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Museum of International Folk Art
Exhibitions: Upcoming

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Sacred Realm: Blessings & Good Fortune Across Asiasacred realm
In the Cotsen Gallery, Neutrogena Wing
Sunday February 28, 2016 to March 19, 2017

What more can we ask than for blessings and good fortune?  Whether perceived as miraculous boons or a response to ceremonious prayer, blessings and good fortune come in many forms and bring joy, comfort, and balance to our lives. God, deities, nature spirits, and other unseen forces exist in human belief, which can bring both great harm and great fortune to people on earth.  Almost universally, yet through varied means and belief systems, people have found ways to connect with these powers to bring stability to their lives, to divert ill-will and harm, and to attract love, fertility, prosperity, longevity, and safety ... essentially, to harness protection, blessings, and good fortune for themselves, their loved ones, and their communities. This exhibit invites visitors to explore some of the ways in which people seek and secure blessings and good fortune in Asia, a vast and culturally diverse region. Presented are amulets, votive offerings, and ritual objects – objects with other-worldly, divine qualities.  These intricate and thoughtfully made works of art are drawn mostly from the museum’s Asian collection and are exhibited together with unique media and engaging interactive gallery components.

"Sacred Realm” reflects wide-ranging practices of belief that, at the same time, depict the common human desire to attain balance and harmony in the physical and spiritual realms of life. Photo: Ancestor Spirit House, Chiang Mai, Thailand. Photo by Felicia Katz-Harris].

Morris Min CircusThe Morris Miniature Circus: Return of the Little Big Top
In the East Bartlett Gallery
April 3, 2016–January 1, 2017
After 30 years, the beloved Morris Miniature Circus returns to the Museum of International Folk Art. Built over the course of forty years by W.J. “Windy” Morris (1904–1978) of Amarillo, Texas, the Morris Miniature Circus is a 3/8”-scale circus model that was acquired by the museum in 1984 and exhibited in 1986. In 2016, the museum will restore and install the Circus once again.

The Morris Circus is modeled after a 1930s “railroad circus,” back in the days when a circus would come to town by rail, set up in a day, perform for a local audience, then pack up and move on to the next venue. Morris fondly remembered the excitement that accompanied the arrival of the circus of his youth—with its steam calliope, horse-drawn circus wagons, and parade of performers and animals—and sought to preserve those memories when he began the Morris Circus in the 1930s. The Circus consists of an estimated 100,000 pieces, all made by Morris through a variety of techniques from woodcarving and painting to clay modeling and mold making. The return of the Morris Miniature Circus will be accompanied by a range of activities and public programs. PHOTO: Detail of the Morris Miniature Circus, 1930s-1978, by W.J. “Windy” Morris (Amarillo, Texas). Gift of Mrs. Jo A. Ellett, Museum of International Folk Art (A.1984.433.1V)


No Idle Hands: The Makers & Myths of Tramp Art

In the East Bartlett Gallery
March 12, 2017 through April 8, 2018

tramp art nugentTramp art describes a particular type of chip-carved woodwork that was practiced in the United States and Europe between the 1880s and 1940s, making use of discarded cigar boxes or crates that were then notch-carved along the edges and layered. Objects made were primarily boxes and frames, but other household objects such as small private altars, crosses, medicine cabinets, wall pockets, clock cases, plant stands, furniture and a variety of eccentric and even humorous objects can be found. No Idle Hands: The Makers and Myths of Tramp Art will present more than 120 examples of tramp art, concentrating on works from the United States, with additional examples from France, Germany, Switzerland, Scandinavia, Canada, Mexico and Brazil to demonstrate the far reach this art form has had. This is the first large-scale museum exhibition dedicated to tramp art since 1975.For many years, “tramp art” was believed to have been made by itinerants and hobos, thus its name. It has been demonstrated that this notion is largely erroneous, however the name “tramp art” has remained the only terminology used for this practice, and the paucity of scholarly studies to dispel the mistaken notions about tramp art have allowed the myths to persist. No Idle Hands will examine the assumptions related to class, quality, and the anonymity of the makers of tramp art and consider this practice instead through the lens of home and family while tracing its relationship to industry—whether as individual ethos or big industry such as tobacco and the transcontinental railroad. No Idle Hands will also include works by contemporary makers, thus establishing tramp art as an ongoing folk art form rather than a vestige of the past.
Photo: Henry Patrick Nugent (Portsmouth, Rhode Island), Tramp art whimsy table, early 20th century, cigar box wood, paint. Collection Museum of International Folk Art, IFAF Collection, purchase with partial funds from Eric Zafran. Photo: Clifford Wallach.

