Unidentified French makers, Milliners’ heads, 1820-70, Carved wood, papier-mâché, 13 ½, 17, 15 in. height, New-York Historical Society, INV.8708, INV.8709, INV.8707

Unidentified French makers, Milliners’ heads, 1820-70, Carved wood, papier-mâché, 13 ½, 17, 15 in. height, New-York Historical Society, INV.8708, INV.8709, INV.8707

Making it Modern: The Folk Art Collection of Elie and Viola Nadelman

Sep 5, 2015 to Nov 29, 2015

An exciting exhibition culled from the New-York Historical Society’s extraordinary trove of over 2,000 folk art objects acquired by the avant-garde sculptor Elie Nadelman (1882–1946) and his wife, Viola Spiess Flannery Nadelman (1878–1962). As the first major examination of Nadelman’s seminal role in folk art collecting, this exhibition will make a significant contribution to the field of folk art studies.

Elie Nadelman is widely recognized for his elegant, modernist sculpture. Less familiar is his pioneering folk art collection, an impressive but little-known material legacy that survives at the New-York Historical Society. Influenced by the folk arts of his native Poland and other European countries, Nadelman began collecting after immigrating to New York City in 1914, an activity that accelerated after his marriage in 1919.

The Nadelmans’ acquisitions spanned a wide geographic range and a great variety of media—furniture, sculpture, paintings, ceramics, glass, iron, pewter, drawings, watercolors and household tools. Beginning in 1926, they displayed the collection in their Museum of Folk and Peasant Arts, built on their estate in Riverdale, New York. The first museum in the United States devoted exclusively to folk art, it was also the first in the world to focus on the European origins of American folk art.

Making it Modern will showcase approximately 100 objects displayed in groupings akin to those devised by the Nadelmans in their museum. The majority will be drawn from New-York Historical's holdings, supplemented by a few key loans. Several examples of Nadelman's "modern" sculpture will help to explore the influence of folk art on the artist’s own oeuvre.

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