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James Hampton; The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly; about 1950–1964; gold and silver aluminum foil, Kraft paper, and plastic over wood furniture, paperboard, and glass; 180 pieces in overall configuration; Smithsonian American Art Museum; Gift of anonymous donors; 1970.353.1

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Explore this installation—an artist's private temple!—using the "zoom" tool. The controls under the image allow you to zoom in (+) and out (-). Use the arrows or your mouse to roam about this dazzling, visionary work.

Imagine walking into a dimly lit, back-alley garage in Washington, D.C., and finding today's featured artwork! After the reclusive artist James Hampton died in 1964, his sister discovered The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly—his life's work—carefully constructed and symmetrically arranged in a rented garage.

Resourceful and intensely religious, Hampton created this spiritual environment from found materials, such as cardboard, broken furniture, and old light bulbs. With aluminum foil and fervent devotion, Hampton transformed these ordinary objects into glittering altars, crowns, lecterns, chairs, and plaques. What imagery or symbols do you see repeated among the pieces?

You can now view The Throne on the first floor, West Wing, of our newly reopened Smithsonian American Art Museum. In addition, learn more about this artwork and the artist who titled himself "Director, Special Projects for the State of Eternity" on our biography page! Plus, find more pieces by visionary, self-taught artists in our online exhibition Contemporary Folk Art: Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum.


Luce Center for American Art