The Metropolitan Museum of Art acquired a Kent Monkman diptych.

Justin Kamp
Oct 12, 2020 7:51PM, via The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Kent Monkman's Resurgence of the People, 2019. Photo by Joseph Hartman courtesy of the artist and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has acquired Ontario-based Cree artist Kent Monkman’s large-scale diptych mistikôsiwak (Wooden Boat People). The work comprises two paintings, Welcoming the Newcomers (2019) and Resurgence of the People (2019), both of which currently hang in the museum’s Great Hall as the inaugural commission for a new series of projects set to occupy the space. Monkman’s diptych debuted in December of 2019 and will be on view through November 16th.

The paintings reinterpret white Eurocentric works, including references to a number of works in the Met’s collection, to center an Indigenous viewpoint that draws connections between European colonization, systemic racism, climate change, and immigration. The paintings prominently feature Monkman’s alter-ego Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, an embodiment of both the Indigenous concept of “Two Spirit” gender fluidity, as well as the trickster figure of Cree folklore.

Kent Monkman's Welcoming the Newcomers, 2019. Photo by Joseph Hartman courtesy the artist and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Max Hollein, the Met’s director, said in a statement:

With monumental scale and breadth, and at a critical moment of reckoning, mistikôsiwak (Wooden Boat People) upends conventional historical narratives of the European settlement of North America. The diptych conveys Monkman's reverence for art history's traditional canon even as he critiques it by calling necessary, incisive attention to its gaping omissions. As The Met recommits itself to attending more rigorously to underrepresented voices, Monkman's commission functions as both a trenchant reminder and a steadfast compass going forward.

This past May, Monkman issued an apology for a painting that critics felt glorified sexual assault. Titled Hanky Panky (2020), the work was intended to address the violence perpetrated against Indigenous women in Canada and the United States and featured Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with his pants down on all fours surrounded by a council of Indigenous women and Miss Chief Eagle Testickle. “I deeply regret any harm that was caused by the work,” wrote Monkman in an Instagram statement. “I acknowledge that the elements I had included to indicate consent are not prominent enough, and I see now how the painting could appear.”

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Justin Kamp
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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019