Indigenous art. Indigenous perspectives.

Speed Art Museum Opens Newly Expanded and Reimagined Native American Art Galleries


Reinstallation highlights new acquisitions and a rotating series of loans from the Tia Collection, amplifying the voices of contemporary Native artists and communities

  • Thursday, April 4: Gallery talk led by curator Dr. fari nzinga
  • Sunday, April 28: Panel discussion with Speed’s Native American Advisory Council members

Louisville, KY – The Speed Art Museum opens its newly expanded and reimagined galleries of Native American art on April 4, 2024. Curated by the Speed’s Curator of African and Native American Collections, Dr. fari nzinga with input from Native artists, curators, and culture bearers, The Speed Collects: Native American Art will feature works from the museum’s collection alongside new interpretive text, while also showcasing recent acquisitions and notable loans of modern and contemporary Indigenous art, introducing new context and perspectives.

Speed Art Museum

Speed Art Museum. Photo: Sarah Carter (CC BY-SA 3.0).

The new installation signals the Speed’s updated approach to curating and displaying its Native American art collection, moving away from an anthropological and historicizing view to one that celebrates living artistic practice and presence. Relocated to a larger and more central space within the museum, the new gallery places works in conversation with surrounding galleries and creates a more vibrant and engaging visitor experience, bringing objects out of glass display cases and adding new interpretive text that foregrounds Native voices, including quotes from the artists themselves and contributions from Native curators and scholars.

“The Speed’s deep research and collaboration with Native communities throughout this reinstallation – establishing important relationships we will continue to invest in — exemplifies the authentic relationships and representation that we aim to bring to all aspects of our work,” said Speed Art Museum Director Raphaela Platow. “We look forward to welcoming visitors into this transformed space as we continue to strengthen the Museum’s role as a place of belonging, where visitors can see their identities and experiences reflected through art.”

New Acquisitions

Frank Big Bear

Frank Big Bear (White Earth Ojibwe), Ghost Dance of the Great Mystery, 2022, color pencil on black illustration board, Tia Collection, Santa Fe, NM. Image courtesy of the artist and Bockley Gallery.

Highlights of the reinstallation include nine recent acquisitions and loans, on view for the first time, that bring contemporary Indigenous art into the conversation. These works infuse the predominantly early 20th- century collection with a new array of later 20th- and 21st-century paintings, textiles, sculptures, and works on paper. Among the five new acquisitions is a notable work on paper by Chris Pappan (Osage/Kaw/Cheyenne River Sioux) based in Chicago. Four major loans from the Santa Fe-based Tia Collection: a painting by Linda Lomahaftewa (Hopi/Choctaw), a natural dye chart by Vera Myers (Diné), a work on paper by Frank Big Bear (White EarthOjibwe), and a painting by acclaimed artist, educator, and art historian Arthur Amiotte (Oglala Lakota). These will establish a rotating series of works by contemporary Native artists, refreshed annually to bring new perspectives to the Museum.

Process and Programming

“This reinstallation has been guided by the awareness of our responsibility to showcase the breadth of Native American art thoughtfully and intentionally — reconsidering what we display, how, and why; honoring the living context of ceremonial and collectively held objects; and bringing the voices of contemporary Native artists, curators, and scholars into the gallery directly,” said Dr. nzinga. “With the reopening of the galleries, we are excited about the possibilities of this new forum for meaningful programming and continued research in active collaboration with Native communities.”

The Speed laid the groundwork for this reinstallation in 2023 by deciding to move the Native American art galleries, temporarily removing the collection from view in order to prioritize provenance research and establish relationships with tribal leaders and liaisons, proactively opening up the entire collection for review to ensure respectful and appropriate display practices, as well as compliance with federal law, including the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Following the reopening of the galleries, the Speed will continue this ongoing dialogue, inviting tribes to visit the Museum and view the collection firsthand for further consultation.

Inaugural programming will include a gallery talk led by Dr. nzinga and curatorial intern Sirene Martin, who played a key role in the reinstallation, on April 4 at 5:30 pm, as part of the Speed’s First Thursdays monthly programming and free extended hours. A free Community Day on Sunday, April 28, will feature a public conversation with members of the Speed’s Native American Advisory Council, which supports the Speed’s work to identify objects to prioritize for NAGPRA consultation, guides research and interpretation efforts, and helps connect the Museum with artists. The reinstalled galleries enable the Speed to deepen its engagement with Native communities and expand its community programming around Native American art, with an emphasis on artist talks and other programs led by Native culture bearers.

About the Speed Art Museum

The Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, is the state’s oldest and largest art museum and has served as a vital cultural resource for the Louisville community and the wider region for nearly 100 years. Located on the campus of the University of Louisville but operating as an independent nonprofit institution, the Speed provides visitors from around the world with opportunities to engage with art through public and academic programs, screenings at the Speed Cinema, family offerings in the Art Sparks interactive learning gallery, and more.



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