The Newark Museum’s collection of Art of the Americas includes both Native North American art, the focus of a permanent gallery, and Latin American art. Its holdings comprise over 4,500 objects with a geographic span from Alaska to Argentina and a time span from the pre-Columbian era to the present.
The strengths of the Native North American art collection lie in works produced in the western and central United States, although art from the Great Lakes, Southwest, Plains and California are also well represented. While there is some pre-contact material (primarily ceramic and stone artifacts), most of the works date from the 19th to the late 20th century. The collection represents the diversity and richness of indigenous arts with a range of object types, from tools and household objects, personal objects and clothing, to ritual and ceremonial objects, and paintings and drawings. (See Native Artists of North America.)
These collections were begun in the 1910s and have grown steadily since. Among the important early collections acquired by the Museum were those of Willard Olsen (Kuskokwim River, Alaska), Alfred Anderson (Coronation Gulf, Canada) and Amelia Elizabeth White (Southwest/Plains), who was an influential patron of Southwest Indian arts in Santa Fe during the 1920s and 1930s. Many fine examples of pueblo pottery date from this early period of collecting, including an exceptional Zuni storage jar currently on display. The collection of North American baskets is also comprehensive and includes many superb examples, including a number of magnificent Pomo feather baskets.
The Museum’s collection emphasizes the dynamic nature of Native American artistic traditions. The contemporary vitality of tradition-based forms is represented by recent work by outstanding Pueblo potters such as Elizabeth Naranjo and Margaret Tafoya, contemporary textiles by Ramona Sakiestewa and Juanita Tsosie, and recent baskets by Mohawk artists Mary Leaf and Mary Adams. In addition to tradition-based art made for local use, the Museum’s collection includes important examples of art produced for external markets over the past century. These include beadwork made by Tuscarora women for sale during the Victorian era, carvings by Haida artist Charles Edenshaw from the 1920s, watercolors by Pueblo artists from the 1920s and 1930s, and paintings by the Seneca artist Sanford Plummer from the 1930s and 1940s.
The Museum’s collection of Latin American art dates to the early decades of the museum’s founding. Its holdings collections range from pre-Columbian works, primarily from Mexico and Peru, to contemporary ceramics, household objects, clothing and textiles spanning a geographic range from Mexico to Argentina. Among the highlights of the collection are textiles from both Central and South America, represented by fine examples from Guatemala, Peru and Bolivia. Other strengths of the collection include popular arts from Mexico and art of the Peruvian Amazon, including outstanding examples of Shipibo pottery and weaving.