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Arts & Entertainment
Exhibit: Pacific Northwest art shines at the NMAI


"If you didn't know better you'd think you were in an art museum.

Even though it's in the National Museum of the American Indian, "Listening to Our Ancestors: The Art of Native Life Along the North Pacific Coast" sure looks like an art show. Its mood is one of opulence. It includes 400 objects. All of them are eye-catchers. Most of them are old.

The new museum, as it keeps insisting, is not a gallery for art, it's a place about Indians, of, for and by them. To make that point explicit, and to let the viewer feel the grain of modern Indian life, rougher exhibitions elsewhere in the building offer baseball caps, casino chips and the like, but there's none of that stuff here. Instead, we're shown a Tsimshian mask carved 200 years ago whose freckling of woodworm holes lets us see how old it is. A huge canoe-shaped feasting bowl (Heiltsuk, 1860) still shines from the fish oil that it once contained. That 16-foot harpoon is a weapon smoothed by years of use. This show has a patina. It's got the dignity of age.

While historians of the Renaissance need not be Italian to discourse on Leonardo, this new museum feels that one had better possess Indian blood to speak of Indianness."

Get the Story:
At the Indian Museum, Evidence of Abundance (The Washington Post 2/7)
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If You're Planning a Visit (The Washington Post 2/7)

Relevant Links:
National Museum of the American Indian - http://www.nmai.si.edu

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