(New York, May 12, 2021)—The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced today that a bronze plaque recognizing Lenapehoking, homeland of the Indigenous Lenape diaspora, has been installed on the Museum’s Fifth Avenue facade. The acknowledgment affirms The Met’s commitment to honoring contemporary Indigenous American artists and communities, an effort further reflected in the first major rotation of works in Art of Native America: The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection—the ongoing installation of outright and promised gifts that laid the groundwork for the Museum’s new and expanded Native arts program, now overseen by The Met’s inaugural curator of Native American art, Patricia Marroquin Norby (Purépecha)—and the exhibition Karl Bodmer: North American Portraits, which features interpretive texts authored by Indigenous historians, artists, and tribal elders from the communities visited by Bodmer.
The newly installed Fifth Avenue plaque reflects years of extensive consultation and development with diverse specialists on the topic. The acknowledgement, etched in bronze, reads:
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is situated in Lenapehoking, homeland of the Lenape diaspora and historically a gathering and trading place for many diverse Native peoples, who continue to live and work on this island.
We respectfully acknowledge and honor all Indigenous communities—past, present, and future—for their ongoing and fundamental relationships to the region.
Daniel H. Weiss, President and CEO of the Museum, commented: “This acknowledgement is an important part of The Met’s commitment to build and maintain respectful relationships with Indigenous communities. It is also a meaningful reminder to all who walk through the Museum’s front doors of the history and legacy of the land on which The Met now sits and the ties to this area that Indigenous communities sustain.”
The Met is also exploring a site-specific acknowledgement for The Met Cloisters, which is located in Fort Tryon Park in northern Manhattan, near the Lenape trails and the caves just below Spuyten Duyvil—the most extensive surviving evidence of Indigenous habitation on Manhattan.
Further discussion of the acknowledgment can be found in an article by Patricia Marroquin Norby (Purépecha), The Met’s inaugural Associate Curator of Native American Art, and Sylvia Yount, Lawrence A. Fleischman Curator in Charge, both of the American Wing, who led the effort to have the plaque installed.
The Met first featured a land acknowledgement in 2018, complemented by greetings in both Unami and Munsee Lenape languages, at the entrance of the American Wing’s long-term installation Art of Native America: The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection. The installation—proceeded by the promised gift of the Diker collection to The Met in 2017—marked the first time that historical Native North American art had been featured in the department of primarily Euro-American art.
In April 2021, The Met unveiled the first major reinstallation of Art of Native America. Featuring 89 works, with 29 new additions, the display—co-curated by Patricia Marroquin Norby and Sylvia Yount—highlights recent acquisitions of work by contemporary Indigenous artists, including a fully beaded northern traditional dance outfit by Jodi Archambault (Hunkpapa and Oglala Lakota) and a hand-sewn textile hanging, Untitled (Dream Catcher), by Marie Watt (Seneca). Additional works include significant loans of ceramic and beaded art by Courtney Leonard (Shinnecock) and Joe Baker (Lenape/Delaware), respectively. The reinstalled display also features new loans from the Dikers, including Woodlands material of the Chitimatcha and Seminole communities; gifts of Diné textiles and Lakota beadwork from the Ernst and Hirschfield collections in celebration of The Met’s 150th anniversary; as well as subsequent donations of Lakota clothing from long-term American Wing supporters Lesley and Joseph Hoopes. Selections from The Met’s Ralph T. Coe Collection, which entered the Museum in 2011, are also featured.
Also new to Art of Native America is an active land and water statement that demonstrates The Met’s institutional commitment to respectfully recognizing the original Native American and Indigenous communities of the New York region along with their inextricable ties to its land and waters. The statement affirms the Museum’s ongoing intention to pursue collaborative relationships with contemporary Native American artists and source communities.
Adjacent to the long-term installation, in the north end of The Erving and Joyce Wolf Gallery now reserved for responsive displays to Art of Native America, is the exhibition Karl Bodmer: North American Portraits, which opened April 5, 2021. Featuring some 35 portraits and other works, the loan show offers compelling visual representations of Native individuals created in the 1830s by the Swiss draftsman Karl Bodmer (1809–1893). The exhibition features a multivocal approach with interpretive texts authored by Indigenous historians, artists, and tribal elders from the communities visited by Bodmer and the German explorer and naturalist Maximilian, Prince of Wied-Neuwied, who commissioned the artist as part of his expedition to the northwestern reaches of the Missouri River.
About Native American Art at The Met
In 2017, Charles and Valerie Diker promised their collection of historical Native American art to The Met. Long considered the most significant holdings in private hands, the gift marked a pivotal moment in the American Wing’s ability to share more expansive and inclusive narratives in its galleries. The 2018 display of highlights of the collection—Art of Native America: The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection—was 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 by Euro-American artists, the Wing’s collecting focus has evolved to encompass painting, sculpture, and works on paper as well as decorative arts by African American, Euro-American, Latin American, and Native American artists of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries.
May 12, 2021