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The de Young Museum receives a major gift of Native American art

Wearing blanket (first-phase chief blanket, Ute style), ca. 1840. United States, Southwest, Navajo. Wool tapestry weave.
Wearing blanket (first-phase chief blanket, Ute style), ca. 1840. United States, Southwest, Navajo. Wool tapestry weave.

The de Young Museum has received a major gift from the Thomas W. Weisel Family Collection of approximately 200 objects of Native American Indian art. The items in the collection span nearly a thousand years of Native American Indian artistic production, from 11th century Mimbres ceramics to 19th century works by recognized artists such as the Hopi-Tewa potter Nampeyo and additional masterworks of Navajo weaving.

The gift will enable a new presentation of the art of the Americas, including major pieces of monumental Northwest Coast art and the first Plains ledger drawings to enter the Museums’ permanent holdings.

“We at the Museums are so grateful to Mr. Weisel and his family for selecting our institution as the destination for a collection of such significance. It is a transformative gift of art, of an unparalleled depth and scope,” said Colin B. Bailey, director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. “Additionally, the endowment will enhance our capacity to study these objects from a variety of perspectives and to develop educational and scholarly programs around the collection. We look forward to sharing these objects and the research they will generate with our visitors and with specialists in the field.”

The Thomas W. Weisel Family Collection is an extraordinary anthology of Native American art assembled over three decades by Mr. Weisel, a pioneer in the development of the tech industry in Silicon Valley and a noted collector of and advocate for Native American art.

Matthew H. Robb, curator of the arts of the Americas at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, said, "The rich iconography and sophistication of ancient Southwestern ceramics are breathtaking. These objects have cultural, chronological and intellectual links with so many parts of the collection, especially art from ancient Mesoamerica.”

Jill D’Alessandro, curator of costume and textile arts at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, said, “In the Weisel family’s astutely curated collection, the group of classic period Navajo weavings captures a period of remarkable creative output, a moment when a select group of master weavers excelled at their craft, collectively and individually pushed their tradition forward.”

The Fine Arts Museums now has the opportunity to offer a comprehensive survey of Native American art with a distinctly western focus, stretching from the Arctic Circle to the American Southwest. The Thomas W. Weisel Family Collection builds on other gifts of ancient and Native American art to the Museums – major works of Maya art from Alec and Gail Merriam; the Thomas G. Fowler Collection of Eskimo and Inuit art; donations of Southwest ceramics from the collection of Paul and Barbara Weiss the; art of ancient Mesoamerica from Lewis K. and Elizabeth M. Land and the de Young’s charter collection of California baskets.

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