The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced Thursday it has acquired Ontario-based Cree artist Kent Monkman’s mistikôsiwak (Wooden Boat People).
The grand diptych was commissioned by the New York museum in 2019 and is part of the Met’s new series for contemporary projects. Monkman is the inaugural artist featured in the Great Hall.
The museum’s director, Max Hollein, said they are “thrilled” to share the news of the acquisition.
“With monumental scale and breadth, and at a critical moment of reckoning, mistikôsiwak (Wooden Boat People) upends conventional historical narratives of the European settlement of North America,” said Hollein.
Monkman, who is a member of the Fisher River Cree Nation in Manitoba and now lives in Toronto, is known for his work of showing Indigenous Peoples’ stories, while using traditional Western art history techniques.
“[The] two paintings reinterpret images, motifs, and techniques from art history to assert Indigenous experiences and histories, thereby subverting predominate narratives of Euro-American culture, while also bringing present-day issues to the fore,” the Met said in their release.
The diptych is comprised of two densely-detailed, large-scale paintings which sit at 3.36m-by-6.7m called Welcoming the Newcomers and Resurgence of the People.
The Met described Welcoming the Newcomers as displaying the relationship between peoples native to Turtle Island (the Indigenous name for North America) and settlers, which includes the introduction to many new diseases and “religious oppression.”
By contrast, Resurgence of the People shows “the resilience of Indigenous people in the face of systemic white supremacy and climate change,” the museum said.
Both paintings feature Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, which the Met describes as Monkman’s “shape-shifting” and “time-travelling” alter ego, and a reflection of the non-binary gender and plural sexualities of “Two Spirit” traditions found within many Indigenous communities.
The alter ego, whose name is also a play on words mischief and egotistical, is also intended to parallel the trickster figure in Cree communities — known to challenge conventional beliefs and wisdom in traditional stories, the Met said.
Met to include more ‘underrepresented’ voices
The acquisition comes as the museum says it is “recommit[ting]” itself to including underrepresented voices in commissions and exhibits.
“Monkman’s commission functions as both a trenchant reminder and a steadfast compass going forward,” Hollein said.
Both paintings debuted in December 2019 and will remain in the Great Hall until Nov. 16, 2020.