Smithsonian American Art Museum: Telling an Inclusive History of American Art

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CARRIE MAE WEEMS, “Lincoln, Lonnie, and Me—A Story in 5 Parts”, 2012 (video installation (color, sound) and mixed media, 18:29 min.). | Smithsonian American Art Museum, museum purchase.
Photo courtesy of Jack Shainman Gallery, NY

CONSCIOUSLY BUILDING a national collection that presents a multiplicity of perspectives and experiences is one of the most visible ways for a museum to tell important stories.

At the Smithsonian American Art Museum and its Renwick Gallery, our curators have acquired artworks that showcase an inclusive history of American art, including often overlooked stories and contributions from Black, Latino, LGBTQ+, Indigenous artists and feminine. SAAM adds to its collection works of art made by a broadly representative and diverse group of American artists in all media – from painting and sculpture to time-based media, sound art, photographs, self-taught art and contemporary craftsmanship.

Artists Laura Aguilar, Judith Baca, Dawoud Bey, James Castle, Tiffany Chung, Sonya Clark, David Harper Clemons, David “Dave” Drake, Arthur Jafa, Christine Sun Kim, Simone Leigh, Ana Mendieta, Oree Originol, Alison Saar, Bill Traylor , Kay WalkingStick (Cherokee), Carrie Mae Weems, Fred Wilson and Wanxin Zhang, among others, are represented in SAAM’s collection. Additionally, the museum has transformed its photography collections with the LJ West Collection of Early American Photographs, including works by prominent black daguerreotypists James P. Ball, Glenalvin Goodridge, and Augustus Washington.

In 2020, the SAAM launched the Renwick Gallery’s 50th anniversary acquisition campaign. Through more than 200 objects by artists such as Bisa Butler, Sonya Clark, David Harper Clemons, Sharon Kerry-Harlan, Roberto Lugo and Preston Singletary (Tlingit), the museum reexamines the landscape of American craftsmanship and highlights stories of perseverance, models of resilience and methods of activism that are relevant to today’s audience. More than 130 of these newly acquired works will be exhibited in the exhibition “This Now: Creating a Better World” which opens on May 13.

“These works of art define a bolder future that will help us better understand ourselves, each other, and the world around us,” said Stephanie Stebich, Director Margaret and Terry Stent of SAAM.

Learn more about our recent acquisitions

This article is sponsored by the Smithsonian American Art Museum

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