Press release

Art of Native America: The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection

Art of Native America

Exhibition Dates:
October 4, 2018–Ongoing
Exhibition Location: The Met Fifth Avenue, Gallery 746, The Erving and Joyce Wolf Gallery

Opening October 4 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Art of Native America: The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection will feature 116 artworks from more than 50 cultures across North America. Ranging in date from the 2nd to the early 20th century, the diverse objects are promised gifts (first announced in spring 2017), donations, and loans to The Met from the pioneering collectors Charles and Valerie Diker. The collection has particular strengths in sculpture from British Columbia and Alaska, California baskets, pottery from southwestern pueblos, Plains drawings and regalia, and rare accessories from the eastern Woodlands.

Max Hollein, the Museum’s Director, commented: “The presentation in the American Wing of these exceptional works by Indigenous artists marks a critical moment in which conventional narratives of history are being expanded to acknowledge and celebrate the contributions of cultures that have long been marginalized. The extraordinary gift of the Diker Collection has forever transformed The Met’s ability to more fully display the development of American art, enabling an important shift in thinking.”

The exhibition is made possible by The Peter Jay Sharp Foundation, the Diane W. and James E. Burke Fund, the Enterprise Holdings Endowment, and the Walton Family Foundation.

A ceremonial opening of the exhibition involving contemporary Native American artists will be accompanied by a robust series of public programs.

Art of Native America will be the first exhibition of Indigenous American art to be presented in the American Wing since it was established in 1924. Originally focused on Colonial and early Federal decorative arts and architecture, the Wing’s collecting areas have continued to evolve. 

Sylvia Yount, the Lawrence A. Fleischman Curator in Charge of the American Wing, said: “We are committed to exploring thoughtfully and sensitively the entangled histories of contact and colonization from both Native and Euro-American perspectives. The Met takes seriously its curatorial responsibility to share with our broad audiences—in a variety of displays and contexts—the cultural endurance and creative continuity of Indigenous American artists.”

Exhibition Overview

Art of Native America will highlight production from seven distinct regions: Woodlands, Plains, Plateau, California and Great Basin, Southwest, Northwest Coast, and Arctic. Featured works cover all of the major artistic forms by both identified and unrecorded Native Americans: paintings, drawings, sculpture, textiles, quill and bead embroidery, basketry, and ceramics. Highlights include a ca. 1800 shoulder bag made from finely tanned and dyed deerskin hide embellished with porcupine quills by an Anishinaabe woman, possibly from Ontario, Canada; a striking  ca. 1895–1900 ceramic jar depicting the Butterfly Maiden spirit being (Palhik Mana) by renowned Hopi-Tewa potter Nampeyo from Hano Village, Arizona; a monumental 1907 woven basket by Washoe artist Louisa Keyser from Carson City, Nevada; a masterfully carved 1820–40 Tsimshian headdress frontlet with abalone shell inlays from British Columbia; and an elaborate ca. 1900 dance mask by a Yup’ik artist from Hooper Bay, Alaska. 

A core group of works from the Diker Collection will remain on view in the American Wing’s Erving and Joyce Wolf Gallery, while light-sensitive works will be rotated annually. Displays of Native and non-Native art—historical and contemporary—will also be organized in response to the Diker Collection.

Advisors and Programs

The Met is collaborating with a range of  advisors on the exhibition, including: Kathleen Ash-Milby (Diné/Navajo), Associate Curator, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, New York; Bruce Bernstein, Executive Director, Ralph T. Coe Center for the Arts, Santa Fe, New Mexico; Ned Blackhawk (Western Shoshone), Professor of History and American Studies, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut; Steven C. Brown, independent scholar, Olympic Peninsula, Washington; Elizabeth Hutchinson, Associate Professor, Art History, Barnard College and Columbia University, New York; and Brian Vallo (Acoma), Director, Indian Arts Research Center, School for Advanced Research, Santa Fe, New Mexico.  

A range of educational programming has been organized to complement the exhibition. The programs are free with Museum admission:

Northern Beat, October 4 (7 p.m. pre-show conversation with the artists, 7:30 p.m. concert)

A concert performance celebrating contemporary Indigenous Canadian music


Northern Beat is a co-presentation of MetLiveArts, the Consulate General of Canada in New York, and Mondo.NYC.


MetSpeaks: On Collecting Native American Art, October 5 (6:30 p.m.)

Collectors Charles and Valerie Diker in conversation with exhibition guest curator Gaylord Torrence, Fred and Virginia Merrill Senior Curator of American Indian Art, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art


Artists on Artworks, October 8 (13:00 p.m.)

Contemporary Native American artists lead 30-minute responsive conversations about objects in the exhibition.


Native Narratives: Family Afternoons, November 11 (time TBD)
Storytelling and activities led by interdisciplinary artist Ty Defoe


Met Roundtables (February 2019, 11 a.m.)
Native and non-Native experts lead a series of discussions on relevant topics of historical and cultural interest.

Additional programming—including gallery talks, tours, panel discussions, and workshops—will continue throughout the run of Art of Native America.


The exhibition is organized at The Met by Sylvia Yount, Lawrence A. Fleischman Curator in Charge of the American Wing, and guest curated by Gaylord Torrence, Fred and Virginia Merrill Senior Curator of American Indian Art at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. A world-renowned expert in Native American art, Torrence previously curated the acclaimed exhibition The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky, which came to The Met in 2015.  The installation of Art of Native America was designed by Daniel Kershaw, Exhibition Design Manager, and Ria Roberts, Graphic Designer, of The Met Design Department.

The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection of Native American Art

In both temporal depth and regional diversity, the Charles and Valerie Diker Collection has long been considered the most significant collection of historical Native American art in private hands. Over the past 45 years, the Dikers have formed a collection that represents the highest artistic achievements of Native American cultures across North America. Selected works from the collection were on view at The Met in the exhibition Native American Masterpieces from the Charles and Valerie Diker Collection (October 28, 2016–March 31, 2017). The Dikers have been involved at The Met as donors and lenders of Native American works of art since the 1990s. Three objects given by them in 2016—a Haudenosaunee pouch and a Pomo basket by unrecorded artists, and a jar by Maria and Julián Martínez of the San Ildefonso Pueblo—were first displayed that fall in The Met’s American Wing, where they were shown in conversation with contemporaneous paintings and sculpture addressing relevant historical and cultural themes.


An illustrated catalogue will accompany the exhibition. Contributions include essays by guest curator Gaylord Torrence addressing the historical, cultural, and aesthetic dimensions of select masterworks; Ned Blackhawk discussing the complexity of displaying historical Native American art in a contemporary museum setting; and Sylvia Yount examining the significance of introducing Native American objects into a department historically devoted to Euro-American art. Suitable for scholars and general readers alike, the volume will be published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press. The book will be available in The Met Store (hardcover, $50).

The catalogue is made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The exhibition will be featured on The Met website, as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

A related exhibition, Artistic Encounters with Indigenous America, will be shown in The Henry R. Luce Center for the Study of American Art, Gallery 773  (December 3, 2018–May 13, 2019).


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September 20, 2018


Image: Tsimshian artist. Headdress frontlet, ca. 1820–40. British Columbia. Wood, abalone shell, pigment, and metal,  7 x 6 x 1/2 in. (17.8 x 15.2 x 1.3 cm). The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection of Native American Art, Promised Gift of Charles and Valerie Diker

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