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Press Room

3/27/2003

Smithsonian American Art Museum Launches National Tour of Highlights from the Collection—Five Exhibitions Will Visit 30 Cities

Media only:
Laura Baptiste (202) 275-1595
Amy Mannarino (202) 275-1592
Web site: http://AmericanArt.si.edu/highlights
Public only: (202) 357-2700


The Smithsonian American Art Museum is sending hundreds of rarely seen artworks on the road to communities across the United States. "Highlights from the Smithsonian American Art Museum" features five thematic exhibitions, each based on a major aspect of the museum's permanent collection. The tour will visit 30 cities in 20 states through 2005.

"Now more than ever, Americans want to connect with our collective history and reflect on what it is that makes America special," said Elizabeth Broun, the museum's Margaret and Terry Stent Director. "By touring these five exhibitions, the Smithsonian American Art Museum can help tell the story of this nation."

The five exhibitions in the "Highlights from the Smithsonian American Art Museum" tour are: "African American Masters," "The Land Through a Lens," "Graphic Masters," "Masters of Their Craft" and "Calico and Chintz: Early American Quilts from the Smithsonian American Art Museum."

The tour launches in New York City on April 1 when "African American Masters: Highlights from the Smithsonian American Art Museum" opens at the New-York Historical Society. The exhibition focuses on 61 paintings, sculptures and photographs by 20th-century masters such as Richmond Barthé, Romare Bearden, Loïs Mailou Jones, Jacob Lawrence, Gordon Parks and Renée Stout, among others. The museum began acquiring work by African American artists in the 1960s, some in-depth such as William H. Johnson and Alma Thomas. The artists in "African American Masters" reveal a complex mingling of influences and experiences—including historical events, political issues, spirituality, music and folklore—that reveals a special awareness of "being black."

"The Land Through a Lens: Highlights from the Smithsonian American Art Museum" features 84 photographs from the early years of photography in the 1850s through the 20th century. With works by early and modern giants of photography such as Eadweard Muybridge, Timothy O'Sullivan, Ansel Adams, William Christenberry and Emmet Gowin, "The Land Through a Lens" traces America's fascination with the land and the way artists transform it into symbols and signature images. The exhibition opens at the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida in Gainesville on May 20.

"Graphic Masters: Highlights from the Smithsonian American Art Museum" celebrates the extraordinary variety and accomplishment of artists' works on paper. These 75 exceptional watercolors, pastels and drawings from the 1860s through the 1990s include both studies for creations in other media and finished works of art. Works by Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper, Stuart Davis and Wayne Thiebaud are featured in the exhibition, which opens at the Heckscher Museum of Art in Huntington, N.Y. on Sept. 13.

"Masters of Their Craft: Highlights from the Smithsonian American Art Museum" presents 50 objects that illuminate the vast creative spirit of contemporary craft artists. Artworks in clay, fiber, glass, metal and wood testify to a renaissance in American studio crafts. Imaginative conceptions and technical mastery combine in dazzling works by such masters as Dale Chihuly, Albert Paley, Beatrice Wood, Ed Rossbach and Judy McKie. This exhibition opens Sept. 13 at the Georgia Museum of Art in Athens.

"Calico and Chintz: Early American Quilts from the Smithsonian American Art Museum" features 22 rare pieced and whole-cloth American quilts made before 1850 from elegant imported textiles. These quilts are selected from the collection donated to the museum in 1999 by Patricia Smith Melton, a Washington playwright and quilt historian. This exhibition opens at The Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Ky. on Dec. 16.

More information and full itineraries for each exhibition in the "Highlights from the Smithsonian American Art Museum" tour can be found on the museum's Web site at AmericanArt.si.edu/highlights.

To accompany each exhibition, the museum is publishing souvenir books:

• "African American Masters: Highlights from the Smithsonian American Art Museum," by Gwen Everett, adjunct professor of art history at Howard University and the Corcoran College of Art and Design, both in Washington, D.C., is co-published with Harry N. Abrams Inc.

• "The Land Through a Lens: Highlights from the Smithsonian American Art Museum," by Andy Grundberg, administrative chair of the photography department at the Corcoran College of Art and Design.

• "Graphic Masters: Highlights from the Smithsonian American Art Museum," by Joann Moser, senior curator of graphic arts at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

• "Masters of Their Craft: Highlights from the Smithsonian American Art Museum," by Kenneth R. Trapp, curator-in-charge of the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

• A catalog accompanies "Calico and Chintz: Early American Quilts from the Smithsonian American Art Museum," with an essay by Jeremy Adamson, chief of the Prints and Photographs Division at the Library of Congress.

Retailing for $19.95, the first four books will feature color illustrations and brief discussions of the individual artworks in each exhibition. The books will be available for purchase at Smithsonian Stores, including the Renwick Gallery's Museum Store, and on the museum's Web site. The quilt book is for sale at the venues only and costs $39.95 hardcover and $24.95 softcover.

"Highlights from the Smithsonian American Art Museum," touring the nation through 2005, is supported in part by the Smithsonian Special Exhibitions Fund. It follows the highly successful "Treasures to Go" exhibition series that concludes a three-year national tour to 70 cities this May. More than 1.5 million visitors saw one of the eight exhibitions that comprised "Treasures to Go." The Principal Financial Group® was a proud partner in presenting these treasures to the American people.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum is the nation's museum dedicated exclusively to the art and artists of the United States. The museum's collection began with gifts of art donated to the federal government in 1829 and has evolved into the world's most important American art holdings with approximately 40,000 artworks in all media spanning more than three centuries, and its in-depth resources offer opportunities to understand that story better. While the museum renovates its historic building in Washington, D.C., it is sharing many of its finest treasures with museums and audiences nationwide.