This thematic gallery, which bridges the collections of ancient America and American art, showcases the interconnectedness of the colonial Americas, both hemispherically and with other parts of the world. The works in this gallery highlight how cross-cultural contact, global influences, and international encounters and exchange have defined American artistic production since the invasion of European colonizers in the fifteenth century.
The stories explored tell of the extraction and export of natural resources; the transmission of materials, styles, and techniques across continents; the skill and expert craftmanship of enslaved laborers and artisans who were forced to work on the land and in the shops of wealthy, white colonial merchants; and the dependence of the early American luxury economy and its material aspirations on exploitative labor and land practices.
Expanding on canonical definitions of “American art,” artists, makers, and participants in the production of these objects include Indigenous peoples of North, Central and South America, as well as colonial Americans, European settlers, and African American makers.
Jim and Betty Becher Curator of American Art
Ángel González López
Research Curator, Ancient American Collection