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Jeffrey Gibson, I PUT A SPELL ON YOU, 2015. Re-purposed punching bag, glass beads, artificial sinew, and steel; 40 x 14 x 14 inches (101.6 x 35.6 x 35.6 cm). Collection of the Nasher Museum. Museum purchase. © Jeffrey Gibson Studio. Photo by Peter Paul Geoffrion.
Jeffrey Gibson, I PUT A SPELL ON YOU, 2015. Re-purposed punching bag, glass beads, artificial sinew, and steel; 40 x 14 x 14 inches (101.6 x 35.6 x 35.6 cm). Collection of the Nasher Museum. Museum purchase. © Jeffrey Gibson Studio. Photo by Peter Paul Geoffrion.

Over the past few months, the Nasher staff and I have been thinking critically about the land underneath and around the museum as we prepare for two rather thrilling events. One of them has literally broken ground: the initial phase of a new sculpture park on the museum’s north lawn. The other has figuratively shaken things up: Art for a New Understanding: Native Voices, 1950s to Now. Opening August 29, this exhibition is the first-ever major survey of contemporary Indigenous art in this country. Art for a New Understanding, organized by Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas, has already jolted the mainstream art world by adding a long overdue chapter to the history of art.

By presenting Art for a New Understanding: Native Voices, 1950s to Now, and its related programs, we are taking the first steps toward acknowledging those who were here first and who are still here. Native people have lived in the place we call North Carolina for 12,000 years. The Nasher Museum would like to acknowledge the many Indigenous peoples who live and work in the region today.

I am so pleased that two Native American works that are in the Nasher Museum’s permanent collection are on view this fall: I PUT A SPELL ON YOU, the beaded punching bag by Jeffrey Gibson (Mississippi Band of Choctaw and Cherokee), and a painting by Jaune Quick-to-See-Smith (Salish member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nation, Montana), called Fifty Shades of White.

My staff and I are very grateful to our Native colleagues around North Carolina for their guidance and generosity during our preparations for Art for a New Understanding. They have helped us develop an exciting lineup of programs and events, including talks by Lumbee and Kiowa professors within the University of North Carolina system and a Native American film series. We also look forward to a talk by artist Jeffrey Gibson on November 21. Lakota hip-hop artist Frank Waln, along with Duckwater Shoshone poet Tanaya Winder and the Sampson Brothers (Seneca and Muscogee Creek), will activate the Great Hall with a performance of spoken word, music and hoop dancing on October 24.

Another must-see event is the Annual Semans Lecture, to be delivered on October 3, by Candice Hopkins (Tlingit and a citizen of Carcross/Tagish First Nation). Candice is the lead curator of three who co-organized Art for a New Understanding. She was a part of the curatorial teams of the Canadian Pavilion in this year’s Venice Biennale, the 2018 SITE Santa Fe biennial and documenta 14 in Athens, Greece and Kassel, Germany.

Our own Marshall N. Price, Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, served as an advisor during the planning of Art for a New Understanding and is the coordinating curator while it is at the Nasher. I am very proud of his tireless efforts to seek advice on programming, marketing and presenting the exhibition from members of the Indigenous community.

Fall 2019 brings something for everyone at the Nasher. Please take advantage of the final days of Christian Marclay: Surround Sounds. I enjoy slipping into the gallery to allow Marclay’s work to envelop me totally. The video feels noisy because of the artist’s choice of words and vibrant animation techniques—even though it is completely silent.

Don’t miss the opening of our new sculpture park on September 28! All summer, we watched the construction of a major new outdoor arts space that connects the Nasher Museum with the Rubenstein Arts Center. Please join us on the afternoon of Saturday, September 28, for a performance by Brooklyn-based, Israeli-born artist Naama Tsabar. She will bring together 21 local musicians, who identify as women and/or gender nonconforming, for what will be a stunning event. For this immersive experience, visitors are encouraged to stroll among the musicians while they play instruments from atop their amplifiers.

After taking in Composition 21, let us all gather for refreshments in the Great Hall, 5 to 7 PM, to celebrate the opening of Trevor Schoonmaker’s Cosmic Rhythm Vibrations. This is a major exhibition of contemporary art from the collection. Music is a special interest for Trevor, who has “mined the museum” to put together our first-ever collection show built around the themes of rhythm and music. This show will get us moving!

Marshall N. Price has created a new rotation in The Collection Galleries, titled Circa 1960. The centerpiece is an important Frank Stella painting on loan from the collection of the Irma and Norman Braman Art Foundation. I invite you all to feast your eyes on Stella’s 1958 masterpiece, Great Jones Street, with its stunning red and black stripes.

Art can remind us that history often repeats itself. Through the ages, artists have explored serious social problems. That concept comes through in Anarchism and the Political Art of Les Temps Nouveaux, 1895 – 1914, the latest Nasher/Duke partnership that offers students real hands-on experience in curating. Robin Klaus, a Ph.D. student in art history at Duke, and her advisor Mark Antliff, Anne Murnick Cogan Professor of Art History and Visual Studies at Duke, created a rare exhibition of prints, which were made by key European artists (Camille Pissaro, Paul Signac and others) and illustrated in Les Temps Nouveaux (The New Times), a French anarchist journal. Installed in the Incubator Gallery, the exhibition includes artist-designed postcards, brochures and other materials, which addressed social ills of the time.

I look forward to seeing all of you throughout the fall season. Let’s get excited about the beautiful new green space and outdoor sculpture. Please join me in making the Nasher Museum a place where it’s worthwhile to take stock of our collective history and look ahead to our future. Remember, this is your museum!

–Sarah Schroth
Mary D.B.T. and James H. Semans Director
Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University

Featured Featured exhibition

Art for a New Understanding: Native Voices, 1950s to Now

On view now through January 12, 2020

Art for a New Understanding: Native Voices, 1950s to Now is the first exhibition to chart the development of contemporary Indigenous art in the United States and Canada. For generations, Native North American arti...

Featured Featured exhibition

Composition 21
by Naama Tsabar

Opening September 28, 2019

Brooklyn-based, Israeli-born artist Naama Tsabar creates an aurally and visually immersive performance, featuring 21 local musicians who identify as women and/or gender nonconforming. Divided into three bands, individual m...

Featured Featured exhibition

Cosmic Rhythm Vibrations

Opening September 28, 2019

Cosmic Rhythm Vibrations is supported by Duke Health and The Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger Family Fund for Exhibitions.

Featured Featured exhibition

Anarchism and the Political Art of Les Temps Nouveaux, 1895 – 1914

Opening October 05, 2019

Anarchism and the Political Art of Les Temps Nouveaux, 1895 – 1914 brings together prints and graphic materials that were donated by key modern European artists in support of the anarchist journal Les Temps No...

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