The Met to Show Masterworks of Native American Art

The Met

Tsimshian artist. Headdress frontlet, ca. 1820–40. British Columbia.
Tsimshian artist. Headdress frontlet, ca. 1820–40. British Columbia.
Wood, abalone shell, pigment, and metal, 7 x 6 x 1/2 in. (17.8 x 15.2 x 1.3 cm).
The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection of Native American Art, Promised Gift of Charles and Valerie Diker

Exhibition Dates:
October 4, 2018 – October 6, 2019

Exhibition Location:
The Met Fifth Avenue, Gallery 746, The Erving and Joyce Wolf Gallery

Opening October 4 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Art of Native America: The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection will feature 116 masterworks representing the achievements of artists from more than 50 distinct indigenous traditions across North America. Ranging in date from the 2nd to the early 20th century, the diverse works are promised gifts (first announced in spring 2017), donations, and loans to The Met from the pioneering collectors Charles and Valerie Diker. The collection has particular strengths in sculpture from British Columbia and Alaska, California baskets, pottery from Southwestern pueblos, Plains drawings and regalia, and rare accessories from the eastern Woodlands.

The exhibition is made possible by The Peter Jay Sharp Foundation, the Diane W. and James E. Burke Fund, the Enterprise Holdings Endowment, and the Walton Family Foundation.

A ceremonial opening of the exhibition involving contemporary Native American artists, performers, and community leaders will be accompanied by a robust series of public programs.

Art of Native America will be the first exhibition of Native American art to be presented in the American Wing since it was established in 1924. Originally focused on American Colonial and early Federal decorative arts and architecture, the Wing’s collecting areas and focus have continued to evolve.

Daniel H. Weiss, The Met’s President and CEO, commented: “The presentation of the Diker Collection represents a transformative moment for The Met, enabling us to expand and enrich the stories we tell about American art and culture.”

Sylvia Yount, the Lawrence A. Fleischman Curator in Charge of the American Wing, continued: “We are committed to exploring thoughtfully and sensitively the entangled histories of contact and colonization from both Native and Euro-American perspectives. The Met takes seriously its curatorial responsibility to share with our broad audiences—in a variety of displays and contexts—the cultural endurance and creative continuity of Indigenous American artists.”

Exhibition Overview

Art of Native America will highlight seven key culture areas: Woodlands, Plains, Plateau, Southwest, Great Basin and California, Northwest Coast, and Arctic. Featured works cover all of the major artistic forms produced by identified and unrecorded Native Americans: painting, drawing, sculpture, textiles, quill and bead embroidery, basketry, and ceramics. Highlights include a masterfully carved Tsimshian headdress frontlet with abalone shell inlays (1820–40) from British Columbia; an elaborate dance mask (ca. 1900) made by a Yup’ik artist from Hooper Bay, Alaska; a powerful ceramic jar (ca. 1895–1900) depicting the Butterfly Maiden spirit being (Palhik Mana), created by renowned Hopi-Tewa potter Nampeyo from Hano Village, Arizona; a woven basket (1907), by Washoe artist Louisa Keyser from Carson City, Nevada; and a shoulder bag made from finely tanned and dyed deerskin hide embellished with porcupine quills (ca. 1820) produced by an Ojibwa artist from Ontario, Canada.

A core group of works from the Diker Collection will remain on view in the American Wing’s Erving and Joyce Wolf Gallery. Light-sensitive works will be rotated annually. Displays of Native and non-Native art—historical and contemporary—will also be organized in response to the Diker Collection.

Advisors and Programs

The Met is collaborating with a range of advisors on the exhibition, including: Bruce Bernstein, Executive Director, Ralph T. Coe Center for the Arts, Santa Fe, New Mexico; Ned Blackhawk (Western Shoshone), Professor of History and American Studies, Yale University; Steven C. Brown, independent scholar of Northwest Coast art and former curator of Native American art, Seattle Art Museum; Elizabeth Hutchinson, Associate Professor, Art History, Barnard College; Kathleen Ash-Milby (Diné/Navajo), Associate Curator, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), New York; and Brian Vallo (Acoma), Director, Indian Arts Research Center, School for Advanced Research, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Native American artists, performers, and community leaders will participate in the ceremonial opening of the exhibition and related events. Education programming—including gallery talks, panel discussions, performances, and workshops—will continue throughout the run of Art of Native America.


The exhibition is organized at The Met by Sylvia Yount, Lawrence A. Fleischman Curator in Charge of the American Wing, and guest curated by Gaylord Torrence, Fred and Virginia Merrill Senior Curator of American Indian Art at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. A world-renowned expert in Native American art, Torrence previously curated the acclaimed exhibition The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky, which came to The Met in 2015.

The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection of Native American Art

In both temporal depth and regional diversity, the Charles and Valerie Diker Collection has long been considered the most significant collection of historical Native American art in private hands. Over the past 45 years, the Dikers have formed a collection that represents the highest artistic achievements of Native American cultures across North America. Selected works from the collection were on view at The Met in the exhibition Native American Masterpieces from the Charles and Valerie Diker Collection (October 28, 2016–March 31, 2017). The Dikers have been involved at The Met as donors and lenders of Native American works of art since the 1990s. Three objects given by them 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—were first displayed that fall in The Met’s American Wing, where they were shown in conversation with contemporaneous paintings and sculpture addressing relevant historical and cultural themes.


An illustrated catalogue will accompany the exhibition. Contributions include essays by guest curator Gaylord Torrence addressing the historical, cultural, and aesthetic dimensions of select masterworks; Ned Blackhawk discussing the complexity of displaying historical Native American art in a contemporary museum setting; and Sylvia Yount examining the significance of introducing Native American objects into a department historically devoted to Euro-American art. Suitable for scholars and general readers alike, the volume will be published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press. The book will be available in The Met Store (hardcover, $50).

The catalogue is made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The exhibition will be featured on The Met website, as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.



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