First American Art Magazine No. 22, Spring 2019 - Page 98

COLLECTIONS COLLECTIONS: PHILBROOK MUSEUM OF ART By Andrea L. Ferber, PhD T H O U G H O N LY F O U R INCHES in diameter, Tohono O’odham artist Leona Antone’s Miniature Plaque (1995) draws one in with a complex design woven from horse hair. Brown, red, blonde, white, and black strands create a ring of figures holding hands (21 women, 21 men), encircling a labyrinth. One figure begins and ends the maze. The work is in the Philbrook Museum of Art, which manages a collection of more than 14,500 objects on the grounds of a 25-acre estate in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The 72-room mansion, built in 1927 in the style of a 16th-century Italian Renaissance villa, became Tulsa’s first art museum when Waite and Genevieve Phillips gifted the estate to the city in 1938. 1 Antone’s remarkable work is one of about 4,115 in the collection made by Indigenous artists from the Americas. 2 Christina Burke joined Philbrook as curator of Native American and non-Western art in July 2006. We spoke recently about the history and character of the museum’s holdings of Indigenous art, which came from three main sources. 3 In 1942 Tulsa businessman Clark Field gifted around 1,800 objects representing over 170 tribes, created between the 1870s and 1950s: 1,100 baskets, 550 pieces of Pueblo pottery, and about 150 paintings and cultural items. Field’s collection is particularly important because he kept detailed records, including the names of women basket makers and ceramic artists who are not identified in other collections. Burke notes, “Baskets by Louisa Keyser (Washoe, also known as Datsolalee) and Sarah Hunter (Panamint Shoshone) are considered exemplary masterpieces.” Burke’s predecessor, Lydia L. Wyckoff (curator, 1991–2000), with assistance from Shelby Tisdale (curator, 1999–2002), edited a book on this collec- tion titled Woven Worlds: Basketry from the Clark Field Collection (Philbrook Museum of Art, 2001). 1. Waite Phillips’s older brothers created the Phillips Petroleum Company. Thomas Gilcrease (Muscogee Creek, 1890–1962) allowed the public to view his collection in 1949; the Gilcrease Museum was later bequeathed to the city of Tulsa. 2. Its holdings also include African (400 objects), Asian (1,000 objects), Oceanic (19 objects), (non-Native) American (1,400 objects), European (515 objects), Antiquities (200 objects), Modern and Contemporary (1,500 objects), Decorative Arts (1,500 objects), and Photography (4,735 prints). Forty-six objects from the Native American collection are viewable online. 3. Christina Burke in discussion with the author, December 2018. 96 | WWW.FIRSTAMERICANARTMAGAZINE.COM