Beginning in the mid-1980s, many artists abandoned the traditional media of paint on canvas or cast sculpture in search of more common materials that were inherently meaningful due to their origins, their purpose, or their association with a particular culture. These artists were not completely forsaking the forms of the past but instead were intent on realizing new work in which cultural artifacts, common objects, and subtle references imbued their work with new and often poignant meaning. Drawing on minimal and conceptual art of the 1960s and 1970s, these artists created works that may not always be complicated in their fabrication, but are nonetheless intense and thoughtful in their evocation of the artists’ personal history, beliefs, and experiences.
The Museum collects the art of its time from all over the world, continuously building an important contemporary collection that includes Africa, Asia, the Americas and art produced in craft-based media. The comprehensive holdings of this collection include sculpture, photography, mid-century paintings and video installations, keeping with the Museum’s historic commitment to living artists. The range of artists in the collection is broad-based, with the works of Martin Puryear, Chakaia Booker, Elizabeth Murray, Willie Cole, Alison Saar, Sunday Jack Akpan, Samuel Fosso, El Anatsui and many more.