Joseph Cornell: Navigating the Imagination

November 17, 2006 — February 19, 2007

Smithsonian American Art Museum (8th and G Streets, NW)

Joseph Cornell: Navigating the Imagination is a landmark exhibition that expands the critical and public appreciation of Joseph Cornell as a modern American master. This major retrospective, the first in more than 25 years, presents new insights into Cornell's career, illuminating the richness of the themes he explored across all media. The exhibition features 177 of Cornell's finest box constructions, collages, dossiers, films and graphic designs, as well as an array of source materials from the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Joseph Cornell Study Center.

More than 30 Cornell works are on public display for the first time. "Navigating the Imagination" presents a number of new ideas and new opportunities for understanding Cornell's work. The exhibition marks the first time that his films, a greater range of his collages and the open-ended projects called "explorations" are being shown in the company of the box constructions for which he is best known. Lynda Roscoe Hartigan, chief curator at the Peabody Essex Museum, is the guest curator for this exhibition.


Following its presentation at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the exhibition travels to the Peabody Essex Museum (April 28, 2007–Aug. 19, 2007) and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (Oct. 6, 2007–Jan. 6, 2008).


Joseph Cornell: Navigating the Imagination is co-organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C., and the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass., with support from the Henry Luce Foundation; the National Endowment for the Arts, as part of "American Masterpieces: Three Centuries of Artistic Genius;" The Mnuchin Foundation; the Ridgestone Foundation; and James Corcoran, Los Angeles, and with the cooperation of The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation. Richard and Joanne Brodie, the James F. Dicke Family, Tania G. and Thomas M. Evans Jr., and Shelby and Frederick Gans support the presentation at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.