The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has hired its first full-time Native American art curator in its 150-year history.
Starting on September 14, Patricia Marroquin Norby will serve as the inaugural associate curator of Native American art. She will work with the staff of the museum’s American Wing, where historical Native American Art is currently displayed.
Norby is of Purepecha heritage, an Indigenous group who live in Michoacan, Mexico.
Previously, she was senior executive and assistant director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in New York. Norby has an extensive scholarly background in Native American art history and has also taught the subject in US universities.
“I am deeply honoured to join with American Indian and Indigenous artists and communities in advancing our diverse experiences and voices in the Met’s exhibitions, collections, and programmes. This is a time of significant evolution for the museum,” Norby said in a statement.
“I look forward to being part of this critical shift in the presentation of Native American art.”
The creation of Norby’s position marks a significant change in the Met’s curatorial approach. In 2018, the museum faced criticism after staging the exhibition Art of Native America: The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection, which featured more than 100 Indigenous works donated by trustees Charles and Valerie Diker.
The Association of American Indian Affairs (AAIA), an advocacy group, claimed that the museum did not properly consult tribal representatives before the opening of the show. The group stated that items in the exhibition “violate[d] Tribal and customary laws”, as the objects that were displayed as art were considered sacred ceremonial objects and “are living and breathing entities of their communities essential to the continuation of Native American cultures, traditions and religious practices.” AAIA also asked for the museum to remove the items.
The Met denied the allegations, responding that they had repeatedly consulted with tribal leaders before the opening.
It was also because of the 2018 Diker exhibition that the museum decided to display Native American art in its American Wing, though it had previously been shown in the galleries of Africa, Oceania and the Americas.
In her new role, Norby will work with Sylvia Yount, curator in charge of the American Wing. As part of her position, she will also “oversee the formation of long-term partnerships and reciprocity with Indigenous American communities, scholars, artists, and audiences in the region and across the continent,” as stated in the museum’s announcement.