Drawn from works given and bequeathed to the Metropolitan during the past decade by Ralph T. Coe of Santa Fe, New Mexico, the exhibition is comprised of some forty objects made in natural materials from stone to animal hide. It features a wide range of Native American works that come from different times, different places, and numerous distinct peoples.
The oldest pieces in the Coe Collection date to some thousands of years B.C.E. The major part of the collection dates from the nineteenth to early twentieth century, a period of great contact between Native Americans and outsiders of all sorts, from traders to missionaries to the U.S. army. The peoples of the Great Plains are prominent during this time, and objects such as the impressive, personalized hide shirts of important Indian men have come to identify American Indians in the public mind. Representing contemporary work, an imposing sculpture of a Noble Woman by the Northwest Coast Haida artist Robert Davidson, dated to 2001, is on view—the product of a long, deeply felt tradition for the carving of wood.