Native American Masterpieces from the Charles and Valerie Diker Collection (October 28, 2016-March 31, 2017). This showing immediately followed a national tour of Indigenous Beauty: Masterworks of American Indian Art from the Diker Collection, a larger exhibition organized by the American Federation of Arts.
Charles and Valerie Diker have been involved at The Met as donors and lenders of Native American works of art since the 1990s. Three works given by the Dikers in 2016—a Haudenosaunee pouch and a Pomo basket by unrecorded artists, and a jar by Maria and Julián Martínez of the San Ildefonso Pueblo—are currently on display in The Met’s American Wing, where they are presented in dialogue with contemporaneous paintings and sculpture addressing relevant themes.
The Dikers donated additional examples of Native American art between 1999 and 2008, and an earlier exhibition of selected works—Native Paths: American Indian Art from the Collection of Charles and Valerie Diker—was shown at the Museum in 1998–2000 and curated by David W. Penney, Associate Director of Museum Scholarship at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian.
In addition to their long-term relationship with The Met, the Dikers have been ardent and generous supporters of a broad range of cultural institutions across the visual and performing arts. Mr. and Mrs. Diker served as the Founding Chairman and Chairwoman of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, George Gustav Heye Center, in New York. Mr. Diker is a member of the board of trustees of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and New York Public Radio. He has previously served on the Board of Trustees of the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Santa Fe Opera Foundation, as President of the American Friends of the Israel Museum, and as a member of the Visiting Committee of the Harvard University Art Museums. Mrs. Diker is Founding Chair of the National Dance Institute New Mexico and a member of its national board, and has served as Chairman of Twyla Tharp Dance. In addition to their collection of Native American art, the Dikers collect modern and contemporary art. Mr. Diker is the founder and Chairman of the Board of Cantel Medical Corp.
Exhibition Celebrating the Gift of the Diker Collection to The Met
The title and dates of the fall 2018 exhibition celebrating the gift of the Diker Collection to The Met will be announced later. The exhibition will comprise more than 100 works, including outright and promised gifts.
For the exhibition and accompanying publication, the Museum has engaged Gaylord Torrence, Fred and Virginia Merrill Senior Curator of American Indian Art at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, as guest curator. A world-renowned expert in Native American art, he previously curated the acclaimed exhibition The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky, which was organized by Museé du Quai Branly in Paris in collaboration with The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and shown at The Met in 2015.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a scholarly publication written by Gaylord Torrence and others. The book will be published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press.
Education programs will be organized in conjunction with the exhibition and the subsequent and ongoing display of works from the collection.
The exhibition will be featured on The Met website, as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
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April 6, 2017
For information about the promised gift or the exhibition:
Egle Zygas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 212–570–3951
For interviews with Charles and Valerie Diker:
Hanna Gisel, Resnicow and Associates, 212–671–5162