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Arts of the Americas

Polychrome Jar with Rainbow, Macaw, and Floral Motifs
Polychrome Jar with Rainbow, Macaw, and Floral Motifs, 1880s. Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico, United States. Ethel T. Scarborough and Major Acquisitions funds; Gladys N. Anderson Endowment.

The Art of the Americas department stewards a diverse collection of nearly 4,600 objects from North, Central, and South America from 5000 BCE to the present, reflecting the extensive history of artistic production in this hemisphere. The oldest objects attest to the presence of Indigenous communities in the Americas since time immemorial, while the newest grapple with pressing questions of history, tradition, and identity in our interconnected world. Ancient North American bannerstones; a stellar group of nearly 1,200 Moche, Nazca, and other ceramics from the early Andes; representative works of later cultures from Colombia into Panama; and significant objects of Mesoamerican art including an Aztec coronation monument all date prior to the arrival of European colonizers beginning in the late 1400s. While these newcomers engaged in brutal conquests, settler colonialism, genocide, and slavery, the period also saw exchanges of new materials, object types, and aesthetics that sparked creativity and fostered artistic growth. Strengths in colonial-era works include a number of 16th-century Andean objects, 18th-century silver and furniture from Boston, Philadelphia, Newport, and New York, and the museum’s historically significant collection of Mexican Talavera Poblana ceramics.

The 19th and 20th centuries marked the growing geopolitical and artistic influence of the United States, as represented by the museum’s exceptional holdings of painting, sculpture, and decorative art and design objects. The Art Institute is particularly renowned for iconic paintings by Mary Cassatt, Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe, José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, John Singer Sargent, and Grant Wood. A Missouri war shirt, Pueblo ceramics, and numerous California baskets, among other works, show the immense artistic prowess of Native artists during this time. The collection is further enhanced by exemplary silver, distinctive holdings of Tiffany Studios glass, notable folk art, diverse works from the Arts and Crafts movement, and ceramics by Maija Grotell, Maria Martinez, Toshiko Takaezu, and others. We continuously seek to expand our representations in key areas, including objects by women makers, artists of the African diaspora, and contemporary Native and Indigenous practitioners, among others, as we strive to offer more diverse and inclusive histories of art in this hemisphere.

We preserve these works through careful conservation for the deeper understanding and appreciation of future generations. Our permanent galleries and temporary exhibitions make these objects available to our local, national, and international visitors so that all can learn about the important artistic and intellectual traditions of these diverse regions. We seek to build relationships with communities, traditional knowledge holders, scholars, contemporary artists and makers, and students of all ages, and we invite you to contact us at artsoftheamericas@artic.edu.

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