Ancient American Art at the Saint Louis Art Museum

Author(s): Matthew Robb

Year: 2016


In 2013, the Saint Louis Art Museum presented the first major re-installation of its collection of art of the ancient Americas in nearly thirty years. This paper will present some observations on the challenges presented by a collection largely defined by a single donor, Morton D. May. May's donations coincided with the high water mark of collecting so-called "primitive" art in the 1950s and 60s. But there is also a history of collecting and displaying pre-Columbian art in Saint Louis before May, including a group of Mimbres vessels from the notorious Fain White King and material the Archaeological Institute of America's sponsored excavations at Quirigua. Additionally, Saint Louis lies in the domain of Cahokia. Despite being closer to home, many public and private collections of Mississippian material in the region have received relatively little attention. How do art museums balance the issues presented by archaeological material with complicated collection histories from all these places and times with the need and desire to educate the museum-going public?

Cite this Record

Ancient American Art at the Saint Louis Art Museum. Matthew Robb. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403976)


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min long: -107.271; min lat: 12.383 ; max long: -86.353; max lat: 23.08 ;