Art Institute puts off exhibition over depiction of indigenous peoples

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The Art Institute of Chicago. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

The Art Institute of Chicago has postponed an exhibition originally slated to open in late May because of concerns that the art poorly depicts the cultures and traditions of indigenous peoples.

The exhibit contains pottery that was originally found in graves. The objects were owned by a private Chicago collector who pledged them to the Art Institute of Chicago.

The exhibition began as a final project of one of the museum’s curators who retired before its opening, said Kati Murphy, the Art Institute’s executive director of public affairs in a press release.

The project was postponed, she said, because “we were given feedback that we needed to change the way we were presenting the materials.”

“Upon his retirement, and without a guiding hand, we are not able to deliver on our promise to achieve the highest standards of scholarship and interpretation, inclusive of Native American perspectives, in the timeline that we had initially set for ourselves,” the Art Institute explained in a press release.

The exhibition, titled “Worlds Within: Mimbres Pottery of the Ancient Southwest,” displays around 70 pieces of pottery from the Mimbres people. The pottery was produced around A.D. 1100 in present-day southwestern New Mexico.

The museum planned to display the exhibit in the Regenstein Gallery, which houses many of its temporary exhibitions.

The postponement of the exhibit comes on the heels of the Art Institute’s overhauled display of African Art in February.

With a revised color scheme and focused lighting, the move with the African Art was an attempt to mirror the “diversity of the cultural traditions represented by the multitude of objects on display in the new gallery” through a “multidisciplinary approach,” according to the Art Institute.

Murphy said a new opening date for the exhibition about the art of indigenous peoples has not been determined.

“The timeline is open-ended,” she told the Sun-Times on Monday.

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