The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has appointed its first ever full-time curator of Native American Art. Patricia Marroquin Norby will join the American Wing of the gallery, arranging exhibitions and community events as well as teaching and publishing academic work.
The move comes as museums across the United States review the diversity of their exhibitions and staff. The Met is the biggest art gallery in the country, and celebrated its 150th anniversary this year, but has never before employed a curator whose prime focus is Native American art. Dr Norby, previously of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, is of Purépecha descent. She sees the appointment as part of a real change in the way American art and history are viewed.
“I look forward to being part of this critical shift in the presentation of Native American art,” she says. “Historical and contemporary Native American art embodies and confronts the environmental, religious, and economic disruptions that Indigenous communities have so powerfully negotiated – and still negotiate – through a balance of beauty, tradition, and innovation. I am deeply honored to join with American Indian and Indigenous artists and communities in advancing our diverse experiences and voices in the Met’s exhibitions, collections, and programs.”
The Met has over two million artifacts in its collection, including paintings by Vincent Van Gogh and Jackson Pollock, Aztec jewellery and Italian carvings, plus an entire 2000-year-old Egyptian temple, which was transported across the Atlantic in crates in the 1960s. The appointment of Dr Norby comes at a particularly appropriate time for the Met, as the museum recently acquired a new collection of Native American art from a private collector, including Yup‘ik dance masks, pottery and a shoulder bag decorated with porcupine quills and silk.
The Met reopened to visitors on August 29, with face masks and temperature checks mandatory – there are full guidelines on the museum’s website.