The Museum of International Folk Art is located in Santa Fe, New Mexico. More then 130,000 folk art objects from over 100 cultures make the permanent collection the largest folk art collection in the world. The collection is organized geographically and represents over 30 countries across all seven continents. Additional focused collections include Spanish colonial art, contemporary Latino art, as well as textiles and clothing.
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Highlights from the collection include Indonesian shadow puppets, African metalwork, wood sculptures from Brazil, Indian textiles, southwestern U.S. pottery, Japanese woodblock prints, Chinese New Year prints, and weavings from northern New Mexico. In addition to the works of art, the Bartlett Library & Archives at the museum houses documents, books, audiovisual files, periodicals and artist’s notes related to objects in the collection, their history and the context in which they were created.
The Bartlett Wing is the museum’s original gallery, which first opened in 1953, and houses rotating exhibits pulled from the museum’s permanent collection. The Girard Wing opened in 1982, named for donors Alexander and Susan Girard, who have significantly contributed to the museum’s permanent collection. Girard, a renowned designer for Herman Miller, designed the unique exhibit himself, which features objects displayed at varying heights in groupings based on visual experience rather than date or origin. The Hispanic Heritage Wing opened in 1989 to display the museum’s special collections related to traditional and contemporary Hispanic art.
Recent additions include the museum’s Neutrogena Wing, which opened in 1998 and houses textiles collections, most notably the Neutrogena collection assembled by donor Lloyd Cotsen. The Gallery of Conscience opened in 2010. The exhibit space is dedicated to examining issues that threaten the ongoing creation of traditional arts. Interactive exhibits are meant to increase awareness of world events and solicit feedback and discussion among visitors.
History: The museum and library were founded in 1953 by Florence Dibell Bartlett with a core collection of 2,500 folk art objects. Ms. Bartlett not only provided the museum’s founding collection, but worked with the architect John Gaw Meem to design the museum’s building and library, and provided the museum with a foundation to financially support its ongoing efforst. Florence was a philanthropist from Chicago who began visiting New Mexico in the 1920’s. Her interest in collecting folk art was based in a desire to find connection and bridge differences between cultures and communities across the world. Florence passed just eight months after the opening of the museum in 1954, leaving a legacy of lifelong devotion to what she preferred to call “civic work.”
Since it’s founding, the museum has expanded to include a Hispanic Heritage Wing and Contemporary Hispanic Gallery. The Gallery of Conscience, Neutrogena Wing and Girard Wing were added most recently. Significant gifts of works of art include the Alexander and Susan Girard of over 106,000 objects, and the Lloyd Cotsen Neutrogena Collection of over 2,600 objects and textiles.
Ongoing Programs and Education: Docent-led walk-in tours are available daily. Groups are required to make reservations ahead of time. New Mexico residents attend free the first Sunday of each month. The museum hosts events monthly to showcase the permanent collection, involve the community and educate guests. Interactive, family friendly events include a cigar box guitar making workshop and art making for Day of the Dead. An annual Folk Art Flea Market takes place each spring. The annual Museum Hill Community Day takes place each September and involves additional area museums as well as the National Parks Service and the International Folk Art Alliance.
Past and Future Exhibits: Past exhibits have included Flamenco: From Spain to New Mexico. The exhibit featured over 150 works of art related to the living art form. Works from the permanent collection were featured alongside loans from private collectors. Between Two Worlds featured folk art that reflects on the immigrant experience. Dancing Shadows, Epic Tales featured Indonesian shadow puppets and the epic 24-hour Wayang kulit puppet shows based in the Javanese culture. Pottery of the U.S. South exhibited the contemporary works of southwestern potters based in traditional and utilitarian wares. Additional exhibits have featured Japanese kites, geometric Amish quilts and traditional African beadwork.
What’s Nearby: The museum is located on Sante Fe’s Museum Hill, which is also home to the Santa Fel Botanical Garden, the Wheelwright Museum, the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art and the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture.
706 Camino Lejo, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505, Phone: 505-476-1200