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American Folk Art Museum Announces Acquisitions, a Touring Exhibition, and Staff Changes

Lita Solis-Cohen | February 16th, 2014

At Sotheby’s sale of the collection of Ralph Esmerian (see page 30-D), the American Folk Art Museum (AFAM), New York City, bought three lots. One is an early 19th-century copybook, 5" x 8¼", inscribed with the name Daniel Steele and with 40 pages of drawings and tune notations in ink and watercolor. Another is a redware plate with a running horse in a resist glaze by Conrad Kolb Ranninger (1809-1869) of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. The third lot was of two objects, a miniature plate and a potter’s slip-trailing cup. The purchases were made possible with funds provided by a group of generous donors, who are listed on the Web site (, combined with museum acquisition funds. These objects join the signature group of 65 artworks donated by Esmerian in 2005 and the 53 artworks selected from the Esmerian collection, as we reported in 2013.

In addition to these purchases, the museum announced that the Peaceable Kingdom painted by Edward Hicks in 1829-31 and given as a wedding gift to his daughter Sarah Hicks Parry of Horsham has been given to the museum by Carroll and Donna Janis. The painting had been acquired by Mr. Janis’s father, art dealer Sidney Janis. (Two versions of Peaceable Kingdom by Hicks were on extended loan to the museum after Esmerian’s Peaceable Kingdom with the Leopard of Serenity, which was pledged to Sotheby’s as security for a debt, had been sold.)

The museum has also acquired some 20th-century folk art. The Kathedral, an ink drawing by Achilles Rizzoli (1896-1981), dated November 11, 1936, is one of five drawings Rizzoli made as birthday greetings for his mother. It was given by AFAM trustee Audrey Heckler.

The Thornton Dial family has given Birds Got to Have Somewhere to Roost (2012, 61¼" x 48" x 10"), made of wood, carpet scraps, corrugated tin, burlap, nails, and enamel on wood. It is part of a series that Dial began in spring 2011 after a number of natural disasters occurred throughout the world.

Collectors Ron and June Shelp donated 11 works by African-American self-taught artists, including Hawkins Bolden (1914-2005), Thornton Dial (b. 1928), Richard Dial (b. 1955), Lonnie Holley (b. 1950), Ronald Lockett (1965-1998), Mary Tillman Smith (1904-1995), and Mose Tolliver (c. 1921-2006).

David L. Davies, a former museum trustee, and Jack Weeden donated a pencil drawing on pieced paper, Rider on a Horse by Martin Ramirez (1895-1963), a Mexican-American artist.

The estate of artist Ralph Fasanella Sr. (1914-1997) has donated an archive of films, publications, and ephemera to expand a previous gift of notebooks, sketches, correspondence, personal records, and photographs.

Japanese artist Hiroyuki Doi (b. 1946) donated an ink drawing on paper, Soul, in his idiom of tiny circles, which he considers a resistance against technology.

The public may be able to view some of these works in the upcoming exhibition Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum, which opens at the museum at 2 Lincoln Square, New York City, on May 13 (and continues through August 17) and then will travel to six museums. A $1.6 million grant from the Henry Luce Foundation is funding the show and its tour. It will consider self-taught and Outsider art from its origins in the 18th century to the present. There will be a special Web site and a catalog. One object that will be in the exhibition, The Encyclopedic Palace of the World, an 11' tall architectural model of a 136-story cylindrical skyscraper by Italian-American artist Marino Auriti, received recognition at the Venice Biennale when Massimiliano Gioni, its artistic director, made it the centerpiece of the Biennale exhibition.

In addition to The Encyclopedic Palace, the traveling show will feature paintings, sculpture, needlework, furniture, decorative objects, ceramics, fraktur, and quilts from the collection, including Girl in a Red Dress with a Cat and Dog by Ammi Phillips; Rizzoli’s Kathedral; a carousel lion by Marcus Charles Illions, a Coney Island carver; and William Edmonson’s Lady with a Muff. The exhibition will travel to the Figge Art Museum, Davenport, Iowa; the Mingei International Museum, San Diego, California; the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas; the New Orleans Museum of Art; the Saint Louis Art Museum, Saint Louis, Missouri; and a museum to be named.

AFAM director Dr. Anne Radice also announced staff changes effective immediately. Stacy C. Hollander, chief curator and director of exhibitions, adds the title deputy director for curatorial affairs to her duties list and portfolio of responsibilities. She has worked at the museum since the mid-1980’s, when she entered the master’s degree program at AFAM (launched with New York University) and did several internships at the museum. Elizabeth Kingman, director of development, is now deputy director of administration. She began at the museum as membership chairman seven years ago.

Originally published in the March 2014 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2014 Maine Antique Digest

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