‘Collecting Stories: The Invention of Folk Art’

Organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), “Collecting Stories: The Invention of Folk Art” reflects on benefactor and donor Maxim Karolik’s quest to champion the “art of the people.” The exhibition examines the creation of folk art as a collecting category in the early 20th century.

It will run from February 6 to Jan. 9, 2022.

Throughout the 1940s and ’50s, Karolik championed the then-radical notion of incorporating American “folk art” into the Museum’s collection and disrupting long-held standards and definitions of so-called “fine art.” Through Karolik’s enthusiasm and generosity, the MFA became one of the first encyclopedic museums in the country to actively collect works by artisans, craftspeople, women, schoolchildren, sailors and other artists who were free from the strict rules of traditional Western academic training. Karolik’s expansive vision of American art proved to be ahead of his time—while MFA curators ultimately accepted its value, the reluctance to display folk art alongside fine art remained for decades to come. The exhibition features 59 works on paper shown in two successive rotations and 20 sculptural objects drawn primarily from the MFA’s Karolik Collection of American Folk Art, generously supported by the Henry Luce Foundation.

“Collecting Stories: The Invention of Folk Art”  is the third in a series of three Collecting Stories exhibitions funded by the Henry Luce Foundation that presents understudied works from the MFA’s collection to address critical themes in American art and the formation of modern American identities. Previous exhibitions include “Collecting Stories: A Mid-Century Experiment and Collecting Stories: Native American Art.”

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