peruNurturing Memory/Cultivating Tradition:
Contemporary Life and Folk Art in Peru
In the Hispanic Heritage Wing
December 4, 2016 to
November 26, 2017

This exhibition explores the new directions taken by current Peruvian folk artists during the recent decades of social and political upheaval and economic change. The show will highlight the biographies and social histories of contemporary artists along with examples of work that: preserves family tradition; re imagines older art forms; reclaims pre-Columbian techniques and styles; and forges new directions for arte popular in the 21st century.

The past 40 years have been a time of tremendous change in the Andes, beginning with the Agrarian Reform of 1969 that broke up the large haciendas; a 20-year internal armed conflict with the Shining Path that engulfed the 1980’s and 1990’s and claimed nearly 70,000 lives; economic swings, rapid development, the recent large investment in preserving archaeological heritage and the current booming tourism industry. All of these forces have all shaped the lives of artists and informed the art they create. Nurturing Memory Cultivating Tradition visits a series of contemporary folk artists in Peru and places their work within this larger framework of Peruvian history and social change.

The exhibition will explore the many routes through which craft and folk arts are learned and practiced, including multigenerational crafting families, self-taught artisans, and others who came to folk arts as a means of economic survival during the time of violence. The show includes a third generation silversmith reviving the art of tupus or shawl stick pins that were worn during the Inca Empire; the art of war orphans from the 1980’s who were trained in traditional arts to give hope in dark times; and a collective of young artists in Lima using the medium of silk screening to promote conversations between rural highland and jungle communities with their counterpart migrant neighborhoods in the city, celebrating their shared arts, culture, and customs and emphasizing the value of the handmade, and the ideas, values, and aesthetics that arise from Cultura Popular - common people and everyday life. Image courtesy of Wari Zárate, property of CHIRAPAQ, Centro de Culturas Indígenas del Perú

Quilt from SW ChinaQuilts of Southwest China
In the Cotsen Gallery, Neutrogena Wing
June 25, 2017 – January 21, 2018

In southwest China, traditional bed coverings, clothing, and household items have long been made from patched and appliqued scraps to create artistic and functional textiles. A bi-national consortium of American and Chinese museums has worked together to document and research these quilts, an art form little known outside certain ethnic minority communities. Although the making and using of these quilts have declined, a surge of renewed interest among scholars, artists, and locals is leading to growing efforts to study the textiles and the skills needed to continue making them.

folk dressTraditional Dress in Contemporary Scandinavia
In the Cotsen Gallery, Neutrogena Wing
April 7 2019 – January 2020

Folk Dress. National Costume. Bunad. Gákti. What are these and who has the right to wear them? Traditional Dress in Contemporary Scandinavia examines current efforts to revive, preserve, or innovate styles of dress emblematic of particular historical, regional, religious, or ethnic identities. Based on fieldwork with wearers and artists, including tailors, designers, shoemakers, leather workers, jewelers and silversmiths, the exhibition highlights the experiences, opinions, and creativity of individuals. Many historical and newly-made garments and accessories will be featured, illustrating the ways traditional dress and notions of the past can become tools for negotiating what it means to be Scandinavian in the 21st century.