American Folk Art Museum

American Folk Art Museum

If all you can think of is quilts when you think of folk art, then a visit to the American Folk Art Museum is in order. Located in the heart of Manhattan, this sleek, light-filled boutique museum showcases a full range of folk art that dates back over 400 years of American history. Through the permanent displays as well as special exhibitions, the collection tells the story of the country’s past through a fascinating assortment of objects which includes ceramics, toys, portraits, family records, as well as maps, drawings, carvings and sculpture.

American Folk Art Museum

Situated next door to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) the American Folk Art Museum has in its holdings approximately 5,000 artifacts. The museum is housed within a modern, award-winning building which features many striking architectural details including a floor-to-ceiling open center which floods the entire structure with natural light. And while there certainly is a masterful collection of historic quilts on display, you’ll also find a broad scope of decorative arts and furniture including the iconic piece Flag Gate.

Highlights from the Collection

Founded in 1961, the American Folk Art Museum has a rich tradition of acquiring strong pieces that reflect the country’s cultural history and tell the stories of the lives of Americans. The permanent gallery features four basic themes through the exhibits: symbolism, function, community, and individualism.

The must-see centerpiece of the museum, Flag Gate, was the first object in the museum’s permanent collection. This memorable piece was donated in 1962 by one of the museum’s founders after discovering it amidst the garden furniture at an Americana auction. This 1876 wooden gate resembles the American flag, painted with wavy red and white stripes and adorned with thirty-seven white stars on one side and thirty-eight on the other, with the 38th star representing Colorado which entered the Union that year.

Another highlight of the museum’s permanent collection is the St. Tammany Weathervane, which was one of the first major items purchased by the museum. This striking piece is thought to be the biggest weathervane in the U.S. Other significant works include the 140 wildfowl decoys gifted by Tennis Hall of Fame inductee and art collector Alastair B. Martin in 1969.

Art by the People

The fine art, crafts, textiles and furnishings on display on the American Folk Art Museum are different from the works you’ll experience at other New York City art galleries. Folk art tells the stories of the day-to-day lives of regular people from all parts of the country, and visitors will get an authentic glimpse into their experience and their own heritage through the cultural clues offered by these everyday items such as decorated walls that were salvaged from an abandoned farm house.

America’s multiculturalism is richly represented in the museum’s permanent collection and its visiting exhibitions with works by Latino and African American artists showcased regularly.

Visiting the American Folk Art Museum

This Midtown Manhattan art museum is located at 45 West 53rd Street, next door to MoMA between Fifth & Sixth Avenues. There is also a smaller branch location of the museum located at 2 Lincoln Square (Columbus Avenue at 66th Street)

For visitors looking to purchase one-of-a-kind gifts or souvenirs, the American Folk Art Museum features shops at both locations which offer a beautiful selection of original, folk-inspired items including unique handmade toys, jewellery and home furnishings.

The main location of the museum offers free admission and live music every Friday from 5:30 to 7:30p.m. For more information on ticket prices and hours of operation call 212-265-1040 or visit American Folk Art Museum official website.