Taking Center Stage: The Lanford Wilson Collection of Self-Taught Art

April 15–July 3, 2016
Bradley Gallery

This exhibition celebrates the Lanford Wilson Collection, a 2012 gift to the Museum. Comprising 179 works by untrained creators such as Eddie Arning and Jack Savitsky, the Wilson Collection solidifies the Museum as the leading institution in North America for work in the field of folk and self-taught art.

Wilson (1937–2011) was born in Missouri and came to New York in the early 1960s, where he became involved with the burgeoning Off-Off-Broadway movement. His career took off when his The Madness of Lady Bright was produced in 1964 at the legendary Caffe Cino. Over the next decades, he became one of America’s leading dramatists for the Broadway stage and television. The Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright of Burn This!, Talley’s Folly, and Fifth of July began collecting art while in Louisiana for the filming of friend Robert Harling’s Steel Magnolias. While on location, Wilson purchased a floral still life by Clementine Hunter. As he later said, he thought the painting of zinnias “would be a nice memento of my trip there.” But before he knew it, he had developed a passion for collecting folk and self-taught art that would include over three hundred works.

In addition to that first “souvenir” painting by Clementine Hunter, the exhibition will feature paintings, sculptures, and works on paper by such renowned self-taught artists as William Hawkins, Joseph Yoakum, David Butler, Vestie Davis, Felipe Archuleta, and Bessie Harvey.

  • Morris Hirshfield, Landscape with Swans, 1941. The Lanford Wilson Collection M2012.489. Photo by John R. Glembin Art. © Robert and Gail Rentzer for Estate of Morris Hirshfield/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York