Skip to main content

ASU Art Museum retools its permanent collection and opens new Americas Gallery

Photo courtesy of Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts

December 13, 2004

TEMPE, Ariz. - For years, the Arizona State University Art Museum's gallery of American artwork was just like that of many other museums. Audiences liked the permanent exhibition of relevant American artists and movements, but they wanted works presented in a more dynamic way.

"Dark, static and full of white guys," quoted a report of year-long focus groups and surveys with students, teachers, artists and patrons. Museum curators responded to their input as a green light to change.

In May, 2004, the ASU Art Museum broke down the barriers between the United States and Latin America and reinstalled its former American Gallery as the new Americas Gallery. In November, 2004, the Arizona Republicnewspaper named the museum "the best home to Latin American art."

"Given the importance of Arizona's geographic position on the border and the growing presence of people of Latin American heritage in this area, it was time to for us to begin the discussion of art and art history in light of the confluence of two cultures," said Marilyn Zeitlin, museum director and chief curator.

The Americas Gallery features artwork from North, Central and South America, grouped by three themes: Faces Work and Space/Place .   This shift replaces the standard chronologic installation with topics addressed in works from all of the Americas. The diversity of art forms creates interactions among works of art, suggesting new affinities between contemporary and historic; painting and video; Latin and North American artists.

"The Americas Gallery replaces a long-standing exhibition from the permanent collection of a narrower focus on American art and artists," says curator Heather Lineberry. "The changes that have been made in the variety of artworks, arrangement and gallery design were informed by data collected from our audiences. We broke open the curatorial process, and reconfigured the gallery based upon their comments.   So far, the response has been universally positive."

In the center of the Americas Gallery are two components that will periodically change. The first is Spotlight , featuring an artwork of special interest; and the second is the Interdisciplinary Gallery , displaying work selected by guest curators who can demonstrate a link between the art and their own lives and disciplines. Local Tempe High School students and art teachers curated the Interdisciplinary Gallery's current exhibition, Borders , featuring the work of Luis Jimenez.   Spotlight currently features an art historical "whodunit," an exploration of an unauthenticated painting by John James Audubon that includes dueling expert opinions.

"The unifying of our American and Latin art collections makes a statement about what artists and people who live in this hemisphere have in common, while showing the variations on themes from different cultural perspectives," said Zeitlin.

The Americas Gallery project is supported by the Arizona Commission on the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts and a Lila Wallace Foundation Understanding Participation grant.

The ASU Art Museum, named “the single most impressive venue for contemporary art in Arizona” by Art in America, is part of the Herberger College of Fine Arts at Arizona State University. The museum is located on the southeast corner of Mill Avenue and 10th Street in Tempe and entry is free. Hours are 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday and until 9 p.m. Tuesdays during the academic year. For more information, call (480) 965-2787 or visit the museum online at

Media Contact:
Denise Tanguay