National Gallery of Art Acquires Its First Painting by a Native American Artist

(‘Bout damn time)


The National Gallery of Art has made a landmark addition to its collections: Jaune Quick-to-See Smith’s I See Red: Target (1992), an 11-foot-tall mixed media work on canvas. The acquisition—the first major painting by a Native American artist to enter the museum’s collections, according to a statement—comes nearly eight decades after the Washington, D.C. cultural institution opened its doors in 1941.

“The staff and I take very seriously our public mission and the mandate to serve the nation,” the gallery’s director, Kaywin Feldman, tells the Washington Post’s Peggy McGlone. “In order to serve the nation in its broadest sense, we have to attract and reflect [its] diversity.”

Born on Montana’s Flathead Reservation in 1940, Smith is an enrolled member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. Over the course of her 40-year career, she has created paintings, prints and mixed-media collages that critique and riff on themes of identity and history, particularly in relation to the representation of Native Americans in popular culture.

As the artist tells Kathaleen Roberts of the Albuquerque Journal, she is shocked to be the first Native American artist whose work enters the gallery’s collections.

“Why isn’t [it] Fritz Scholder or R.C. Gorman or somebody I would have expected?” Smith says. “On the one hand, it’s joyful; we’ve broken that buckskin ceiling. On the other, it’s stunning that this museum hasn’t purchased a piece of Native American art [before].”

Via Smithsonian

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