Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Folk/outsider art at MFA?

Speaking of folk imagery in the United States, whither is 20th century “folk” and “outsider” art in the collection of, say, Boston’s Museum of Fine Art? Thanks to the late Maxim Karolik, the MFA has one of the greatest collections of pre 20th century American folk art in the land, including the Harriet Powers quilt pictured below. But since then, not much. The museum seems not to own a single Morton Bartlett, Henry Darger, Howard Finster, Morris Hirshfield, Martin Ramirez, Drossos Skyllas, Bill Traylor or Joseph Yoakum. I can’t tell if it has any Gee’s Bend quilts. (Check for yourself here.)

Some argue that the Museum of Fine Arts needs more Picassos – well, actually more early 20th century European Modernist art in general – but at least the MFA has some examples of these dudes’ work. Considering that some of the greatest artists of the century turned out to be “folk” artists – and folks like Henry Darger are exceedingly influential on the generation of "fine" artists in their 20 and 30s – the complete absence of these artists from the collection may be a more pressing concern today.


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