Visual arts

MFA hires folk art curator, a first for the museum

Michael J. Bramwell, artist, scholar, and curator, will join the Museum of Fine Arts as Joyce Linde Curator of Folk and Self-Taught Art, a newly created position within the Art of the Americas department at the museum.

In her new role, which is part of a larger folk art initiative, Bramwell will work with colleagues across the institution to develop exhibitions, presentations and public programs with the aim of raising the profile of the museum’s folk art collection, making it more relevant to today’s world. visitors. It starts June 1.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to work at a world-class museum like the Museum of Fine Arts,” Bramwell said in a statement to The Globe. “It is both a privilege and a blessing to have been selected as the first Linde Curator, offering the opportunity to raise the national and international profile of popular and self-taught art, and also, the chance to accompany new and diverse voices in high cultural areas.

Bramwell is currently a guest curator at the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He has worked with the North Carolina Museum of Art, MoMA PS1 and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among other institutions.

In addition to his work as a visual artist, Bramwell is a doctoral candidate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where his scholarship focuses on the work of David Drake, a 19th-century slave potter from South Carolina, also known as Dave the Potter.

“As a practicing artist and academically trained art historian, Michael Bramwell brings a distinct perspective to popular and self-taught art,” said Ethan Lasser, president of Art of the Americas. “His commitment to telling new stories and reaching beyond canon promises to reinvigorate the display and interpretation of this material at the MFA.”

The MFA’s broadly defined Folk Art Collection contains significant collections of 18th- and 19th-century objects from the American Northeast, including quilts, furniture, paintings, and works on paper.

Nevertheless, folk art, created by unidentified or enslaved individuals with little biographical information, has often played a supporting role in museums like the MFA, where the place of honor has traditionally been reserved for works of art. European and American artists.

The MFA’s new folk art initiative – and the hiring of Bramwell – is intended to help challenge this hierarchy, expanding the definition of art by elevating folk art to provide “greater inclusion of voices, stories and stories”. The multi-year initiative has already resulted in an exhibition, last year’s “Collecting Stories: The Invention of Folk Art.”

Similarly, the MFA worked with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to present a traveling exhibition of works by black South Carolina potters. The show, which opens in Boston next year, includes a Drake jug in the MFA’s collection and features a catalog essay co-written by Bramwell and Lasser.


Malcolm Gay can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @malcolmgay.