The Renwick at 25 presents just over one hundred works of art by ninety-two craft artists in celebration of the silver anniversary of the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Except for seven pieces lent as promised gifts, these works are drawn from the Renwick's permanent collection. Most of these objects have never been on public view, and a substantial
majority have been acquired by the Renwick Gallery since 1990. As a result, the selections
themselves offer a perspective on the directions the Gallery has pursued in its collecting in recent
years. At the Renwick, rather than collecting or exhibiting any piece on the basis of a possible
practical function, the
primary consideration is always the work's artistic merit. In addition to the obviousthat objects
are chosen first for the museum's permanent collection and later for display in an exhibitionthese
particular objects were chosen to represent the wide variety of media employed by craft artists,
the full spectrum of diversity of the artists themselves, and the broad range of
aesthetic concerns presented by craft artists in their work.
"Craft" refers to works of artoften one-of-a-kind piecescreated from materials associated
with traditional trades and industries, in particular clay, glass, wood, metal, and fiber. The studio craft movement in the United States is in fact merely the most recent manifestation
of the urge to make serviceable objects from available natural materials, an urge that dates to
ancient or even prehistoric times. Since the 1950s the contemporary studio craft movement has
evolved in ways that often blur the traditional distinctions between the decorative arts and
painting and sculpture.
In the never-ending argument about whether "craft" is "art," we often return to the issue of what
materials are appropriate for artistic expression. Craft artists have chosen their materials
deliberately and consciously for the very expressive purposes they fulfill, but which other
materials cannot provide. In the family of art, craft is but one of many children, and is no less
legitimate because of its uniqueness.
Curator-in-Charge, Renwick Gallery