FAITH RINGGOLD, “American Collection #4: Jo Baker’s Bananas,” 1997 (acrylic on canvas with pieced fabric border). | Purchased with funds donated by the Estate of Barbara Bingham Moore, Olga V. Hargis Family Trusts and the Members’ Acquisition Fund
FOUNDED IN 1987, the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) is celebrating its 30th anniversary year with a series of acquisitions. The museum is bringing nine works into its collection by six women artists—Yael Bartana, Louise Bourgeois, Lalla Essaydi, Jami Porter Lara, Berthe Morisot and Faith Ringgold.
The Riggold acquisition is a 1997 story quilt featuring Josephine Baker, which is currently on view in the Washington, D.C., museum’s collection galleries, along with the new works by Bartana and Morisot.
“We are delighted to have strong support from generous donors and members who made these acquisitions possible. Their contributions have enabled us to add new, diverse and increasingly global artworks to the collection—from late 19th century painting to contemporary times,” said NMWA Director Susan Fisher Sterling.
“Strong support from generous donors and members …have enabled us to add new, diverse and increasingly global artworks to the collection.”
— Susan Fisher Sterling, Director of NMWA
“These important acquisitions greatly enrich the thematic reinstallation of our collection galleries for the museum’s 30th anniversary.”
NMWA presented “American People, Black Light: Faith Ringgold’s Paintings of the 1960s” in 2013. After being largely known for her story quilts made in the 1970s, the exhibition brought to the fore Ringgold’s bold political paintings made in the previous decade in response to the civil rights and feminist movements.
The museum’s newly acquired quilt, “American Collection #4: Jo Baker’s Bananas” (1997), documents a major icon. Demonstrating the mix of craft and fine art painting Ringgold employs in her story quilts, the work features a repeated image of Josephine Baker dancing across the top. At the bottom, a racially diverse group enjoys cocktails surrounded by jazz players.
About the quilt, the museum provided the following information:
- Ringgold’s stories are told over multiple quilts; Jo Baker’s Bananas is from one of these series, The American Collection. In this story quilt, Ringgold depicts the famous African American dancer Josephine Baker (1906–1975), who became a stage legend in France, where she lived most of her life. Baker’s figure is represented five times across the top of the quilt, implying a sense of movement across a stage. The so-called “Banana Dance” that she performed in 1926 at Paris’s Folies Bergère music hall cemented her fame. Offstage, Baker supported the burgeoning Civil Rights movement in the United States and used her fame and fortune to bolster support for the cause.
The quilt was purchased with funds donated by the Estate of Barbara Bingham Moore, Olga V. Hargis Family Trusts and the Members’ Acquisition Fund. Following its acquisition news, the museum announced the largest bequest in its history, a $9 million gift from the Estate of Madeleine Rast. CT
“American People, Black Light: Faith Ringgold’s Paintings of the 1960s” accompanied the first comprehensive survey of the artist’s early paintings exploring race, class and gender issues. Ringgold is the author of a number of children’s books, including the recently published “We Came to America,” along with “Harlem Renaissance Party,” and “Tar Beach,” which was inspired by a story quilt of the same name from Ringgold’s Woman on a Bridge series.