Telling an inclusive story of American art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum

The Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) believes that consciously building a collection that displays a multitude of perspectives and experiences is one of the most visible ways a museum can tell important stories. At SAAM and its Renwick Gallery, curators purchased works of art that represent an inclusive story of American art, including often neglected histories and contributions from black, Latin American, Asian, LGBTQ +, indigenous artists. SAAM collects works of art from a broadly representative and diverse group of American artists in all media – from painting and sculpture to time-based media, sound art, photography, self-taught art, and contemporary craft.

Artists Laura Aguilar, Judith Baca, Dawoud Bey, James Castle, Tiffany Chung, 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 the SAAM collection. In addition, the museum has transformed its photographic material with an LJ West collection of early American photography, including works by important black daguerreotype writers James P. Ball, Glenalvin Goodridge, and Augustus Washington.

In 2020, SAAM launched a campaign to acquire the 50th anniversary of the Renwick Gallery. Through more than 200 items by artists – including Bisu Butler, Sony Clark, David Harper Clemons, Sharon Kerry-Harlan, Robert Lugo and Preston Singletary (Tlingit) – the museum examines the landscape of the American craft and highlights stories of perseverance, resilience models and activism methods relevant to today’s audience. More than 130 of these newly acquired works of art will be on display This present moment: creating a better worldopening May 13th.

“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 of Margaret and Terry Stent.

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