The American Indian art collection represents the artistic works of nearly every tribe across the United States and Canada and all artistic traditions created within these cultures from prehistoric times to the present. It offers visitors the opportunity to experience the artistic vision of generations of American Indian artists from across North America.
From ancient Puebloan ceramics to nineteenth-century Arapaho beaded garments, to contemporary glasswork, the collection offers a rich diversity of art forms, histories, and artistic styles coming from American Indian artists and communities. The collection helps illustrate that American Indian art is a vibrant and continuing tradition advanced by individual artists and craftspersons.
Beginning in the 1920s, the Denver Art Museum was one of the first museums to use aesthetic quality as the criteria to develop a native arts collection and was the first art museum in the United States to collect American Indian art. Over the past century the collection has grown to encyclopedic proportions and now contains nearly 20,000 art objects.
Plains & Plateau
Numbering more than 4,000 items, the DAM’s collection of Plains material includes six full-sized tipis, beaded cradleboards, ledger drawings, weapons, horse trappings, belts, blankets, headdresses, robes, shirts, dresses, and footwear.
This part of the collection features nearly 4,000 items of pottery, basketry, clothing, jewelry, and katsina dolls, and represent 25 tribal traditions.
The Artic collection consists of archaeological and ethnographic specimens and contemporary Inuit graphic art. More than 300 examples of woodblock and stone-cut prints produced by Inuit artists of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s are represented.
The extraordinary wood, stone, and bone carving traditions of the Tlingit, Haida, Kwakwaka’wakw, and Nuxalk peoples are represented in great depth, ranging from both historic and contemporary monumental totem poles to ceremonial items to highly decorated utilitarian objects such as storage boxes and dugout canoes.
Great Lakes, Northeast & Subarctic
The major art forms of these three regions are well represented by historic beadwork, basketry, ribbonwork, and sculpture, as well as the work of notable contemporary artists.
Great Basin & California
Basketry is a great strength in these areas, from openwork winnowing baskets and beaded baskets of the Great Basin region to feathered Pomo baskets.
Three art forms from this region are significantly represented: Seminole patchwork clothing; mid-twentieth-century cultural revival of Cherokee and Choctaw basketry by the Indian Arts and Crafts Board; and Cherokee and Seminole beaded bandolier bags from the early 1800s.
News & Stories
The Denver Art Museum team has completed the installation of its monumental Haida poles, marking the beginning of art installations for a redesigned and reinstalled Northwest Coast and Alaska Native gallery. The reimagined space will be among the first art galleries to reopen to the public in the initial phase of the renovated Martin Building on June 6, 2020. More
The Native arts department is pleased to share the following news about recent events. Stay tuned for updates about when you can see more of the American Indian, African, and Oceanic art collections when the Martin Building reopens. More
On Saturday, February 23, artists, scholars, and curators will meet at the Denver Art Museum for a symposium on Who Owns Culture? Appropriation & Appreciation in the Global Art World. As a global art museum with artworks from many cultures around the world, the DAM is proud to contribute to this complex and ongoing discussion. More
It’s with the deepest grief that the Denver Art Museum family shares the passing of Nancy Blomberg, the museum’s Chief Curator and Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Native Arts. More
Jeffrey Gibson: Like a Hammer is the first exhibition to focus on the art that one of the brightest stars working in the contemporary art world today has made since 2011, a creative turning point for him. More
Music has a big influence on Jeffrey Gibson’s creativity, with many of the works in Like a Hammer named after song lyrics or poetry. More
The Native arts department has an extensive research library consisting of 20,000 books, periodicals, field notes, and photography archives. In addition, the department holds the work of early non-Indian artists and photographers (Karl Bodmer, Charles Wimar, McKinney and Hall, Edward S. Curtis, and D. F. Barry, among others) who sought to document Indian life and art in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Recent publications on American Indian art that the department has contributed expertise to include:
- Jeffrey Gibson: Like A Hammer. John P. Lukavic, with Glenn Adamson, Anne Ellegood, Jen Mergel, and Sara Raza. Denver Art Museum in association with Delmonico/Prestel, 2018.
- Super Indian: Fritz Scholder 1967–1980. John P. Lukavic, with Jessica Horton, Eric Berkemeyer, and Kent Logan. Denver Art Museum in association with Delmonico/Prestel, 2015.
- Revolt 1680/2180: Virgil Ortiz. Edited by John Lukavic, essay by Charles King, foreword by Herman Agoyo. Denver Art Museum, 2015.
- Grand Procession: Artistic Visions of American Indians, The Diker Collection at the Denver Art Museum. Lois Dubin. Denver Art Museum, 2010.
- [Re]inventing the Wheel: Advancing the Dialogue on Contemporary American Indian Art. Edited by Nancy J. Blomberg. Denver Art Museum, 2010.
- Action and Agency: Advancing the Dialogue on Native Performance Art. Edited by Nancy J. Blomberg. Denver Art Museum, 2010.
- Breaking the Mold: The Virginia Vogel Mattern Collection of Contemporary Native American Art. Nancy J. Blomberg and Polly Nordstrand. Denver Art Museum, 2006.
- Reflections of the Weaver’s World: The Gloria F. Ross Collection of Contemporary Navajo Weaving. Ann Lane Hedlund. Denver Art Museum, 1992.
- John Lukavic, Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Native Arts
- Dakota Hoska, Assistant Curator
- Julia Strunk, Curatorial Assistant
- Chris Patrello, Andrew W. Mellon Post-Doctoral Curatorial Fellow
- Danielle St. Peter, Interpretive Specialist
- Nancy Blomberg, Chief Curator and Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Native Arts
- Edgar C. McMechan, Curator
- Frederic H. Douglas, Curator
- Kate Peck Kent, Assistant Curator
- Royal B. Hassrick, Curator
- Norman Feder, Curator
- Richard Conn, Curator
- David Irving, Assistant Curator
- Ryntha Johnson, Assistant Curator
- Roger Echo-Hawk, Assistant Curator
- Polly Nordstrand, Associate Curator
- Denene De Quintal, Andrew W. Mellon Post-Doctoral Curatorial Fellow
Biannual Symposium on American Indian Art
Every other year the Native arts department hosts a symposium on topics related to American Indian art. Through this event the scholarly dialog on American Indian art is advanced.
Past symposia include:
- Who Owns Culture? Appropriation and Appreciation in the Global Art World (February 23, 2019)
- In Dialogue: Fritz Scholder and the Art World (January 7, 2016)