The quiet genius of self-taught artists

Since its establishment in 1961, the American Folk Art Museum in Manhattan’s Upper West Side has made it its mission to highlight work by self-taught artists from the United States and abroad. Over the years, the institution has become one of the world’s leading destinations in which to view work by artists who never received formal artistic training.

“Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum,” now running at the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA), showcases 115 works from the venerable New York institution’s collection, focusing on the continuum of American self-taught art from the Revolutionary War to the present. “With NOMA’s long history of collecting and displaying southern, self-taught art, this distinguished, wide-ranging exhibition from the American Folk Art Museum [is] a distinct complement to you collection,” says Susan M. Taylor, the Montine McDaniel Freeman Director of NOMA.


The aim of the exhibition is to emphasize the contributions of self-taught artists to America’s national life and to the country’s shared history. Works on display date from the mid-18th century to the early 21st century and include “The Encyclopedic Palace of the World,” a towering model designed by Marino Auriti in the 1950s for what was supposed to be a new museum – the work served as the centerpiece of the 2013 Venice Biennial. Other featured pieces of note include “Girl in Red Dress with Cat and Dog,” an oil painting from the early 19th century, and the “Whig Rose and Swag Border Quilt,” stitched in 1850 in Kentucky by an unidentified slave.

“Self-Taught Genius” runs at NOMA until May 22.