A Measure of the Earth: The Cole-Ware Collection of American Baskets
1st floor, Renwick Gallery
(Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street N.W.)
October 4, 2013 – January 12, 2014
A Measure of the Earth: The Cole-Ware Collection of American Baskets celebrates the generous gift of seventy-nine baskets to the Smithsonian American Art Museum by the noted collectors Steven R. Cole and Martha G. Ware, and the promised gift of several more. The gift more than doubles the museum’s collection of contemporary baskets, making it one of the leading public collections of this craft. Nearly all of the works in the exhibition were purchased by the collectors directly from the artists, and will be on public display for the first time at the Renwick Gallery, the museum’s branch for craft and decorative art.
The baskets were made between 1983 and 2011 and demonstrate the endurance of African and European basket weaving traditions in the United States. The Cole-Ware collection presents an encyclopedic view of this medium, and is notable for the care with which samples were collected. The sixty weavers represented craft their baskets almost entirely from un-dyed native materials—grasses, trees, vines, and bark—that they have gathered. The forms—from baskets for eggs, harvest, and market to those for sewing, laundry, and fishing creels—reveal the central role basketry has played in the everyday life of Americans.
Nicholas R. Bell, The Fleur and Charles Bresler Curator of American Craft and Decorative Art, is organizing the exhibition and will author the catalogue.
A Measure of the Earth: The Cole-Ware Collection of American Baskets is organized by the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The James Renwick Alliance and Margot Heckman generously support the exhibition.